Last week’s state dinner at the Palace of Versailles brought us glamorous gowns and glittering jewels, but one thing was missing that irked a large number of royal watchers: a tiara! Let’s look more closely at the reasons why Queen Camilla likely chose not to wear a tiara, with a look back at the way that other royals have dressed for state banquets in France.
When people think about British glamour in France, they’re usually dreaming of the days when Queen Elizabeth II (or even her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) dazzled at gala events in Paris decades ago. Elizabeth II made her first visit to Paris in the spring of 1948, when she was still a princess. She packed tiaras in her luggage for the trip, wearing the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara for a dinner at the Elysee Palace.
Nine years later, Elizabeth returned for her first state visit to France as Queen. She brought along several tiaras again, wearing the emerald setting of the Vladimir Tiara and pieces from the Delhi Durbar Parure at the Opera Garnier.
There were tiaras during the June 1992 state visit as well. Here, Elizabeth wears the Burmese Ruby Tiara for a post state dinner visit to the Louvre Museum. You’ll note that this was a black-tie dinner rather than a white-tie gala event.
Elizabeth wore the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara for another black-tie dinner in Paris in April 2004, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale.
And in June 2014, during her final state visit to France, Elizabeth again wore the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara for a black-tie dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris. It was a fitting bejeweled coda—her first tiara worn in Paris was also her last.
Elizabeth wasn’t the only royal lady who wore tiaras for state dinners in France during the twentieth century. Here’s Princess Grace of Monaco wearing the Bains de Mer Tiara for a dinner hosted by President de Gaulle at the Elysee Palace in 1959.
And here’s Queen Silvia of Sweden wearing a very French set of jewels—the Cameo Tiara and its coordinating parure—for a dinner in Versailles during the Swedish state visit in the spring of 1980.
If my records are correct, the last royal lady not named Elizabeth II to wear a tiara in France was Queen Sonja of Norway. She wore Queen Josefina’s Diamond Tiara for a black-tie dinner at the Elysee Palace in March 2000.
But in the years that have followed, no one other than Queen Elizabeth wore tiaras while visiting France, even for black-tie dinners. Above, Queen Rania of Jordan goes tiara-less for a state dinner in 1999. The dress expectations for French state dinners have become increasingly casual, and I can only imagine that royal ladies were wearing jewelry based on those communicated expectations. Elizabeth II was the exception, not the rule: like it or not, she was always sort of the “senior” royal lady in Europe, and she was perhaps given more jewelry leeway, especially as a reigning monarch.
Many other royal ladies have visited France over the past two decades, and none of them have worn tiaras. Here’s Queen Sofia of Spain wearing diamonds, but no tiara, for a state dinner with the Chiracs in 2006.
And here, the King and Queen of Jordan are hosted by President Hollande for a state dinner in Paris in 2014. Note that, by this point, the dress code for these kinds of dinners usually called for business attire.
King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden attended one of these business-attire dinners at the Elysee Palace in 2014.
Queen Silvia didn’t wear the grand tiaras she had worn in France decades earlier, but leave it to Silvia: she pinned the brooch from the Cameo Parure, which features a silhouette of Napoleon Bonaparte, in her hair for the occasion.
Here are King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain attending a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in June 2015.
And here are King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, in their business attire finest, attending a state dinner in France in March 2016.
Like Queen Silvia, Maxima nodded toward the tiara-filled past by adding a jeweled ornament to her hair for the March 2016 dinner. The brooch comes from the Borneo Diamond Suite, an inauguration gift from the Sultan of Kutai Kartanegara to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898. The yellow gold and diamond jewel was originally part of the set’s tiara, which was later dismantled. The earrings Maxima wore come from the suite as well.
Many followers on social media argued that Queen Maxima would have worn a tiara at last week’s black-tie state banquet. While Maxima has worn tiaras for black-tie events before, she hasn’t done so in France. The return dinner during the 2016 state visit, hosted by Willem-Alexander and Maxima, was a black-tie occasion, but she didn’t wear a tiara.
The state dinner dress code in France really can be a little confounding. Here’s a look at the clothing and jewels worn for the Elysee Palace dinner in 2018 during the Luxembourgish state visit to France. Both President Macron and Grand Duke Henri wore business suits, but Brigitte Macron and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa are wearing black-tie-appropriate evening gowns and jewels—in the Grand Duchess’s case, that included heirloom royal emeralds.
The ensembles were more consistent at last week’s black-tie state dinner at the Palace of Versailles. Trust me, I would love to see more tiaras being worn in general, but I think Charles and Camilla made the right call here. She wore important, historic royal jewelry and looked elegant, but she still carefully walked in the footsteps of every queen consort who has visited France since 2000 by not wearing a tiara. The royal couple followed the dress expectations set by their French presidential hosts to the letter. And honestly—can you imagine the reaction from many people if she had worn a tiara when so many other royal ladies have not? Given the comments I have to moderate on my social media accounts daily, I can only expect that many would have been very unkind in their assessment of that decision.