We’re starting off the year with a new weekly feature: Wedding Tiara Wednesday! Today, we’ve got a closer look at the royal wedding jewels worn by a bride who celebrates her birthday next week: the Princess of Wales.
On April 29, 2011, Prince William of Wales married his long-time girlfriend, Catherine “Kate” Middleton, in a glittering ceremony at Westminster Abbey. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, gave William new titles as a wedding gift: Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, and Baron Carrickfergus. For the wedding, Kate wore a wedding gown made by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, while William wore the dress uniform of a colonel of the Irish Guards.
Kate’s wedding gown was accessorized with diamonds, including both borrowed and new pieces.
She secured her veil with the Cartier Halo Tiara, a diamond jewel that has been worn by four different generations of British royal women.
The tiara was acquired for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by her husband, King George VI, when they were still Duke and Duchess of York. He purchased the tiara from his favorite jeweler, Cartier. Elizabeth wore it for the first time in November 1936, just a few weeks before the abdication unexpectedly vaulted them to the throne. Several years later, in 1944, Elizabeth gave the tiara to their older daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as an 18th birthday present.
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) was apparently never photographed in the tiara, but she often loaned it to her sister, Princess Margaret, who wore it with much more frequency. Margaret wore the tiara for her sister’s coronation in 1953 and for many other gala events during her younger years.
Later, Queen Elizabeth II loaned the tiara to her daughter, Princess Anne. She wore it as her very first tiara in 1967, and she continued to wear it often for gala occasions, especially in the years before her 1973 royal wedding.
When Kate stepped out of the car on her wedding day wearing the Halo Tiara, it was the first time that the jewel had been seen on a member of the royal family in decades.
The 2011 royal wedding is also the most recent time we’ve seen the tiara worn in public. Kate has not worn the jewel again since her wedding day. We’ve seen it since in publications and exhibitions, but not on the head of any royal lady. Here, the tiara is shown as part of the royal wedding display at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2011.
One of the tiara’s most recent public appearances came in March 2018, when Queen Elizabeth II loaned the piece to the landmark Cartier exhibition held in Australia.
The scroll design of the tiara was carried through to Kate’s other major royal wedding accessory: her earrings. Her parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, gave her these custom Robinson Pelham earrings as a wedding present.
The earrings feature a stud portion designed to resemble a curving oak leaf—but also to mimic the shape of the scroll elements of the tiara. The oak theme was carried through to the frame and drop pendant. Small pavé-set diamond acorns are suspended delicately within the earrings’ diamond frames.
Why the oak and acorn theme, you might ask? The answer can be found in the symbolism used in the coat of arms granted to the Middleton family shortly before their daughter’s royal wedding. The three acorn and oak leaf designs represent the three Middleton children (Kate, Pippa, and James). The natural symbols reference the many oak trees found growing near the Middleton family home in Berkshire, as well as the fact that oak trees are symbols of strength.
Kate has worn the earrings a handful of times since her wedding day. Notable appearances include Garter Day at Windsor in 2016, when she wore the jewels with a red ensemble.
She also wore the earrings on Easter Sunday in Windsor in 2019. On that occasion, she also wore her pearl and diamond oak leaf brooch.
Perhaps the most important jewel of all on the wedding day, though, was the gold ring that William presented to his bride at the altar. You’ll note that, like many brides, Kate wore her sapphire and diamond engagement ring on her right hand for the start of her wedding service, leaving her left hand free for the new wedding band.
Following royal tradition, Kate’s wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold. The gold used had reportedly been in the family collection for many years before it was gifted to William by Queen Elizabeth II. Wartski fashioned the ring out of the gold nugget ahead of the wedding day. Like his grandfather before him, William opted not to wear a wedding ring.
After the couple exchanged their vows, Kate moved her engagement ring back to her left hand to join her new wedding band. The shift took place, I believe, when the couple moved to the chapel of Edward the Confessor to sign the register.
These days, Kate also wears a third ring stacked with her engagement ring and wedding band: a diamond eternity ring. She began wearing the ring after the birth of Prince George in 2013.
For the evening reception at Buckingham Palace, the royals had a wardrobe change. The new Duchess of Cambridge wore a second gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. This time, the strapless gown featured a sparkling belt detail.
Kate’s hair covered her earrings in most pictures from the evening portion of the event, but we caught a glimpse of her earrings as she and William traveled from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace for the reception. No surprises here: she opted to wear her diamond wedding earrings for the final segment of the celebrations as well.
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