Last week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a glamorous appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in London. But while Kate sparkled beautifully in a green sequinned gown and gold earrings, many of us always long for the days when this was a tiara occasion! This week, our Sparkling Spotlight posts will look back at glittering Royal Variety tiaras from decades past, starting with the jewels from the coronation year of 1937.
On November 15, 1937, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom arrived at the London Palladium for the Royal Variety Performance. The Queen wore a fantastic floral gown festooned with sequins, with a white fox fur and diamonds galore.
The diamonds were major royal heirloom pieces. She wore the Teck Hoop Necklace as a bandeau-style tiara. The convertible jewel dates to the 1860s, and it came into the royal vaults through Queen Mary. Today, it belongs to Princess Margaret’s son, Lord Snowdon. For this 1937 outing, Queen Elizabeth paired the bandeau with jewels she’d worn recently at her coronation: the Coronation Earrings, plus a pair of diamond necklaces. The longer one is her own diamond necklace, a coronation gift from her husband. I believe the shorter one is the Coronation Necklace, minus the Lahore Pendant.
With all those diamonds, and all those silver sequins, you might have thought that Queen Elizabeth didn’t need any more accessories. But—and why not!—she also pinned Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch to her bodice. You’ll see the little fringe pendants hanging off her gown in this picture. She’s also wearing a pearl ring on her left hand. Her original engagement ring was a sapphire, but she swapped it for this pearl ring at some point.
You’ll also spot another tiara-wearer sitting behind the Queen. The Court Circular for the event notes that “Viscountess Hambleden and Lieut.-Col. Dermot McMorrough Kavanagh” accompanied the King and Queen to the performance. Lady Hambleden, who was Lady Patricia Herbert before her marriage, had recently joined the Queen’s household as one of her ladies-in-waiting. She ended up serving as Lady of the Bedchamber until her death in 1994. In this image, Patricia is wearing a chic, ’30s style bandeau tiara with geometric detailing.
Two more royals also accompanied the King and Queen to the performance. The Duke and Duchess of Kent, who had married three years earlier, were two of the most glamorous figures in London society. They were the parents of two young children, Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra. The papers reported that Princess Marina’s gown for the performance was made of white and silver crepe diamante, worn with a short white ermine cape.
Like the other two ladies in the royal box, she also wore a trendy bandeau tiara. And like the one worn by the Queen, Marina’s tiara was a royal heirloom. The diamond and pearl bandeau came from the collection of Marina’s Russian grandmother, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (better known as Grand Duchess Vladimir). It was also worn by Marina’s mother, Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. With the tiara, Marina wore a pair of drop earrings (either diamonds or diamonds and pearls), plus a diamond necklace. She finished the look with Princess Nicholas’s grand nineteenth-century diamond bow brooch, pinned at the center of her neckline.
The royals watched the show from a box lined with fresh flowers. The roster of acts included several prominent names: actresses Florence Desmond and Gracie Fields, comedian Max Miller, Dame Cicely Courtneidge, the singer and entertainer George Formby, and even the Spanish ventriloquist Señor Wences.