Royal Wedding Tiara’s Tantalising History.

It was a most touching gesture of the Queen to lend her diamond fringe tiara to her granddaughter Princess Beatrice of York on her recent wedding day. Interestingly, Her Majesty had worn the self-same tiara at her own wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947. Fortunately, for Beatrice, there was no mishap, or drama, involved in the wearing of it. The same cannot be said for the then Princess Elizabeth as, on the morning of her wedding day, the tiara’s fragile frame snapped, as the bride-to-be was dressing. Fortunately, the court jeweller was on hand to rush it-accompanied by a police escort-to his workroom for a quick but necessary repair.

But what is the history of this sparkling jewel which the catty diarist, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon referred to, dismissively, as ‘an ugly spiked tiara’? According to Suzy Menkes in her worthy examination of royal jewellery, the Royal Jewels and Leslie Fields in the exhaustively-researched Queen’s Jewels, the ‘sunray’ tiara was made, around 1830, to be worn as a necklace from brilliant-cut stones belonging to King George III (and referred to as the King George III fringe tiara). Fields indicates that Queen Victoria was the first person to use it as a tiara, when the graduated necklace was mounted on a thin wire band. In her book, she even includes an image of a young Victoria wearing it in a Winterhalter painting, carrying her infant son Prince Arthur (later the Duke of Connaught) in her arms. This necklace/tiara was one of an extensive list of items of jewellery (sometimes referred to as the ‘Crown Jewellery’, to distinguish it from the Sovereign’s personal gems) left in perpetuity to the Crown by Victoria on her death in 1901.

This tiara/necklace eventually passed into the hands of that most acquisitive of royal consorts, Queen Mary. However, this is where the story takes an unexpected and confusing turn. According to more recent sources (and meticulously highlighted in a post in the blog, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor in 2017), although Queen Mary did wear this 1830 version as a tiara, she also subsequently had a similar-styled tiara made from stones from a necklace she had received as a wedding present from Queen Victoria in 1893. This new ‘Queen Mary Fringe Tiara’ was manufactured by E. Wolff & Co. for the royal jewellers, Garrard and Company, in 1919 and was apparently easier to wear. She passed this version on to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (along with a portion of the Crown Jewellery) following the accession of her second son, Albert (‘Bertie’), to the throne as King George VI in December 1936.

While both Menkes and Field state that it was the 1830 version which was worn by Princess Elizabeth as the ‘something borrowed’ on her wedding day in 1947, the more recent sources, including Hugh Roberts in his publication The Queen’s Diamonds, point to the later 1919 Queen Mary Fringe Tiara version’s use. He and the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor Blogspot (17 February 2012) also point out that the two tiaras are frequently confused, as was the case when the Queen wore the later version in a formal portrait to be used in New Zealand to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. The tiara was also worn by Princess Beatrice’s Aunt, Princess Anne (the Princess Royal) on her wedding day in November 1973.

Queen Elizabeth was glad of the acquisition of jewels from Queen Mary-which she wore on a tour of Canada in the summer of 1939-for as she revealed to the photographer, Cecil Beaton, ‘The choice [of jewellery available] is not very great, you know.’ Although this is an exaggeration, it was a tactful acknowledgement by her successor that Queen Mary, now Queen Dowager, still held on to the vast majority of royal gems, much of which had been amassed from often impecunious relatives during her husband, King George V’s reign. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth’s jewellery box would be augmented by a wonderful bequest from the shrewd Scottish brewery heiress, Mrs Ronnie Greville in 1942.

The Royal Chapel of All Saints, Windsor-location of the wedding of Princess Beatrice.

This pleasant little Victorian Gothic church was the location of yesterday’s wedding of Princess Beatrice of York. The chapel stands ‘across the way’ (as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a frequent worshipper there, would say) from the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, the current home of Prince Andrew, Duke of York. George IV-who used the Royal Lodge as a private retreat in the 1820’s-was the first royal to worship at All Saints from around 1825. Indeed, it was he who commissioned the English architect, Jeffry Wyatville to design it. (Other sources point to the influence of architect John Nash).

Queen Victoria later worshipped there too and had the chapel rebuilt, during the early 1860’s, to designs by Samuel Sanders Teulon and Anthony Salvin. This included the addition of a new chancel, extra seating for worshippers and a stained-glass window dedicated to the memory of her mother, the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, who died in 1861. There is a also a window to the memory of Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein, the son of Prince Christian and his wife Princess Helena, who lived nearby at Cumberland Lodge. Their beloved ‘Christle’ died of enteric fever in Pretoria in 1900, while serving with British forces in South Africa during the Boer War.

Around 1931, the future King George VI (then Duke of York) and his wife Elizabeth took up residence at the (much-reconstructed) Royal Lodge. The couple were regular worshippers at the chapel. When the Duke of York ascended the throne in 1936, he subsequently had various alterations undertaken including the installation of a new ceiling (designed by the architect and designer Edward Maufe) in the Chancel, as well as the addition of a royal pew (carefully positioned to allow for privacy), new choir stalls and a screen for the organ.

Following Queen Elizabeth’s death at Royal Lodge on 30 March 2002, the Queen Mother’s mortal remains rested at the Altar of All Saints prior to being taken to London for the Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster. Today the Queen worships at All Saints when she is in residence at Windsor. Those who live and work in the Great Park may also attend services.