The Queen Mother wasn’t the only member of the British royal family to celebrate an August birthday. Several princesses have been born in August, including this week’s Sparkling Spotlight figure: Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. Today, we’re looking at the sparkling Cartier tiara that Margaret wore for her sister’s coronation in 1953.
Princess Margaret traveled to and from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, with her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The two had been living together at Clarence House since the death of King George VI the previous year.
Like the new Queen herself, both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret wore elaborate gowns made by Norman Hartnell for the coronation. Here, Margaret arrives at Westminster Abbey in her gown, robes, and jewels for the ceremony. (You’ll spot foreign royals and dignitaries behind her, including the future Emperor Akihito of Japan. Beside him, Princess Princep of Nepal wears a dazzling diamond fringe tiara.) Margaret’s Hartnell gown was richly embroidered. The designs featured included daisies (marguerites) and roses, references to her name, Margaret Rose.
As the new monarch’s mother and sister, both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were featured prominently at the coronation, watching from a box just above the proceedings in the Abbey. Between them was Prince Charles, the future Prince of Wales, who watched with the adorable enthusiasm typical of a four-year-old boy.
Margaret and her mother were also included in lots of different photographic images taken on Coronation Day. Here, the Queen poses for a portrait after the coronation at Buckingham Palace with her immediate family: her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh; her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; and her sister, Princess Margaret.
With her Hartnell gown, robes, and coronet, Margaret wore dazzling diamonds, including two pieces by Cartier. One was her tiara, the Cartier Halo, which had been purchased from the firm by the Duke of York (later George VI) in November 1936. The Duchess of York wore the tiara for the first time in public shortly before the abdication catapulted her to the new role of Queen Consort, and she wore it on occasion during her husband’s reign as well. But in 1944, she gave the tiara to her elder daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as a birthday present.
Interestingly, though, Elizabeth was never photographed wearing the tiara. Instead, the next person to be pictured wearing the jewel was her younger sister, Princess Margaret. She wore the tiara for the first time in 1948 during the inauguration celebrations for Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and she continued to wear it for gala occasions in the years afterward. And, in June 1953, Margaret chose to wear the tiara for her sister’s coronation. I’d wager that the small profile and platinum setting of the jewel made it fairly comfortable to wear over such a long day, and it would have been relatively easy to wear with a coronet, too. (The tiara would eventually prove to be an excellent choice for a royal wedding as well.)
Here, you can see Margaret wearing the tiara without the coronet as she travels in a carriage with her mother on Coronation Day. You’ll also note that the Lady Mount Stephen Necklace, given to Margaret by Queen Mary, also featured in her jewelry for the occasion. Seven years later, Margaret wore the same necklace at the Abbey on her wedding day.
The other piece of Cartier jewelry worn by Margaret for the coronation was a classic diamond rose brooch, which she pinned near the neckline of her gown. You’ll be able to see it here, peeking out from under the sash of the Royal Victorian Order. The brooch, made by Cartier in 1938, was another reference to Margaret’s middle name. She wore it throughout her life, and after her death, it was sold at Christie’s. You can see excellent close-up views of the brooch in our earlier article on the piece!