Our Sparkling Spotlight survey of tiaras worn to the Royal Variety Performance arrives in the Swinging ’60s today, with one of the Queen’s early appearances in her own sapphire tiara.
On November 8, 1965, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium. The show was packed with comedians poking fun at the royals, with Spike Milligan doing a sketch about Timbertop, the Australian school where Prince Charles was due to study as an exchange student, and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore performing a take on a day in the life of the Queen. The Queen and the Duke were amused by the entire thing, with the Cook and Moore sketch leaving them “reeling” in the audience. After the show, the Queen met with the performers. Before leaving, she quipped, “We loved it. We’ll come again.”
The Queen was escorted by the theatrical impresario Lord Bernard Delfont for the show. The papers described her outfit for the evening as “a shimmering gown of blue and white taffeta, spangled with diamante” and “a white fur wrap.”
She accessorized with diamonds and sapphires. This was one of the first prominent outings for the Belgian Sapphire Tiara, a jewel that the Queen acquired herself in 1963. The tiara was originally a necklace, and it once belonged to another royal lady: Princess Louise of Belgium, daughter of King Leopold II and sister of Crown Princess Stéphanie of Austria. The Queen had it set on a frame, and she’s been wearing it regularly for the last half century.
She purchased the tiara to complete a married parure of sapphires. In 1947, she received a lovely suite of Victorian sapphire jewels from her father, King George VI, as a wedding present. The set included a necklace and a pair of earrings. The Queen customized the necklace, shortening the jewel and adding a pendant, and then had a bracelet made to round out the parure. She wore the completed set—tiara, earrings, necklace, and bracelet—for the Royal Variety Performance.