As the world gears up to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, I thought we’d look back today at the gala jewels she wore before her reign even began. As Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, she wore tiaras and gala jewels galore, both at home and abroad. Here’s a selection of some of the princess’s glittering royal jewels from 1947 to 1951.
Princess Elizabeth wore a tiara in public for the first time on her wedding day at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony took place on November 20, 1947. She borrowed Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara from her mother, pairing it with the Gloucester Pearl and Diamond Earrings and the Queen Anne and Queen Caroline Pearl Necklaces.
Elizabeth and Philip made their first trip abroad as a married couple in May 1948, when they embarked on an official visit to Paris. It was Princess Elizabeth’s first time traveling outside the Commonwealth. The four-day visit included several several gala events, made all the more challenging by the fact that the princess was expecting Prince Charles and was attempting to hide her early pregnancy from the press. On May 14, 1948, the Edinburghs arrived at the Elysee Palace in Paris for a dinner.
This portrait shows Elizabeth and Philip in the formal attire, orders, and decorations worn for the dinner. With her gown, Elizabeth wore the Girls and Great Britain Tiara, the South African Diamond Necklace, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet. She also wore a favorite pair of earrings: the diamond floral earrings given to her by the diplomatic corps as a 21st birthday present in 1947. She secured the sash of the Legion d’Honneur (her very first foreign decoration) with one of the rose brooches from the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara.
Here’s a photograph of Elizabeth leaving the Elysee Palace after the dinner. The image shows off the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings nicely.
A few days later, on May 17, 1948, Elizabeth and Philip attended another glittering event in Paris. This time, they were the guests of honor at a gala performance at the Opera Garnier. For the event, Elizabeth wore the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara with its coordinating necklace, plus the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.
Here’s a view of the couple descending the staircase at the opera after the conclusion of the performance.
Around 1950, Elizabeth and Philip posed for this formal portrait together. In the image, she wears several of her wedding gifts: the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, the Greville Ruby Necklace, the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings, and the Cornwall Rose of York Bracelet.
In March 1950, Princess Elizabeth joined her parents as they hosted President Vincent Auriol of France, who was making a three-day state visit to Britain. (Philip was away in Italy.) On March 9, Elizabeth was in attendance for a special performance at Covent Garden in Auriol’s honor. She wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara with the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings, the City of London Fringe Necklace, the Dorset Bow Brooch, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.
On March 22, 1950, Princess Elizabeth was at the Guildhall in London to help launch the National Thanksgiving Fund. Prime Minister Clement Atlee and Winston Churchill, the Leader of the Opposition, were both in attendance, as was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Elizabeth wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings, the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.
Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands made a state visit to the United Kingdom in November 1950. For the return dinner at Claridge’s in London on November 22. Newspapers described the princess’s dress as “pale cyclamen pink satin with a panel of powder-blue satin draped across the corsage over her right shoulder and continuing down the left side of the skirt.” She wore the Order of the Netherlands Lion, plus lots of diamonds: the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara and its coordinating necklace, the Dorset Bow Brooch, the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.
In June 1951, the British royals welcomed a head of state who was also a family member: King Haakon VII of Norway, the widower of the king’s aunt, Queen Maud (born Princess Maud of Wales). King George VI was ill during the visit, so Princess Elizabeth stepped up to take on an even greater role than she had before. She delivered the speech that her father had been due to give during the state banquet at Buckingham Palace on June 5. (Notably, the speeches from the banquet were also broadcast on the radio for the first time that evening.) Papers described her attire for the banquet as “a crinoline dress of lilac pink satin, which had a cascade of flowers over one shoulder. The other shoulder was bare.” She wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings, the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet with the gown.
On September 22, 1951, the Edinburghs made a special appearance in Leicester Square for the premiere of the film The Lady with a Lamp. The film starred Anna Neagle as Florence Nightingale, and Lord and Lady Mountbatten were also in attendance for the screening. Princess Elizabeth wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara with the Greville Ruby Necklace, the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings, and the Cornwall Rose of York Bracelet for the premiere. It was a tense weekend for the royal family: King George VI underwent an operation to remove his entire left lung at Buckingham Palace the following day. Elizabeth and Philip had been due to depart straight away for a royal tour of Canada, which was delayed because of the king’s condition. Well-wishers offered their good thoughts for the king at the film premiere, and Elizabeth was overheard replying, “Yes, this is a worrying time.”
The tour of Canada ultimately went ahead, though it was delayed. The Edinburghs flew to Canada rather than sailing to help make up time. They arrived in Canada on October 8 and toured the entire nation. For a banquet held on October 9 in the ballroom at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Elizabeth wore a gown of silver lace and tulle. With the dress, she wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings. You’ll also spot the George VI Sapphire Necklace, before the renovation that made it shorter, peeking out from beneath her wrap. The necklace was a wedding gift from her father.
The Canadian tour included numerous bejeweled moments. Here’s another, from a visit to the ballet in Winnipeg on October 16, 1951. The princess wore a crinoline dress, with yellow lace and sequins. She accessorized with diamonds and pearls: the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the City of London Fringe Necklace, and the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings.
During the tour, the Edinburghs also made a quick detour to the United States, visiting President Harry Truman in Washington, D.C. The trip included two formal events. The second of these, pictured above, was held at the Canadian Embassy in Washington on November 1, 1951. The princess and the president posed together in the embassy library. Elizabeth wore a gown of turquoise and cream brocade, accessorized with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings, the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace, and the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.
After their return from Canada, the Edinburghs spent the Christmas holidays with their children and the King, the Queen, Queen Mary, Princess Margaret, and the rest of the extended royal family at Sandringham. Soon enough, Princess Elizabeth’s jewels were packed up once more, and at the end of January 1952, she and Philip departed for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, with stops in Kenya and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on the way. But, of course, history intervened in those plans, and the new Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom sadly found herself back in Britain much sooner than planned.