Ahead of next week’s South African state visit to the United Kingdom, we’re devoting this week’s Sparkling Spotlight series to some of the glittering jewels that Queen Elizabeth II wore for South African state banquets in the later years of her reign. We begin with a set of gorgeous emeralds worn for Nelson Mandela’s 1996 state visit to Britain.
President Mandela’s landmark state visit to Britain took place in July 1996. He was accompanied by his daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, who is a princess through her marriage to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Eswatini. (Her brother-in-law is the current monarch, King Mswati III.) The Brits rolled out the traditional red carpet for their guests, throwing a grand state banquet at Buckingham Palace in their honor on the first evening of the visit. The Queen hailed Mandela’s “wisdom, understanding, and experience” during her speech at the dinner.
Queen Elizabeth II wore an ivory evening gown decorated with large sequin bows for the banquet. The gold color of the sequins coordinated with the gold and green sash of her South African decoration, the Order of Good Hope.
She coordinated her jewels with the emerald green shade from her order sash, wearing pieces from Queen Mary’s famed Cambridge Emerald collection. The feature piece was the Vladimir Tiara in its emerald setting. She also added the necklace, earrings, and bracelet from the Delhi Durbar Parure. Her brooch is also from the same suite—it’s part of the larger stomacher from the set. She finished off the look with a diamond evening watch and the Royal Family Orders of her father and grandfather.
President Mandela wore an important decoration as well: the neck badge of the Order of Merit. Queen Elizabeth II had appointed him as an honorary member of the order the previous year.