When the Princess of Wales appeared at the state banquet in Buckingham Palace honoring the President of South Korea on November 21, 2023 wearing the Strathmore Rose tiara, everyone gasped. It was a wedding gift to the late Queen Mother from her parents in 1923, a century ago, and had skipped a generation (actually two), never having been worn publicly by her daughter, the late Queen Elizabeth II. Rarely having been seen in close to a century, it was “in the vault” along with numerous other priceless legendary treasures, presumably too delicate for wear because of its intricate floral style.
The late Queen Mother had worn it as a bandeau headband, across the forehead, a style popular in the 1920s. Catherine chose to wear the tiara as an upright headpiece. It is only the fourth royal tiara she has worn publicly. She is the only person other than the late Queen Mother to have worn this precious jewel.
Catherine, now the Princess of Wales, is in line to become Queen, a position now held by Camilla, the wife of King Charles III. “Estate jewelry” has a special meaning when applied to the British royal family. Members of the family have access to crown jewels from the royal vault to wear on state occasions, as well as a wealth of private jewels belonging to individual family members, passed down through generations. Many of the jewels are of exquisite quality and workmanship, along with legendary provenance documented over centuries, making them virtually priceless. Catherine and Camilla especially, as senior royals, have priority access to this treasure trove.
Royals often choose pieces to wear to honor late family members or reflect the particular significance of the occasion. Queen Camilla at a state reception for South Korea in 2023 chose a rare opulent diamond and ruby tiara commissioned by the late Queen Elizabeth II along with a coordinating ruby and diamond necklace commissioned by Prince Albert for his wife Queen Victoria. Red is one of the national colors of South Korea.
At the May 6, 2023 coronation of King Charles III, Catherine chose the Festoon Necklace of the late Queen Elizabeth II, commissioned by her father, King George VI, consisting of 105 collet diamonds, designated by Queen Mary as “heirlooms of the throne”. Queen Mary, the late Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, was a jewelry aficionado, with a powerful influence on elevating the British crown jewel collection to its current unmatched splendor. At the coronation ceremony Catherine and her daughter Charlotte both wore headpieces of intricate silver leaves. None of the royals other than the King and Queen being crowned wore tiaras at the event.
Catherine often wears jewels of the late Queen to honor her. The late Queen Elizabeth particularly loved her long triple strand pearl necklaces – she had at least three sets. At the November 2023 Festival of Remembrance, the Princess of Wales chose one of these, along with a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in combat. Catherine also wore the late Queen’s Greville diamond chandelier earrings along with one of her favorite tiaras – the pearl Lover’s Knot – at a 2023 Buckingham Palace reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps, honoring both the late Queen and Catherine’s late mother-in-law, Princess Diana (the tiara was also one of Diana’s favorites).
But the Queen in waiting also has a sense of fun! Catherine chose Barbiecore pink outfits last spring around the release of the Barbie movie, and frequently wears causal skinny jeans for informal wear. At Royal Ascot 2023, she wore a bright red outfit along with matching oversized saucer hat, accessorized with gold and black bead statement chandelier earrings.
The future King and Queen William and Catherine are set to focus on expanded international engagements in 2024. We can’t wait to see the hidden royal treasures that will be revealed by this world-class style icon as she continues to elevate into her legendary status!