Next week, Queen Silvia of Sweden celebrates her 80th birthday. In her honor, I’ve put together a series featuring eight memorable tiara moments from her five decades as Queen of Sweden—starting with today’s article, which tells the story of her very first royal tiara appearance in 1976.
Silvia Sommerlath, a gifted translator who was raised in Germany and Brazil, met Crown Prince Carl Gustaf of Sweden at the Summer Olympics in Munich in 1972. The couple began dating soon afterward. A year after their first meeting, Carl Gustaf became King of Sweden on the death of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf. The couple possible future marriage was the subject of intense speculation for several years, until they finally announced their engagement in March 1976.
The royal wedding was scheduled for June 19, 1976. On the night before the wedding, a gala concert was held in the couple’s honor. Silvia arrived wearing a flowing evening dress with a structured jacket and the insignia of the Order of the Seraphim.
Silvia also accessorized with diamonds from the royal vault. She was still a commoner—and wouldn’t become Queen for a few more hours—but the vaults were opened up for her to access for this pre-wedding event.
For her very first appearance in a tiara, Silvia wore a romantic jewel from the Bernadotte collection. The Connaught Diamond Tiara, with its looping structure, its swinging pendants, and its floral design, is an heirloom from another Swedish royal wedding. It was presented to Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, King Carl Gustaf’s grandmother, by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, to celebrate her wedding to the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden in June 1905.
Crown Princess Margareta sadly died very young, and the diamond tiara was inherited by her eldest son, Prince Gustaf Adolf. After he married Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1932, she began wearing the tiara frequently. It became one of her very favorite jewels, so much so that the family still calls the piece “Princess Sibylla’s Tiara” today.
Princess Sibylla died in November 1972, just a few months after Carl Gustaf and Silvia had met in Germany. Two years later, Carl Gustaf’s sister, Princess Christina, wore the tiara on her wedding day as a way to remember her late mother. When it came time for Silvia to choose her first tiara, Christina and her sisters urged Silvia to choose the Connaught Diamond Tiara, again as a way to remember Princess Sibylla. But even more than that, Christina has said that the sisters also wanted Silvia to understand the gesture as their way of welcoming her to the family.
Here’s a look at Silvia wearing the tiara for the first time at the gala concert on June 18, 1976. Previously, the jewel had been worn by Princess Sibylla (who had gray hair) and Princess Christina (who was blonde), and the base was still wrapped in light-brown velvet to match their hair. Later, the velvet wrapping would be changed to a dark brown color that matched Silvia’s dark brown hair.
Silvia also wore a diamond necklace and bracelet. Her spectacular diamond earrings are important Swedish royal heirlooms, too. These are the Karl Johan Earrings, which date to the reign of the first Bernadotte monarch in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
The concert was a memorable one—and not only because it celebrated the upcoming marriage of a reigning monarch. Seated with her fiancé and her parents, Silvia Sommerlath watched ABBA’s very first public performance of one of their new singles: “Dancing Queen.” (A very appropriate choice indeed!)
As for the Connaught Diamond Tiara, it has remained a beloved royal jewel in the Swedish royal collection for the decades that have passed since the 1976 royal wedding. Queen Silvia still wears the tiara today, and it has also continued to appear on Princess Christina, as well as on Carl Gustaf and Silvia’s daughters, Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine.