King Charles III and Queen Camilla stepped out in London on Wednesday evening for a special reception at Mansion House—and Camilla wowed us by debuting two incredible heirloom pieces of royal jewelry!
The King and the Queen arrived at Mansion House in London on Wednesday for a reception recognizing the work of the City of London civic institutions and Livery Companies. The visit is part of the monarch’s traditional first appearance in the City of London in his coronation year, and the reception includes not only remarks from the King but also the ceremonial presentation of the Pearl Sword, which is thought to have been presented to the City of London by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571.
But it was diamonds, not pearls, that caught my attention when the royals arrived at Mansion House. With the same silver and black Bruce Oldfield gown that she previously wore in Berlin, Queen Camilla made her debut in some fabulously important pieces of diamond jewelry from the late Queen’s collection: the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara and the South African Diamond Necklace and Bracelet.
The tiara originally belonged to King Charles’s great-grandmother, Queen Mary. It was one of the wedding gifts presented to her in 1893. The jewel was a gift subscribed to by hundreds of young women from both the United Kingdom and Ireland—hence the piece’s name. As you can see in the portrait above, the tiara was originally topped with a set of pearls, which were later removed (and reused as part of her new Lover’s Knot Tiara).
Queen Mary gave the tiara to her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, as a wedding present in November 1947. At this point, the diamond-and-dot base of the tiara was separated from the top section of the piece. You’ll see both pictured in this photograph of Mary’s bejeweled wedding presents.
Princess Elizabeth wore the tiara often both before and after she ascended to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Above, she wears it for a state dinner in Quebec during her 1951 royal tour of Canada.
She took the tiara with her around the world, wearing it for gala events both in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth.
Eventually, she had the tiara reunited with its original bandeau base. You’ll note that the two pieces are worn as one united tiara in this photograph from 1989.
The jewel, which Elizabeth affectionately called “Granny’s tiara,” remained one of her very favorite royal jewels throughout her seven-decade reign.
She continued to wear the tiara for gala events into the last years of her life, and now, the jewel has been passed along to the next generation.
With the tiara, Queen Camilla wore a familiar pair of diamond earrings. (You’ll see royal reporters stating that these also belonged to the Queen—if so, she’s the one who originally gifted them to Camilla, I suppose.) These come from her pear-shaped diamond demi-parure, and they have a matching necklace. But the necklace Camilla wore for the reception also has a glittering royal history.
This is Queen Elizabeth II’s South African Diamond Necklace. It was one of her 21st birthday gifts, presented to her by Field Marshal Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, during a birthday gala celebration at Government House in Cape Town on April 21, 1947.
As was her usual practice, Elizabeth had the necklace shortened. She had the removed sections made into a matching bracelet. She wears both pieces from the set above in December 1953 during her Christmas broadcast.
Elizabeth wore the necklace and bracelet, which she called her “best diamonds,” throughout her long reign, often for events related to South Africa.
Queen Camilla wore both the necklace and the matching bracelet for Wednesday evening’s banquet. The tiara, necklace, and bracelet represent some of the most important gala jewels from Elizabeth II’s collection—a very important jewelry debut indeed!