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This time of year, we’re often treated to a bit of traditional pomp and circumstance in London during the State Opening of Parliament. This year, as expected, is different, with no state opening on the calendar. But never fear — we can still enjoy the jewels from years past! We’ll be taking a look back all week, starting today with the jewels worn in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Queen’s first State Opening of Parliament took place on November 4, 1952. Film cameras were not yet allowed inside the chamber during the ceremony, so we only have still photos of the event. But you’ll immediately notice something unusual — the Queen’s wearing the Diamond Diadem during the procession, not the Imperial State Crown. That’s because her coronation was still more than half a year away! The United Press reported that, during her speech, the Queen faltered “only once–as she expressed her gratitude for the sympathy shown her after her father’s death.”
This was the first time that the British public saw their new monarch wearing the grand Diamond Diadem, which was made for the coronation of King George IV in 1820. The press thrilled over the idea that she was wearing the same diadem worn by her ancestor, Queen Victoria, at her own first State Opening in November 1837. She also wore additional jewels that had belonged to Victoria: her pearl drop earrings and her Golden Jubilee Necklace.
After returning to the palace, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh obliged the gathered crowds outside by appearing on the palace balcony — with special cameos by two little guests, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
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On November 3, 1953, the Queen — who had been crowned in Westminster Abbey that June — returned with the Duke to the Palace of Westminster to open parliament once more. Crowds gathered to wave at the carriage as the procession passed by.
Though the Queen wore the Imperial State Crown as she read her speech, she wore the Diamond Diadem to travel to and from the ceremony. She also wore the Coronation Necklace and Earrings.
She wore the Coronation Earrings again for the State Opening on November 30, 1954 — which also happened to be the 80th birthday of her prime minister, Winston Churchill. She paired them with her Diamond Festoon Necklace.
The State Opening of Parliament on June 9, 1955, looked a little different for multiple reasons. The Queen had a new prime minister, Anthony Eden. And the country was in the middle of a crippling national railroad strike. Because of the strike, the usual grand procession was canceled, and the Queen and the Duke instead traveled by car.
The Queen’s jewels for the occasion were also unusual. She has generally chosen to wear diamonds and pearls for the State Opening with the Diamond Diadem and Imperial State Crown, but in 1955, she reached for a more colorful option, wearing the Delhi Durbar Necklace and its coordinating earrings.
The pomp returned the next year. For the State Opening on November 6, 1956, the Queen wore the Golden Jubilee Necklace with a pair of button-style earrings.
Princess Margaret also rode to the event with the Queen in her carriage, wearing the Cartier Halo Tiara.
For the State Opening of Parliament on November 5, 1957, the Queen wore the Gloucester Pendant Earrings. (I’d imagine that’s probably the Golden Jubilee Necklace peeking out from beneath her wrap.)
There was a major innovation for the State Opening of Parliament on October 28, 1958: cameras were allowed in! Millions of Britons at home were able to watch the ceremony for the first time.
The Queen delivered her speech from the throne before not only the Houses of Commons and Lords but also the entire nation. She sparkled in the Imperial State Crown and her Diamond Festoon Necklace.
Viewers also got a peek at the jewels worn by some of the glittering audience, including several members of the royal family. The Duchess of Gloucester wore Queen Mary’s Honeysuckle Tiara, the Duchess of Kent wore her Festoon Tiara, and Princess Alexandra wore a diamond bandeau. (I think that’s also Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone beside Alexandra, but I can’t quite make out the design of her tiara.)
The Queen did not attend the State Opening of Parliament in 1959, because her engagements were canceled during the later stages of pregnancy. But she was back in full gala dress for the event the next year, on November 1, 1960.
The event was filmed in color for the first time. The Queen wore the Imperial State Crown and her Diamond Festoon Necklace as she read her speech.
The other royals sparkled in color, too. The Duchess of Gloucester wore the Iveagh Tiara, the Duchess of Kent wore the Cambridge Sapphires, and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone wore her diamond palmette tiara. Princess Margaret, who had married Antony Armstrong-Jones in May 1960, was noticeably absent. The press speculated that she had boycotted the festivities, because she was unhappy that her husband had not been offered a title, and would therefore have had to sit in the gallery during the event. (Armstrong-Jones was created 1st Earl of Snowdon by the Queen in October 1961, just before the birth of the couple’s first child, David.)
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On October 31, 1961, the Queen processed through the streets in her finery to attend the State Opening. With the Diamond Diadem and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet, she appears to be wearing a pair of floral earrings — perhaps the diamond floral pair she received from the Diplomatic Corps as a wedding present. While viewers were able to see the royal procession on television, the ceremony itself was not televised. The Guardian reported that the “view is taken that it would be unwise to make a routine event of televising the ceremony–and run the risk of devaluing it in the public’s eyes,” adding that a request from the BBC to televise the event “had been refused.”
The Queen arrived for the State Opening on October 30, 1962, wearing the Diamond Diadem and the Coronation Earrings. And, for the first time during her marriage, Princess Margaret was in attendance, too — with her newly-ennobled husband, Lord Snowdon. (She wore the Lotus Flower Tiara.)
The Queen missed the State Opening in 1963, because she was expecting Prince Edward. She returned to the event on November 3, 1964. She wore the Golden Jubilee Necklace with the Diamond Diadem as she arrived.
For the ceremony on November 9, 1965, the Queen wore the Coronation Earrings.
Cameras were back inside to film the ceremony during the State Opening on April 21, 1966 — which also happened to be her 40th birthday.
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The Queen delivered her speech before the cameras wearing the Imperial State Crown, the Coronation Necklace and Earrings, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet. You’ll also definitely recognize the gown she wore for the occasion — it’s the same Norman Hartnell dress that was recently worn by Princess Beatrice on her wedding day.
Thanks to the cameras, we’ve also got some excellent footage of the other royal ladies in attendance. Princess Margaret was there, wearing the Lotus Flower Tiara (with her husband, Lord Snowdon, in the row in front of her). Beside her, the Duchess of Gloucester wears Queen Mary’s Honeysuckle Tiara. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent wore the Kent City of London Fringe Tiara, while her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Kent, wore the diamond bandeau she wore on her wedding day.
We’ve even got a second, clearer angle of the royal jewels! We can also spot a pearl drop on Princess Margaret’s necklace, and Queen Mary’s Eleven-Row Pearl Choker on the Duchess of Gloucester, plus the Kent Girandole Earrings on Princess Marina.
And here’s one more view of the royal jewels. Note that, behind the royal ladies, you’ll spot the Duchess of Bedford wearing the grand Tavistock Amethysts.
On October 31, 1967, the Queen again wore the Coronation Necklace and Earrings for the State Opening.
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But the attention wasn’t exclusively on her that year. She brought along two guests: the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, who made one of her very first public tiara appearances at the event. She wore the Cartier Halo Tiara for the occasion.
And here’s a look at the jewels worn by some of the other royals in attendance. Princess Margaret wore the Lotus Flower Tiara, and the Duchess of Gloucester wore the Teck Turquoises. Behind them, Princess Marina wears the Russian Pearl Bandeau that she inherited from her Romanov ancestors. And behind Marina, Princess Alexandra wears the Ogilvy Tiara.
The Queen sparkled in diamonds for the State Opening on October 30, 1968, wearing her Antique Girandole Earrings and her Diamond Festoon Necklace.
Prince Charles and Princess Anne joined their parents again for the event, with Princess Anne wearing Princess Andrew’s Meander Tiara. (It must have delighted Princess Andrew, who was living at Buckingham Palace at the time, to see her granddaughter wearing the tiara.)
And finally, we’ll wrap up this first installment of the series with a brief glimpse of the Queen’s jewels from the State Opening on October 28, 1969. She wore her Diamond Festoon Necklace for the occasion, at which Prince Charles escorted her, because the Duke of Edinburgh was on an official tour of Canada.
We’ll have a closer look at the jewels worn for the state opening in the ’70s and ’80s tomorrow!
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