The British royal family is certainly on a roll at present as hot on the heels of Princess Eugenie’s wedding comes the news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting a baby in the spring – less than a year after their own wedding.
Rumor has it that Fergie was not happy that Prince Harry and Meghan told fellow royals their news at the wedding of her daughter, as she felt that it “stole Eugenie’s thunder” as the British would say – that is detracted from the bride being the star of the day.
However, to be fair to Harry and Meghan, they did wait to make the official announcement of the pregnancy until the Monday after cousin Eugenie’s wedding day.
I have been thinking about royal weddings and traditions and, in particular, tiaras. Princess Eugenie did not wear the same jewels as her mother Sarah, Duchess of York, on her big day – known as the “York Tiara” (maybe because her parents’ marriage ended in a highly publicized divorce). She instead surprised everyone by wearing the “Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara”, which has never been worn by a member of the royal family in public until now.
It was lent to her by the Queen, as Eugenie’s “something borrowed.” The tiara was made by the jeweler Boucheron for Mrs. Margaret Greville, a wealthy heiress from a brewery family and close friend of Queen Mary (grandmother to our current Queen) in 1919.
The tiara was custom made in a style reminiscent of the Russian Imperial Court. It is made of brilliant and rose cut diamonds pavé set in platinum, with six emeralds on either side. It was bequeathed by Mrs. Greville to our current Queen’s mother, who in turn left it to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen is generous about lending her tiara collection to royal brides as their “something borrowed.” Earlier this year, Meghan chose the “Queen Mary Filigree Bandeau Tiara,” a diamond and platinum bandeau made in England in 1932, with the center brooch dating from 1893. The bandeau and the brooch were bequeathed by Queen Mary to The Queen in 1953.
Tiaras are a feminized version of the traditional crown, symbolic headwear that is worn by monarchs to symbolize that they are the powerful ruler. This tradition dates back centuries and across many cultures. Crowns are usually made from rare and symbolic materials, ranging from gold and precious stones to the Native American crowns made from the feathers of beautiful and unusual birds.
Tiaras were frequently worn at private parties among aristocratic and royal circles. Queen Mary apparently took this rule to an extreme, wearing one every night she dined in private with her husband, George V, who ruled Great Britain from 1910-1936.
Traditional etiquette is that women should wear one for the first time on the occasion of their marriage because tiaras symbolize the loss of innocence and the crowning of love. Royal and aristocratic women used to choose their very best jewels to be made into tiaras because they would be so impactful worn in this way. The golden age of tiaras was from about 1820-1950 but, alas, these days are gone, and many famous tiaras have been converted into other jewelry or sold at auction.
Outside of royal weddings, there are only a few occasions that a tiara is normally worn ceremonially, such as the opening of Parliament in England, the Lord Mayor’s Banquet and the Nobel Prize Ceremony.
One of Queen Elizabeth’s favorites is her “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara.” This diamond tiara was made by the jeweler Garrard in 1893 for the wedding of Queen Mary (the Queen’s tiara-loving grandmother). She gave the tiara to our current Queen on her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947 and the Queen still calls it “Granny’s tiara.”
The tradition of tiaras is upheld not only by royalty and aristocracy but by wealthy celebrities, including, to name a few, Jamie Lee Curtis, who is also married to the aristocratic baron Lord Haden-Guest; Vivienne Westwood, who likes punk-rock acrylic-style tiaras; and Madonna, who recently took a selfie in one while cleaning a shower!
And of course, we can’t leave out Elton John, whose enjoyment of this distinctive headgear is immortalized in the 1997 documentary about his life, “Tantrums & Tiaras.” He also has an annual fundraising event known as “White Tie and Tiaras.”
I have worn these a few times, and I can tell you that placing tiaras correctly is not easy.
According to Geoffrey C. Munn’s book “Tiaras - A History of Splendour” (which is how the British spell splendor), during the heyday of tiaras in the 19th century, people had enormous hair that was not very clean, which meant ornaments were easy to stick on.
Today, with regular and extensive use of shampoo, we must rely on hairspray and good posture!
Learn more about tiaras at www.thecourtjeweller.com I say goodbye this week with a quote from Princess Margaret, the late sister of Queen Elizabeth II, “The Queen is the only person who can put on a tiara with one hand, while walking down stairs.” I suppose that comes from years of practice.
God bless America, and the British Royal Family as well!