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

Prince Charles and Princess Diana kiss on their wedding day
. . . 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 . . .

the beautiful swirls & scrolls of the spencer tiara

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

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

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)



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 (namely from the Ladies of England Tiara), the lovers knot tiara was a copy of the original Cambridge Lover’s Knot owned by her grandmother, princess augusta of hesse, the duchess of cambridge. 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

(The original Cambridge Lover’s Knot was later sold at auction at Christie’s in Geneva in May 1981 for more than $747,000 in today’s dollars to an anonymous buyer and is presumed to be in an unknown private collection.)

above: diana, princess of wales, wearing the cambridge lovers knot in new zealand, april 1983

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

above: camilla, duchess of cornwall {formerly camilla parker bowles}, the queen, and diana, wearing the cambridge lovers knot tiara (Update: many of you wrote in to let us know that the photo we previously featured of Camilla wearing the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara contains inaccuracies)

Getty Images

When Charles and Diana divorced, the tiara was returned to Queen Elizabeth II. While Diana was allowed to keep her jewellery as part of the divorce settlement, the tiara was on loan from the Queen, and so was given back—and reportedly put into a safe at Buckingham Palace. Following Diana’s death in 1997, the tiara wasn’t seen publicly until 2015, when Kate wore it to a reception at Buckingham Palace.

Kate Middleton wears the Lover's Knot Tiara in 2016
Getty Images

Kate in the Lover’s Knot Tiara on December 8, 2015. For the annual diplomatic reception, the largest annual reception held at Buckingham Palace, Kate paired the Lover’s Knot Tiara with an icy-blue lace gown by Alexander McQueen. This tiara has since become the duchess’s go-to for state functions. It is believed that Kate has worn the Lover’s Knot 11 times in public to date, between 2015 and 2023.



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)


the royal wedding of princess margaret and anthony armstrong-jones, lord snowdon, may 6, 1960

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

. . . 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

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



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 . . .



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

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 . . .

above: the queen, with prince phillip, wearing the vladimir tiara with emerald drops & inset: camilla, duchess of cornwall wears the tiara with the matching emerald suite, the cambridge and delhi durbar parure (Update: many of you wrote in to let us know that the photo we previously featured of Camilla wearing the the grand duchess vladimir tiara contains inaccuracies i.e. it was photoshopped)

. . . 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




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



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

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

{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

(See notes for the Scroll Diamond Tiara, above)


UPDATE: Kate did not end up wearing the Russian Fringe Tiara on her wedding day, but the Cartier Halo Tiara, made in 1936 and purchased by king george VI for his wife queen elizabeth {the queen mother} three weeks before he succeeded his brother as king; the tiara was presented to princess elizabeth, the late queen, by her mother on the occasion of her 18th birthday; the new princess matched the tiara with earrings by robinson pelham, a gift from her parents inspired by the new middleton coat of arms

The Queen Mother, with King George VI, 1937
Princess Margaret wearing the tiara, circa 1950

The Cartier Halo Tiara was created by the renowned French jewellery house Cartier in 1936, commissioned by George VI to create something spectacular with the diamonds and platinum he had purchased for his wife three weeks before he became King George VI and she became Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), likely using inheritance funds after the death of his father King George V earlier that year. It features a band of 16 graduated scrolls embellished with 739 brilliant diamonds and 149 baton diamonds. Each scroll is divided by a graduated brilliant, with a large brilliant adorning the center. At the time, the Duchess of York’s jewellery collection was relatively modest, consisting only of her Turquoise Parure, Lotus Flower Tiara, and Strathmore Rose Tiara—all wedding gifts. Her assortment paled in comparison to her sisters-in-law, the Duchesses of Gloucester and Kent.

Princess Margaret, 1953

The tiara was passed down to her eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth (the late Queen), who was gifted the diamond headpiece as an 18th-birthday present in 1944. The Queen never wore the Cartier Halo tiara in public, but did loan it frequently to her sister, Princess Margaret, from the 1940s through to the 1960s, who first wore it at the Inauguration Gala of Queen Juliana of The Netherlands in 1948, before famously wearing it at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. A few years later, the Queen loaned the Cartier Halo Tiara to her only daughter, Princess Anne (below), who wore it for her first tiara appearance (at the age of 17) at the State Opening of Parliament in 1967, the first time she and Prince Charles joined the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh for the annual ceremony.

William Lovelace Daily Express Getty Images

Princess Anne (above) last wore the piece in public in the 1970s and then the Caritier Halo Tiara would not appear again April 2011, at Will & Kates’s wedding.

{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}



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.