arts & culture

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}


{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

. . . an utter and hopeless romantic, there is, naturally, much breathless anticipation for the royal wedding — after all — what could possibly be more romantic than sweeping trains, yards and yards of silk taffeta, balcony kisses, true love and tiaras?

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
. . . to mark this historical occasion, kate middleton will be presented with her very own tiara, from the royal collection, as was the case with diana, or purchased from garrard, the royal jewellers, as was the case for the duchess of york . . . and so, a fascinating glimpse . . .

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
the beautiful swirls & scrolls of the spencer tiara

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
the spencer tiara
although she received the cambridge lovers knot tiara {see below} for her wedding, princess diana famously wore the spencer tiara as her something borrowed on her wedding day in 1981; made of gold in a repeating scroll design the family tiara is entirely set with diamonds; thought to be a family heirloom from the eighteenth century, the tiara is actually a composite of several elements: the central element was a gift from lady sarah spencer to cynthia, viscountess althorpe as a wedding present in 1919

it was later remounted and four other elements were made to match it in 1937; only the two elements at the end are old and said to have come from a tiara owned by francis, viscountess montagu and left to lady sarah spencer in 1875

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after it was worn by lady diana spencer when she married the prince of wales in 1981, the spencer tiara was subsequently worn by victoria lockwood when she married the 9th earl in 1989 (the earl spencer); the tiara currently remains with the spencer family

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princess diana attends a state reception in australia, wearing a suite of sapphire and diamond jewels presented by the crown prince of saudi arabia, and the spencer family tiara; (photography by tim graham)


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the cambridge lovers knot tiara
made in 1911 for queen mary {the queen consort & wife of george v}, from the diamonds and pearls she held in her collection, the cambridge lovers knot tiara was a copy of one owned by her grandmother, princess augusta of hesse; queen mary left it to her granddaughter, queen elizabeth II, in her will in 1953; the queen wore it a few times in the fifties, then gave the tiara to princess diana as a wedding present in 1981; although the princess did not wear it to her wedding, she debuted it during the opening of parliament that november{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
above: diana, princess of wales, wearing the cambridge lovers knot in new zealand, april 1983

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above: the diamond & pearl tiara perfectly paired with a pearl-encrusted white gown and matching jacket by catherine walker

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above: camilla, duchess of cornwall {formerly camilla parker bowles}, the queen, and diana, wearing the cambridge lovers knot tiara


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helen molesworth, a christie’s specialist, holds the antique poltimore tiara from the princess margaret collection before auction in hong kong, friday may 26, 2006; (photography by kin cheung/ap)

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
the royal wedding of princess margaret and anthony armstrong-jones, lord snowdon, may 6, 1960

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

the poltimore tiara
“Acquired on the advice of Patrick Plunkett, Deputy Master of the Household, before the official announcement of her engagement to Mr Antony Armstrong-Jones, the tiara had originally been created by Garrard in the 1870s for Florence, Lady Poltimore, the wife of the second Baron Poltimore.

The Princess wore the tiara in its form as a stunning diamond fringe necklace and scroll brooches on several occasions prior to her marriage; yet it was arriving at Westminster Abbey by horse-drawn carriage on 6th May 1960, with the Poltimore Tiara holding her veil in place as a circlet of diamonds around her hair, that Princess Margaret fulfilled an image that was the epitome of the fairytale princess.”

~ helen molesworth, christie’s

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

. . . the princess, who died in february of 2002, wore it for her wedding to anthony armstrong-jones, lord snowdon; the children of the late princess, viscount linley and lady sarah chatto, sold the tiara and other items at an auction at christie’s {to offset the pinch of inheritance taxes} in 2006 for $1,704,576, much more than its estimate of $276,000 – $368,000

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}
like many of the tiaras in the royal family, the poltimore tiara was seen in several alternative forms such as a diamond fringe necklace and as brooches; the tiara can be converted into a necklace and eleven brooches, and was offered with a screwdriver and the brooch fittings required to make the switch



{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

the nizam of hyderabad tiara
a flourish of delicate english roses, the nizam of hyderabad 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, 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 that can be used as brooches have been seen in recent years, creating much speculation and mystery surrounding the piece . . .


{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

the grand duchess vladimir tiara
laden with round brilliant-cut diamonds, the grand duchess vladimir tiara was inherited by the queen, from her grandmother, queen Mary, after her death in 1953; the tiara gets its name from grand duchess maria pavlovna of russia, wife of the grand duke vladimir alexandrovich, the third son of czar alexander II, and the brother of czar alexander III of russia

following the 1917 bolshevik revolution of russia, the grand duchess vladimir escaped to venice with her family, leaving her renown jewelry collection, including the tiara, behind, hidden in a vault in the vladimir palace in st. petersburg; a member of britain’s secret intelligence service, and a friend of the family, helped to recover the jewels; the duchess died soon after, in august 1920; the vladimir tiara was purchased by queen mary in 1921, from princess nicolas of freece, the daughter of duchess maria vladimir

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the original setting of the tiara at the time of its purchase in 1921, by queen mary, was with swinging pearl drops or pendants with small diamond set mounts, positioned inside each circle . . .

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above: the queen, with prince phillip, wearing the vladimir tiara with emerald drops & inset: camilla, duchess of cornwallwears the tiara with the matching emerald suite, the cambridge and delhi durbar parure

. . . but queen mary, who was renowned for her collection of royal jewels, and had an intimate knowledge of jewelry and their designing, modified the vladimir tiara to make provision for the pearl drops to be interchanged with emerald drops, requesting the court jewelers garrard & co. to cut and polish fifteen of her remaining cambridge emeralds as drop shaped emeralds; the tiara was especially striking when worn with the matching emerald suite, the cambridge and delhi durbar parure


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above: princess anne borrowed this elegant tiara from the queen for a tour of australia & new zealand in 1970

the scroll diamond tiara
also known as the queen mother’s scroll tiara, 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; she then passed the scroll diamond tiara to the queen, who has never worn it publicly, but over the years, has lent to both princess margaret and princess anne


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girls of great britain and ireland tiara
a wedding present for princess may of teck (the future queen mary) from the ‘girls of great britain and ireland’, the diamond tiara was purchased from garrard with money raised by a committee chaired by lady eve greville; in 1947, mary gave the diamond and silver tiara to her granddaughter, the future queen elizabeth II, as a wedding present

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a portrait of the queen wearing the girls of great britain and ireland tiara, designed by arnold machin, has appeared on many commonwealth currencies, including those of britain, australia, jamaica, canada and ceylon

{countdown to the royal wedding: a history of tiaras}

{p.s.} it has been thought that kate may wear the the queen mother‘s george III tiara, (also known as the russian fringe tiara), a circlet incorporating brilliant diamonds that were formerly owned by george III; originally commissioned in 1830, the tiara has since been worn by many queens consort; when queen elizabeth {the queen mother}, consort of george VI, first wore the tiara, sir henry “chips” channon called it ‘an ugly spiked tiara’; queen elizabeth later loaned it to her daughter, princess elizabeth {the future elizabeth II}, as “something borrowed” for her wedding in 1947 to to prince philip in westminster abbey; the queen mother later also loaned it to her granddaughter, princess anne for her marriage to captain mark phillips in 1973


{prince william and kate middleton photographed mark cuthbert / press association; the spencer tiara history via marilyn’s royal blog; all other sources: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen}

51 Notes
  • Both photographs of Camilla here are photoshopped, as can ce seen when they’re examined closely.

    Regarding the Queen’s wedding tiara, she wore the Queen Mary fringe tiara (which can also be worn as a necklace) at her wedding. This tiara was made for Queen Mary in 1919. It is not, as has sometimes been claimed, made with diamonds that had belonged to George III but re-uses diamonds taken from a necklace/tiara purchased by Queen Victoria from Collingwood & Co as a wedding present for Mary in 1893. In August 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter in law, Elizabeth – the current Queen’s mother, who lent it to the Queen as her ‘something borrowed’. The Queen Mother later also loaned it to her granddaughter Princess Anne for her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973. It was put on show with a number of other royal tiaras in 2001 – here’s the link to the Royal Collections website (a branch of the Royal Household) which makes this clear:

    The confusion arises because Victoria certainly had a fringe necklace/tiara inherited from Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV, who had a diamond fringe necklace including diamonds from King George III and Queen Charlotte, commissioned in 1830. Originally it could be worn as a collar or necklace or mounted on a frame to form the tiara. There are photos in the Royal Collection archives of the tiara being worn by Queen Mary. It isn’t as tall as her own fringe tiara. It may still be in existence in the vaults somewhere.

  • Verybendy said...


    Agreed, anonymous! I thought the same thing when I saw that photo of mistress Camilla.

  • Anonymous said...

    How dare that cow of Camilla to wear a tiara Diana had wore before her?

  • Thank you. I now know the queen wore the girls of great Britain and Ireland tiara on her recent trip to Ireland. How nice to have such choices.

  • Another impeccable post, Roséline. I have always bee fascinated with tiaras and now I feel I know the history much better. Always looking forward to your entries.

  • I have looked over this post a few times now, and each time I notice something different. A beautiful piece that ought to be published, Roséline. I think my favorite was the Ireland tiara. Thank you so much for this well-researched, thoughtful and romantic piece.

    Hope you are enjoying a lovely Sunday evening right now, as I am having my morning coffee :)


  • Anonymous said...

    Keep Calm, there’s still one prince left :P Just kidding. My favorite is the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, no one wore it better than Diana she was just radiant. Please do a post on the royal weddings fashion!

  • Anonymous said...

    Keep Calm, there’s still one prince left :P Just kidding. My favorite is the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, no one wore it better than Diana she was just radiant. Please do a post on the royal weddings fashion!

  • Merci pour l’histoire.

    Bon weekend


  • A few things came to mind reading this post. 1) The sheer amount information documented is fascinating. 2) The tiaras are beautiful and are such stunning pieces of jewelry. 3) This may sound silly, but I imagine that they would be slightly heavy to wear. Wonderful post!

  • Thank you so much! I always love to hear more about the British monarchy! A facinating history of tiaras! :)

  • Great post! Very informative and well written! All the tiaras are so beautiful… but I really like Spencer Tiara.

  • A lovely informative post! Many memories will be felt tomorrow. I am a new follower. I invite you to visit my blog.

  • joey — how lovely! so wonderful to hear — thank you x

    alice olive — thank you! & for me, the ornateness is the very best part :) xo

    andrea reh — best ever? high praise indeed! thanks so very much for such a lovely comment & hope you’re having a wonderful week

  • What a wonderful post!xx


  • absolutely wonderful post! ♥

  • I’m not a fan of tiaras – way too ornate for my taste – but I loved all the history in this post! Thank you for sharing!

  • Oh goodness– this post is too beautiful for words! Exactly what I wanted to wake up to.. How exciting, the wedding is so close now! xx

  • I think this is the best post I have ever read on your site – beautiful, informative and well written.

    Andrea x

  • This people are very “green” they mastered recycling process … great post !

  • Amazing tiaras! I love this post.

  • ana louisa — so lovely that you noticed — thank you!

    paris — yes! can hardly wait!

    bluebadgerbaby — of course :) fixed now — was late & utterly exhausted!

    sécia — most definitely

    rachel — honestly, your comments are the most amazing — a million and one thank you’s xoxo

    hello everyone!

    thanks so much for all the lovely, lovely comments — this post took literally over a week to complete, so it’s delightful to hear you’re enjoying it so xo

  • What a gorgeous post to read. Such a pertinent topic for this week and you clearly have done your research. I definitely know a lot more about tiaras now.

  • I can only imagine how much work this was…but so worth it. Lovely!

  • this is marvelous!! xo

  • What a wonderful post. I especially love the picture of the Poltimore Tiara with Princess Margaret in the background. Thank you. LOVE your blog!

  • Stunning, well-researched and thoughtful piece. This is really interesting, thank you.

  • Thank you for the lovely post, it is so interesting to know the history and the details behind the royal court.

  • Oh my gosh- what an amazing post! I loved these tiaras but knew none of these stories. Exquisite!

  • Thanks for the info on the tiaras. Learned a lot I never knew about them. Quite fascinating!

  • What a great post! I plan to deck myself out in my vintage rhinestone jewelry on Friday to celebrate the nuptials. :)

    ♥ sécia

  • such a fantastic post! love the history.

  • This post is fascinating! I love learning about the history of each tiara. This must’ve taken forever to research. I’m so glad you’re sharing your finds!

  • Princess Anne is the daughter of the queen, not her sister. I think Kate would look lovely in the scroll tiara though.

  • Wonderful post! Tiaras are so fun and beautiful:)I can’t believe it’s been 30 yrs since Princess Diana married Prince Charles. I can’t believe I’m actually old enough to remember waking up to watch it too!!!

  • beautiful essay on the tiara and well worth the time!

  • Great post! It’s so fun to look how the same tiaras are worn again and again but take on different styles with each new woman.

  • I can’t WAIT to see what Kate is wearing! ahhhh! great post:)

  • fxox said...

    Great post Miss Roséline:-)

    We’ll be watching on Friday:-)

    hugs FXOXO

  • Such a cool post. Thanks for sharing!!

  • so gorgeous and glamorous! diana is still so stunning. xoxo jillian:: cornflake dreams

  • EEP! We’re so excited for the Royal Wedding. We can’t wait to see all the royals blinged out!

    Check us out!


  • This is so fascinating! I enjoyed getting a thorough look into this custom!

  • Oh YUMMMMY! I do believe the SPENCER one actually DOES have MY name on it! :-)

    Loved this post…. interesting to see the variety of beautiful tiaras.

    Warm blessings,

  • Wow. This post took a lot of work! Thank you so much for doing this for us. It is very interesting and the jewels are so pretty to see close up.

  • This is such an interesting subject! It’s amazing how royal items are passed down through the generations, between the families and countries, as gifts, purchases, loans … I am so glad I read this! :)

  • Oh! This must be the anticipated post that you were working on for so long, and the result is utterly fascinating!! …am so grateful you spent the time to research and share this with us, I literally got chills when reading! It is such a beautiful beautiful tradition! What must it be like to have the honour of donning such stunning beauty, and how elegant and perfect does Princess Diana look at the state reception in australia?!? The Cambridge lovers knot tiara is complemented so beautifully with that pearl-encrusted white dress and jacket, wow! Also, I had no idea that queen Mary inherited that stunning vladimir tiara from her grandmother, nor that it was named from the grand duchess in Russia. It is truly a regal masterpiece, and how fascinating was the story of this precious piece!

    I believe it is such a beautiful thing to learn about the history behind a tradition, and learning more about the tiara was truly a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing this, Roséline… am even more excited for the royal wedding….


  • fascinating post! i will look at tiaras in a different (much more knowledgeable way) now! xo, laura

  • Hi ALWAYS GOOD to see them great post enjoy the day isnt it ecxciting fay xxx

  • Beautiful post! And so funny that I also posted about tiaras today, but not as interesting and in depth as this. LOVE IT! Can’t wait until Friday!

  • What a beautiful post! I can tell a lot of time {and research} went into this. I feel so educated now on the subject of tiaras. Thank you!

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