Tuesday evening brought a birthday surprise just for me: British royal tiaras! King Charles III hosted the first Diplomatic Reception of his reign on Tuesday night, and there were two major tiaras and jewels on display!
The King, the Queen Consort, and the Prince and Princess of Wales welcomed guests to a reception at Buckingham Palace for the Diplomatic Corps on Tuesday. It was the first time the event had been held since December 2019.
For her first Diplomatic Reception as Queen Consort, Camilla chose a suite of jewels that we saw on her recently: the sapphires from the collection of her mother-in-law, the late Queen Elizabeth II. Camilla wore the Belgian Sapphire Tiara along with the George VI Sapphires for the reception.
Queen Camilla chose a dark evening gown this time to set off the blue jewels, which coordinated with her Garter sash. She also wore the Garter star and Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Family Order.
This is the same set of jewels that we saw Queen Camilla wear in November for the South African state banquet (pictured above). For Tuesday’s reception, however, she wore the necklace with its sapphire and diamond pendant.
The Belgian Sapphire Tiara, as its name suggests, once belonged to a member of the nineteenth-century Belgian royal family: Princess Louise, daughter of King Leopold II and wife of Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The piece was worn by Louise as a necklace, as you can see in the portrait above. She often paired it with a diamond and sapphire tiara.
Many years later, in 1963, Queen Elizabeth II purchased the sapphire necklace and had it placed on a tiara frame. Her collection lacked a sapphire tiara at that point. Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet had been given to her aunt, Princess Mary, in the 1920s, and Queen Mary had given her own sapphire suite to Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Elizabeth II wears the new tiara above in a photograph taken at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1965.
The new tiara successfully completed a married parure of sapphire and diamond jewels for Elizabeth II. She wore it with the sapphire and diamond necklace and earrings that had been given to her in 1947 as a wedding present by her father, King George VI. She also had a bracelet made to round out the set. She wears the parure here at the Chinese state banquet in October 2015.
Queen Camilla wore the tiara and necklace from the late Queen’s sapphire set for tonight’s Diplomatic Reception. Unlike the late Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla does not have pierced ears, so she hasn’t worn the earrings from the George VI Sapphire Suite. Instead, she wore the same modern diamond and sapphire earrings for the reception that she previously wore for the South African state banquet in November.
The Prince and Princess of Wales also attended tonight’s reception. Catherine sparkled in a red Jenny Packham evening gown for the reception. She wore Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Family Order and the sash and star of the Royal Victorian Order, all personal gifts from the late Queen, with the dress.
She also brought out a tiara that was loaned to her by the late Queen: the Lotus Flower Tiara. Kate has worn the jewel on two previous occasions, but this is the first time we’ve seen her wear it in public in more than seven years.
The tiara, which is sometimes also called the “Papyrus Tiara,” originally belonged to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. It began its life as a completely different jewel: a diamond and pearl necklace (pictured above) with meander and festoon designs. The necklace was purchased from Garrard for Elizabeth by her husband, the Duke of York (later King George VI), as a wedding present in 1923.
But Elizabeth apparently wasn’t particularly fond of the design. Less than a year after her royal wedding, Elizabeth returned to Garrard with the necklace and asked them to transform the jewel into a tiara. The result was this Art Deco-inspired tiara, featuring scroll and festoon motifs alongside stylized lotus flowers. Initially, Elizabeth wore the tiara low across her forehead, in the bandeau style that was so popular during the 1920s.
The tiara could also be worn more traditionally atop the head. That’s how Princess Margaret wore the tiara when her mother passed it along to her in the 1950s. It became one of Margaret’s most-worn royal jewels, often appearing on her at banquets and other diplomatic functions.
In October 1993, Margaret loaned the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Serena Stanhope, to use as a bridal tiara. She wore the jewel to marry Viscount Linley (now the Earl of Snowdon) in London, paired with a gown that echoed the lines of Margaret’s own wedding dress.
After Margaret’s death, the tiara disappeared from view. Delightfully, though, it turned out that it was in the royal vaults as part of her sister’s massive jewelry collection. The late Queen Elizabeth II loaned the tiara to the Duchess of Cambridge (now the Princess of Wales) who wore it for the Diplomatic Reception in December 2013 and the Chinese state banquet in October 2015.
Today’s appearance is Kate’s first outing in the tiara since that 2015 state banquet. This time around, she paired the tiara with the diamond frame earrings that were also loaned to her by the late Queen. She also wore her hair down, in a voluminous, ’60s inspired look.
She also used one more diamond jewel, her Diamond Art Deco Brooch, to secure her order sash.