We’re quickly approaching a very important royal milestone for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. On Sunday, she’ll mark the 70th anniversary of her reign. This week, we’re looking back at all seven decades in a special, expanded Sparkling Spotlight series. Today, we begin with a tiara debut that took place shortly after her coronation.
On January 12, 1954, during the coronation tour, the Queen was present in Wellington for the opening of New Zealand’s parliament. The ceremony was a history-making moment: the first time a reigning sovereign had personally opened parliament in New Zealand. The Queen delivered an eight-minute speech from the throne during the ceremony, and newspapers described the “lights which beat down on the scene from the roof” that “struck flashes of fire from the diamonds in the Queen’s tiara and necklace and the gold and silver thread in her dress” as she spoke.
Both the diamonds and the dress had great significance. The Queen wore her coronation dress for the ceremony, the same one she’d donned in Westminster Abbey several months earlier as she was crowned. She also wore the Coronation Diamonds, the grand Victorian necklace and earrings, for both occasions. She secured the sash of the Order of the Garter with another of Victoria’s jewels: one of the Diamond Bow Brooches.
But as she opened parliament that January, her tiara especially caught the eye of royal correspondents: it was Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik, which the Queen had inherited less than a year earlier, in the spring of 1953, from her grandmother, Queen Mary. It was the Queen’s very first public appearance in the tiara.
One newspaper described the jewel as “Queen Mary’s favourite tiara, inherited from Queen Alexandra and bequeathed in her will to the Queen.” The report continued, “The solid band of glittering diamonds is designed in a Russian fringe pattern. It was the first time the Queen had worn it and before she left for her tour it was altered slightly to fit comfortably on her modern hair style.” The tiara has continued to be one of the Queen’s favorite jewels, worn regularly throughout her entire reign.