Monday, November 29, 2010

A Tale of Tiara's: What will the Queen bestow upon Kate Middleton?

Since the Royal engagement was announced a few weeks ago I, like many royal watchers, have wondered about the details of the forthcoming nuptials. More specifically, what diadem will the Queen select for our Miss Middleton? I have devoured my jewelry history books, consulted the royal forums and message boards and have come up with the following possibilities. The list is arranged in order of best to worst choice, in my own opinion naturally.

1. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara

Ok, this is by far the most fitting. Delicate and light, absolutely befitting a youthful bride. The tiara was originally given to the future Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth's Grandmother) for her wedding in 1893. The tiara was purchased by a committee that raised money from the girls of Great Britain and Ireland, hence the name. It is one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites as it has high impact and is reportedly very lightweight and versatile. It is not likely that the Queen will part with it...sigh.

2. The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

While this may be a slightly severe choice the loops and pearl drops of the neoclassical style stunner make it a contender in my book. Commissioned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia in 1890, the tiara consists of fifteen interlaced diamond circles each centered by a swinging teardrop pearl. After the Bolshevik Revolution the Grand Duchess and her jewels narrowly made it out of the country. When the Duchess died in 1920 the tiara passed to her daughter Helen who was by then Princess Nicholas of Greece. In 1921 Princess Nicholas sold the tiara to Queen Mary and it has been with the Windsors ever since, passing to Queen Elizabeth in 1953. It is a perennial favorite and the pearls can also be changed out with emerald drops (Queen Mary devised this with the remaining unmounted Cambridge emeralds). It is sometimes seen without any drops....what a versatile piece!

3. The Strathmore Rose Tiara

Now this is a more romantic choice and I must say it was off my radar as it has not been seen in some time. It was given to the late Queen Mother by her parents upon the occasion of her marriage to Prince Albert on April 26, 1923. While her father was a Peer, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was legally a commoner. Wouldn't that be a touching twist of fate if this is the one that is selected especially since Kate and William have chosen April 29th as their own wedding day.

4. Fringe Tiara

Historically this would be a strong choice. It was created in 1919 using diamonds that had been part of a tiara/necklace given by Queen Victoria to Queen Mary on the occasion of her marriage in 1893. Queen Mary gave it to the Queen Mother when she ascended the throne in 1937. The Queen Mother lent it to both her daughter Princess Elizabeth and granddaughter Princess Anne on their respective wedding days. It may be a bit severe in design but it is definitely no stranger to a royal wedding.

5. The County of Surrey Tiara

This is another tiara that was definitely not in my sights since it hasn't been seen publicly in a century (since Queen Mary was the Princess Of Wales). Stylistically it falls between the sweetness of Girls of Great Britain and Ireland and the spiked severity of the Fringe. The tiara was a gift to Queen Mary from the people of the County of Surrey upon the occasion of her marriage in 1893.

6. The Queen Mother's Scroll Tiara.

What this tiara lacks in provenance it makes up for in style. The rolling cascade-like scrolls converge forming a delicate focal point surmounted by a large brilliant diamond. It was one of a handful of tiaras that the Queen Mother wore after she was married but before she ascended the throne in 1937. Over the years it was lent to both Princess Margaret and Princess Anne. There is a playful air of youth about it and its scale is far from overbearing.

7. Duchess of Teck Rose and Crescent Tiara

While this is not the most aesthetically pleasing or romantic choice it is steeped in history. This gem entered the Windsor hoard via Queen Mary's family. It belonged to Mary's mother, Princess Adelaide of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck. Princess Adelaide had a passion for jewelry and passed this gene onto Queen Mary (along with the Cambridge Emeralds and other treasures). This tiara has been modified to its present lower profile and doesn't appear publicly very often. There are a few images of the Queen Mother wearing it in the 1940s but nothing recently to my knowledge.

8. The Queen Alexandra Russian Kokoshnik Tiara

Oh the Kokoshnik, some may fault me for placing it so low on the list but it is only due to the severity of the form. Queen Alexandra was a Danish princess that became the Queen Consort to King Edward VII when he ascended the throne in 1901. The choice of a distinctly Russian form would seem odd for an English monarch, but Alexandra's sister married the Czar becoming Marie Feodorovna, Empress of Russia. Alexandra greatly admired her sister's Kokoshnik tiara (the form is based on a Russian peasant headdress) and was presented with this one on the occasion of her silver wedding anniversary in 1888. It is a royal favorite to this day and has never been out of circulation.

9. The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara

I know I am going to get a lot of flack for putting this highly recognizable tiara so low on the list but I have my reasons. I am sure you recognize this tiara as it was one of the two that are most associated with Diana, Princess of Wales (the other being her family's Spencer Tiara). It was commissioned in 1914 by Queen Mary who, in a nostalgic vein, wanted to recreate the lover's knot tiara that belonged to her grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse. Originally each knot was surmounted by an oval pearl to mirror each drop below but by 1935 it was simplified to its present form. Queen Mary passed it to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth who in turn presented it to Diana upon the occasion of her marriage to Prince Charles. It is the association with Diana that gives me pause. Miss Middleton was already given Diana's stunning 18 carat sapphire engagement ring so to thrust this tiara on her would be overkill. One can imagine the juxtaposed tabloid images of Diana and Kate with "Who wore it best" emblazoned in a 24 point font. Naturally, Diana'a influence will loom over this couple but I am sure Miss Middleton does not want it looming right on top of her head. As a side note I have heard two conflicting stories about its current ownership. One is that it was returned to the Queen when Charles and Diana divorced and the other is that it was passed to William and Harry upon Diana's death. At the time of this post I am not sure, regardless it is a contender despite my reservations.

10. The Duchess of Teck Circlet

I apologize in advance as I was unable to find a better image of this beauty. This lovely diamond circlet bandeau has more commonly been worn as a necklace and descends from Queen Mary's mother, Princess Adelaide.

It is a lovely piece but it is not as significant as the other contenders. It has all the wonderful geometry of the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara but none the severity.

11. The Empress Marie Feodorovna Diamond and Sapphire Bandeau

I only included this selection (dead last) as some royal watchers feel that the central sapphire of this sleek art deco bandeau would be smashing with the sapphire engagement ring. While it has great pedigree (it made its way out of revolutionary Russia and again was an item purchased by Queen Mary from Princess Nicholas of Greece in 1921) In my opinion it is more of a fashion piece and lacks enough significance to be the centerpiece of a royal wedding.

There are a few pieces in the Queen's collection that are absolutely off limits because they have been lent on occasion to the Duchess of Cornwall. They are the Queen Mother's Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara and Queen Mary's Delhi Durbar Tiara. There are also Queen Victoria's Oriental Circlet Tiara and Queen Elizabeth's Burmese Tiara but they both recall that inappropriate exclamation....The bride wore RED! Naturally, incorporating blood red rubies on your wedding day would be a no-no. The Queen Mother's Papyrus Tiara is delicate and would fit the bill but was on loan to Princess Margaret for many years and may have become her personal property. Regardless, it was worn by Serena Stanhope when she married Margaret's son, Viscount David Linley, so it is off the table.

Perhaps the Middleton's will opt to purchase their own tiara for kate so that she brings something from her own family into the wedding (as Diana did wearing her family's Spencer tiara). This is not a new concept. The Poltimore Tiara was purchased for Princess Margaret's wedding and a tiara was also procured from Garrard when Fergie married Prince Andrew. Either way the queen would still bestow a tiara from her collection upon Kate as she will one day be queen and it is an overt sign of approval. We must now wait until April 29, 2011 to know for sure.

UPDATE: Ugh, the photoshopping has begun. Here is Kate in the Queen Mother's Scroll, the Cambridge Lover's Knot, the Oriental Circlet, the Fringe, the Grand Duchess Vladimir, and the Strathmore Rose.

UPDATE II: The Mirror is now reporting that Kate Middleton will be offered Princess Diana's Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara to wear on her wedding day to Prince William. However, it cites no official announcement from Buckingham Palace or any corroborating details. Again we wait...

UPDATE III: A friend over at the Royal Forums brought this other delight to my attention and I must say if it does exist it would be my second choice after the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland...
Wild Card: The Rundell Diamond Tiara

Ok, mea culpa, I knew this beauty existed but was under the impression that it was broken up. It has not been seen in over a century (to my knowledge), but if it survives it is a great choice. The Danish Princess Alexandra was given this masterwork as part of a parure by her groom the future King Edward VII on the occasion of their marriage in 1863. It is wedding tested and beyond regal lets hope Her Majesty digs this deep into the archives...

UPDATE IV: Another Royal Forums revelation...
Wild Card II: The Ladies of England Tiara.

Like the Surrey, I was a bit in the dark about this tiara that appears to have been presented to Queen Mary by the Ladies of England. It too has not been seen publicly in a century therefore one fears it may have been broken up. There is no saying for sure. It recalls the Lover's Knot to some extent (pearls) but is more diminutive in stature.

UPDATE V: The Royal Forums strike again...
Wild Card III: The Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara

This is turning out to be a scholarly dilemma. This delicate rose tiara was crafted by Cartier and formed part of a parure that was given to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her wedding in 1947 by the Nizam of Hyderabad. According to Leslie Feld's The Jewels of Queen Elizabeth II, 1992, this tiara was dismantled and the diamonds used for the creation of the Queen's Burmese Ruby tiara in 1973. However, the three large roses can be used as brooches and have been seen in recent years. Scholar Geoffrey Munn has noted the Hyderabad in his works but does not state that it was "broken-up". Evidently he had unprecedented access to the royal collection so therein lies the rub. If it exists in would be a suitably romantic choice in the same manner as the Strathmore Rose.


  1. I sincerely hope that Kate does NOT wear any tiara associated with Princess Diana! She is already stuck with Diana's engagement ring, and should have been given her OWN ring and not one with such emotional and historic baggage attached to it. Please -- not a tiara, too!

  2. I agree as well which is why I placed the Lover's Knot so low on the list. We will have to wait 3 short months at this point.

  3. I agree with your choices and placement, they are all very beautiful. Though I must admit I love the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara I do hope she gets to wear something that has not bee seen in a while.

  4. My vote is for the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara... Not my favorite. Just reminds me too much of a generic beauty queen crown and with her hair it'll def photograph that way (likely what beauty crown designers copied it from). The Vladimir has a wonderful shape!

  5. AMAZING how many tiara's there are to choose from. I really love the first one. It's the most tasteful in my opinion.

  6. Personally, my money is on the Strathmore Rose. I think that of all the choices, it is the most in line with contemporary tastes, and because of its history, if the Queen gives it to Kate then it's a pretty strong sign of her approval of Kate as the wife of her grandson and England's future king.

  7. I am truly leaning toward the Strathmore Rose as the most likely and sentimental choice...we shall see.

  8. I think the Scroll will fit with Miss Middleton's aesthetics as shown so far, but I'm not holding my breath. She definitely will not be getting the Girls' tiara - too much HM's, both sentimentally & in terms of iconography.But the Queen won't *give* her a tiara - she will definitely let her have it on extended loan, as she did with Diana - the RF understands the concept of centered wealth, as well as the knowledge that family possessions are vested in the Sovereign. I think it's very telling that Diana was only loaned one, & that Fergie didn't even get one loaned to her.

    (I didn't know there was a "Ladies of England" tiara at all - thanks for the info & pic!)

  9. Oh yes, thats why I say bestow in the title and not give. What she wears for the wedding may just be a loaner for the day and at best for life. In doing the research for this blog I was astounded by the wonderful pieces that left the "main line" under Queen Mary. She was very generous with her other children and relatives. The Fife tiara never should have left the core holdings, it is gorgeous. The present Queen is very astute in these matters and will keep the core collection centralized for sure.

  10. So many beautiful pieces were dispersed in the reign of Queen Victoria, too. Though of course, if you're sending your daughter off to be a crowned head of Europe, she's going to need the necessary equipment.

    I seem to recall that Fergie was given a tiara at the time of her marriage. She wore a flower headpiece to enter the cathedral and take her vows, but emerged from signing the register wearing a beautiful diamond tiara. She then wore it on many state occasions. A quick google points to it having been bought for her from Garrards. There are some reasonably recent photos of her wearing it, so it would seem that she retained it following the divorce.

    Something else to bear in mind in choosing the tiara is hair. Most tiaras were designed to complement quite elaborate hairstyles generously enhanced with extra hairpieces. Larger tiaras can look rather 'perched' on top simpler, modern hairstyles.

  11. Happened across your post, Monsieur Rex, regarding Suzy's tiara article on the New York Times website. Love, love love such a dry wit....the same way I love my martinis. Bravo!

  12. Many thanks Lola, I do what I can to "keep it real" as it were...

  13. The tiara you have identified as the Ladies of England Tiara (Wild Card II) is in fact very similar to the Spiked tiara owned by the Norwegian Royal Family (a variation of which Martha-Louise wore on her wedding day). I'd possibly go so far to say it's the same tiara.

    About half way down the page...

  14. There was a similar debate on the Royal forums and I think we settled it. The tiaras are similar in style as they are contemporaries of each other and and thus follow the fashion of the day. Princess May received hers as a wedding gift in 1893. Princess Maud was given hers by the king and queen when she married Haakon of Norway in 1896. It is highly unlikely that the King and Queen would take away a tiara from May (given by the Ladies of England) and give it to their daughter.

    A forums member did a great comp of the two (Maud L., May R.). They are similar but not the same.

  15. Call me crazy, but out of the photo shopped images, I thought the Fringe tiara looked great on her. Although, I would put money on the Scroll tiara or Strathmore Rose.

  16. Yes, as time draws closer to the big day I am thinking Strathmore for sure. But the scroll or the Teck Circlet would be stunning and youthful...

  17. Well, between the Strathmore and the Scroll, I would sincerely hope the Scroll tiara is chosen. Not sure how I feel about the Teck Circlet.

    The more I think about it, the more I like the thought that she takes a page out of Fergie's book. Show up to the abbey with flowers in her hair, celebrating the fact she is a commoner, and leaving the abbey with a tiara to signify her elevation to royalty. Though, I doubt that will happen.

  18. i love your post - thank you for such detailed and interesting info!

  19. Which one did she wear? I couldn't tell

  20. Hello Heather I posted a new blog today...her is the link

  21. Post-Wedding note: I have been preening myself on having my taste vindicated by the new Duchess of Cambridge! First of all, her wedding gown was extremely similar to mine in style & shape (if not exactly color & fabric, but, secondly, I am reminded, above, that I picked the Halo tiara for her, because of how I was reading her style! Go me!

    We now leave this vulgar preening & return you to your regularly scheduled genteel discussion.

  22. Does anyone know if Catherine has been gifted a tiara yet? Would love to know which will become "her" tiara.

    1. I too am waiting to know which one will be her tiara, maybe when their baby is born?

  23. Hmmmm, not sure. Nothing has been made public. She should have use of the Lover's Knot as it was passed to her son/s. I am waiting for her first state dinner. Perhaps the Halo will be hers to use for a while...

  24. I was surprised with her choice of tiara, and I was wondering why she hasn't worn a tiara since, then I realized it is perhaps because Charles is next in line to the throne and not William. Having said that considering the Queen made her Duchess of Cambridge I think its only fitting her tiara be The Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara, however I don't think that will happen.

  25. @Psyche
    I think the tiara was a good choice in general as it was not steeped in any deep associations and was light and dare I say "pretty". From what I understand, Catherine has not attended any "tiara" events (i.e. state dinners). The Queen and Charles tend to manage those and Camilla has sported a few of the Queen mother's tiaras when she attends with Charles. Kate will be in a tiara more regularly just give it time.