This weekend, the Queen delivered a powerful message about the central part that a supportive and dedicated consort plays in a successful reign. With that in mind, we’re devoting this week’s Sparkling Spotlight posts to tiaras worn by Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, during the reign of her husband, King George VI.
In May 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth embarked on a lengthy royal tour of Canada. On May 19, they arrived at Parliament House in Ottawa to attend a ceremony in the Senate.
The Illustrated London News described the ceremony: “Their Majesties were conducted to their thrones in the Senate, where Members of the Upper House and their wives were assembled, and sat facing the Judges of the Supreme Court, who occupied the circular Woolsack. The Commons were then summoned to the Bar of the House, and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery read out a list of the Bills passed by the Senate and Commons, and requested the King’s assent. The Senate’s clerk then bowed and announced the Royal Assent in French and English.”
For the occasion, the King wore the uniform of a Field Marshal, while the Queen wore an evening gown with jewels and the Order of the Garter. The Queen wore a Norman Hartnell crinoline gown was made of white and silver brocade, with a short train decorated with gold embroidery. She wore a short jacket of white fox fur with the ensemble.
With the gala dress, the Queen wore diamonds and rubies. She wore Queen Victoria’s Indian Circlet, and in the photos from inside the senate chamber, she appears to be wearing the coordinating Crown Ruby Necklace as well. Her earrings look to be set with either diamonds or diamonds and pearls. I believe she’s also wearing Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet on her left wrist.
Here’s one more look at both royal ensembles from the event. The story of this particular royal dress has an interesting post-script. Queen Elizabeth decided to gift the dress to Canada after the end of the tour. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (whose husband was then Governor General of Canada) made the official presentation of the gown at the public archives in Ottawa in December 1940. It remained on display there until 1946, when, after some wrangling between the two cities, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto took possession of the dress. After that, I lose track of the dress’s whereabouts—can any Canadians tell us where the dress is today?