Today, Queen Paola of Belgium celebrates her 86th birthday. In her honor, we’re rewinding the clock two decades to look at one of her glamorous gala tiara appearances.
In May 2003, the King and Queen of Norway traveled to Brussels for a state visit with the royal family of Belgium. The diplomatic trip was also a family reunion. King Harald V of Norway and King Albert II of Belgium are first cousins, both grandchildren of Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden.
Fittingly, the entire Belgian royal family turned out for a state banquet on the first evening of the state visit. Above, you’ll spot several familiar faces, including Queen Fabiola, the Duke and Duchess of Brabant (now King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians), Prince Lorenz, and Prince Laurent and Princess Claire. (Princess Astrid didn’t attend, as she had recently given birth to her fifth child, Princess Laetitia Maria.) Princess Mathilde wore the Brabant Laurel Wreath Tiara for the occasion, while Princess Claire wore her diamond wedding tiara and Queen Fabiola wore pearls.
Both Queen Paola and Queen Sonja wore their finest gowns, decorations, and jewels for the dinner. Fittingly, both also wore royal jewels that had belonged to their husbands’ mothers, Queen Astrid of Belgium and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, who were sisters. Sonja paired the Norwegian Emeralds with a white gown and the purple sash of Belgium’s Order of Leopold.
With her red evening dress, and the red sash of Norway’s Order of St. Olav, Queen Paola wore the most important diadem in the Belgian royal collection: the Nine Provinces Tiara. The glittering jewel was Queen Astrid’s wedding gift from the Belgian people in 1926, and it’s always reserved for the use of the most senior lady in the royal family.
Paola paired the tiara with jewels from her personal collection. She wore her diamond and pearl half-moon earrings, which she’s had since the early years of her royal marriage. She also wore a delicate diamond necklace from her collection, which can also be placed on a frame and worn as a petite tiara.
Queen Paola finished off the look with bracelets and rings, including a gold and diamond bracelet on her left wrist and a gold, ruby, and diamond bracelet on her right.