It’s August, which means that there’s a distinctive lack of royal news, and publications are hunting down stories to share—including an unearthed discussion about the Princess of Wales’s jewelry predilections, first published at the time of the coronation.
Several British publications, including the Daily Mail and the Independent, reported recently about remarks made by fashion editor Suzy Menkes regarding the jewelry-wearing philosophy and attitude of the Princess of Wales. For Menkes, who wrote a book on royal jewelry back in the ’80s, Kate’s approach to jewelry is “a bit of a disappointment,” because she “gives the impression that she only puts it on when she absolutely has to.”
Menkes added, “I imagine [Catherine], looking beautiful in one of those dresses or gowns, beautiful figure and walking around, then her sort of pulling a face and saying, ‘Do I have to wear this?’ I mean, I’m making all this up, it’s probably ridiculous, but she doesn’t give any sense of adoring jewelry and being pleased to put it on.” She presented Kate’s attitude toward royal jewelry as a contrast to Queen Camilla, noting that “she certainly doesn’t seem to have Camilla’s joy at wearing jewelry.”
Menkes shared these thoughts back in April on a pre-coronation episode of a podcast, If Jewels Could Talk, hosted by Carol Woolton, a contributing editor at British Vogue. (The episode was also uploaded to Menkes’s own podcast, Creative Conversations with Suzy Menkes, in May.) Woolton offered a little pushback to Menkes’s statements on the episode, suggesting, “I think [Kate] likes contemporary designers.”
Menkes agreed—and, in part of the podcast that isn’t being as widely reported, noted that there’s a big difference in the way royal jewelry is worn now compared to eras past. “Well, it’s normal, isn’t it?” she noted. “Because members of the royal family now have so much of a normal, I would say, way of living, that if you meet your children from school, you’re unlikely to want to put on a huge, glittering piece of jewelry. It would be totally inappropriate, and just plain ridiculous.” She suggested that there’s a tension between the pieces in the collection and the opportunities to wear them, adding that “there is a feeling now that a lot of this jewelry does seem inappropriate in today’s world.”
Menkes is probably best known for her signature hairstyle and her decades of fashion reporting, but she’s also the author of The Royal Jewels, a book on jewelry worn by royal ladies like Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother, the Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales. Originally published in 1985 and later reprinted in revised editions, the book was also discussed on Woolton’s podcast.
Intriguingly, Menkes reveals that the book was written over the course of a year and a half using photographs as references, as she had no access to the jewels themselves. She also reveals that the information she received about the jewels was mostly sourced from those who worked for the royal family, not the royals or the direct caretakers of the jewels. (This makes sense, as both time and information shared later by the Royal Collection have contradicted some of the claims made in the book.) Though Menkes’s book wasn’t denounced by the palace, it wasn’t an authorized text, and the Royal Collection Trust wasn’t involved in its publication.
But back to the Princess of Wales and those observations that she’s “a bit of a disappointment” where jewelry is concerned. I know that Menkes isn’t the only one who agrees with that sentiment. I tend to disagree with the notion that Kate obviously dislikes wearing jewelry, and I do think she’s constrained a bit both by her place in the pecking order and by the increasingly casual royal world in which she lives. (I shared these opinions with Tamara Abraham over at the Telegraph last week.) But, just for fun, let’s have a look at the big jewels that she has worn since becoming Princess of Wales last September.
September 14, 2022: For the procession of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, and the brief service that followed, Kate wore the Collingwood Pearl Drop Earrings and the Nigel Milne Pearl Bracelet (both legacies from Diana) with the Diamond and Pearl Leaf Brooch (a loan from Elizabeth II).
September 15, 2022: To view floral tributes at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, she wore the Silver Jubilee Pearl Drop Earrings (a loan from Elizabeth II) with one of her own diamond cross necklaces.
September 16, 2022: Kate again wore the Silver Jubilee Pearl Drop Earrings for a stop at Army Training Centre Pirbright in Guildford.
September 17, 2022: For a lunch at Buckingham Palace for governors-general of Commonwealth nations, Kate paired the Silver Jubilee Pearl Drop Earrings with a three-row pearl necklace (a loan from Elizabeth II) and the Nigel Milne Pearl Bracelet.
September 19, 2022: For Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral and committal service, Kate wore the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings with the Japanese Pearl Choker Necklace and Bracelet (all loans from Elizabeth II).
November 13, 2022: For the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London, Kate wore the Horseshoe and Laurel Leaf Earrings (a legacy from Diana) with an antique diamond and platinum brooch (a new addition to her collection).
November 22, 2022: To officially welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to London at the start of his state visit, Kate wore the Collingwood Pearl Drop Earrings (a legacy from Diana) and Queen Alexandra’s Three Feathers Brooch with its emerald drop (a loan from Charles III).
November 22, 2022: For the South African state banquet at Buckingham Palace, Kate wore Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara and the Japanese Four-Row Pearl Bracelet (both loans from Elizabeth II) with the Horseshoe and Laurel Leaf Earrings (a legacy from Diana) and her own diamond and platinum brooch.
November 30, 2022: For her arrival at Logan International Airport in Boston ahead of the Earthshot Prize celebrations, Kate wore the Cabochon Sapphire and Diamond Earrings (a legacy from Diana).
December 6, 2022: For the annual Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace, Kate wore the Lotus Flower Tiara and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Frame Earrings (both loans from Elizabeth II) with her diamond and platinum brooch.
March 13, 2023: For the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, Kate wore the Cabochon Sapphire and Diamond Earrings (a legacy from Diana) with Queen Alexandra’s Three Feathers Brooch, sans emerald pendant (a loan from Charles III).
April 28, 2023: For a visit to the Aberfan memorial garden in Merthyr Tydfil, Kate wore her diamond leek brooch (provenance unknown).
May 6, 2023: For the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, Kate wore the Horseshoe and Laurel Leaf Earrings (a legacy from Diana) with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Festoon Necklace (a loan from Charles III).
June 2, 2023: For a banquet in Amman celebrating the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein and Princess Rajwa of Jordan, Kate wore Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara (a loan from Elizabeth II), the Greville Chandelier Earrings (a loan from Charles III), and her diamond and platinum brooch.
July 5, 2023: For a service of thanksgiving and dedication at St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Kate wore the Collingwood Pearl Drop Earrings and the Nigel Milne Pearl Bracelet (both legacies from Diana) with the Japanese Pearl Choker Necklace (a loan from Elizabeth II).
For other royal engagements, Kate has worn a range of personal pieces. These have included contemporary fine jewels from companies like Van Cleef & Arpels, Mappin & Webb, and (her perennial favorite) Kiki McDonough; affordable “high street” jewelry from places like Accessorize and Zara; and fashion jewels from brands like Heavenly London and Sezane. She’s also highlighted jewelry pieces from independent designers, including Lenique Louis, Alice Blofeld (Shyla Jewellery), Daniella Draper, and Malaika Carr (Chalk), whose architectural earrings are pictured above.
So what do you think? I already know that the people reading here—me included!—would love to see more antique jewelry out and about, full stop. But is Kate really a “disappointment” where jewelry concerns, and does she seem to lack joy in the way she wears it?