This week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, one of the most influential British royal figures of the last century. To celebrate her life, we’re spending this week exploring her bejeweled legacy. Today, we’re beginning with the tiaras from her collection currently being worn by royal ladies today.
Designed by Prince Albert, this Eastern-inspired tiara was originally set with opals. Queen Alexandra, who was superstitious, removed them and replaced them with rubies. The tiara is an heirloom of the crown, but it was worn (superbly!) for years by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, from the accession in 1936 until her death in 2002. It’s only been worn once by the Queen since her mother’s death.
In 1919, Queen Mary commissioned this classic diamond fringe tiara as a more modern, wearable alternative to the one worn by Queen Victoria. Mary passed the tiara to Queen Elizabeth at the time of the accession in 1936. She owned it until 2002, loaning it to both Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne as a royal wedding tiara. The Queen doesn’t wear it often these days, but it remains one of the most identifiable tiaras in her collection. She also recently loaned it to Princess Beatrice for her wedding.
This striking tiara, made by Boucheron and refined by Cartier, features diamonds set in a platinum honeycomb design. After the Queen Mother inherited the jewel from Dame Margaret Greville in the 1940s, it swiftly became one of her signature pieces. Today, the same is true of its current wearer, the Duchess of Cornwall, who has both the presence and the hair to carry off such a major tiara. (As it turns out, we should note, there was at least one more tiara in the Greville bequest: the magnificent emerald kokoshnik worn by Princess Eugenie at her 2018 wedding.)
Queen Mary’s husband, King George V, called this sparkler her “best tiara.” It was made in 1911 for the Delhi Durbar, the celebration of the couple’s coronation in India. Mary recycled diamonds from another dismantled tiara to make the piece, which was originally also set with some of the famous Cambridge emeralds. In 1912, Garrard altered the piece so that it could be worn with the Cullinan III and IV diamonds. Mary gave it as a long-term loan to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who wore it only once in public (in South Africa in 1947) and kept it until her death. Today, it’s now on loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, who has also so far only worn it in public once.
King George VI was one of Cartier’s best customers, often purchasing jewels from the firm for his wife and daughters. This petite diamond scroll tiara was a wedding anniversary present from George to Elizabeth in 1936, the year before they ascended to the throne. They later gave it to the present Queen as an 18th-birthday present. It’s since been worn by Princess Margaret and Princess Anne, and in 2011, the Duchess of Cambridge memorably chose it as her bridal tiara. (The Queen also owns another of the Queen Mother’s Cartier tiaras, the Bracelet Bandeau, though she has only worn the bracelets individually.)
This charming diamond and pearl tiara was made in the 1920s. The piece, which features a delicate design and gorgeous Egyptian-inspired motifs, was a transformation of one of the Queen Mother’s wedding gifts: a diamond and pearl sautoir given to her by her new husband. The tiara later became one of Princess Margaret’s signature pieces, and it was most recently worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. (Many are hoping that another of the Queen Mum tiaras worn by Margaret, the Persian Turquoise Tiara, is also just waiting in the vaults to be worn again.)
This unusual diamond and aquamarine tiara, with its pinecone-inspired design, was also made by Cartier. It was another anniversary present from Bertie to Elizabeth, who by that time were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth only wore it a few documented times, including the appearance above, from December 1950. In 1973, Elizabeth (then the Queen Mother) passed the tiara along to her granddaughter, Princess Anne, who still wears it today, after making a few alterations to the piece. (Anne has also worn another tiara that reportedly belonged to the Queen Mother: the Double Meander Bandeau.)
There are also a few more tiaras from the Queen Mother’s collection floating around the royal family today, though they’ve not been worn in recent years. We know that the Teck Crescent Tiara, for example, is currently with the Duchess of Cornwall. Another heirloom, the Teck Hoop Necklace Tiara, belongs to the present Earl of Snowdon. And the Strathmore Rose Tiara belongs to the Queen and is currently sitting in the Buckingham Palace vaults. As always, I live in hope that we’ll see some of her hidden tiaras come to light again soon!