The Queen inherited a sizable collection of crowns, tiaras and diadems when she ascended the throne. Some she owns outright as personal possessions, while others she owns in the interest of the Crown. Many are on public display at the The Royal Collection, where they can be viewed at the Queen's Gallery; others are part of the Crown Jewels, and are on display in at the Tower of London.
The Queen traditionally wears a tiara at state occasions, both in the U.S. and overseas.
Crowns and Diadems
The George VI State DiademThe George VI State Diadem, also known as the Diamond Diadem, is worn by the Queen to the State Opening of Parliament; the Queen also wore it in the procession to her coronation. It has appeared in portraits and photographs of the Queen, and she shown wearing it on the money of many of the Commonwealth countries. The diadem was commissioned by King George VI in 1820, and created by the Crown jewelers Rundle and Bridge. It includes 1333 diamonds weighing in excess of 320 carats, including a four carat yellow diamond. Between the crosses are roses, thistles and shamrocks, the flowers of England, Ireland and Scotland.
The Imperial State CrownThe Imperial State Crown is the crown worn by Queen Elizabeth at the State Opening of Parliament, generally once a year. The current version was made in 1937, and was adjusted to fit the Queen in 1953. It is roughly 12" tall, and weighs just over 2 pounds. Among over 3,000 precious stones are four of note: The Cullinan II diamond, St Edward's Sapphire, the Black Prince's Ruby, and the Stuart Sapphire, as well as three pearls owned by Elizabeth I.
The Imperial State Crown is part of the Crown Jewels, and is on view at the Tower of London. Prior to a State Opening of Parliament, held at least annually, the crown is transported down the Thames River from the Tower by The Queen's Bargemen, and arrives at the Houses of Parliament in its own carriage, where it is kept in the Robe Room until the Queen arrives. The Queen arrives at the Houses of Parliament by carriage, wearing a white gown and the State Diadem. She pauses in the robing room, where she dons the crown and royal regalia. A formal procession to the House of Lords begins the Queen's role in the ceremony.
The St. Edward's CrownSt. Edward's Crown is worn once, by the sovereign at his or her coronation. It was named for Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, and like the Imperial State Crown, is part of the Crown Jewels. There have been two versions of the crown. The first, used in the ninth and tenth centuries, was sold by Oliver Cromwell as a "detestable" symbol of the monarchy. Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, a new version of the crown was made by Sir Robert Vyner, and is still in use today
The crown has been redesigned over the years. Prior to 1911, jewels were hired for the crown then removed after a coronation. At that time, the crown was set with 444 precious and semi-precious stones, including 345 aquamarines, 12 rubies, 7 amethysts, 6 sapphires - but no diamonds. At the same time, faux pearls around the bottom and along the arches of the crown were replaced with gold balls. The final form of the crown has been used for three monarchs' coronations: George V, George VI and Elizabeth II.
TiarasUnlike crowns, which are worn for specific state occasions, tiaras are worn by the Queen, female members of the Royal Family, and some members of the titled aristocracy at a range of state or formal occasions. For each occasion, the Queen selects a tiara that is either part of her own personal collection, or part of the Crown Jewels. The Queen may also lend tiaras to members of the Royal Family, such as the Cartier Halo tiara lent to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on the occasion of her marriage to Prince William. Many of the tiaras in the Queen's personal collection have passed to her from other family members, and a few are gifts from family members or foreign heads of state. Tiaras that are part of the Crown Jewels belong to the Queen "in right of the Crown", in other words, as a right as the wearer of the crown.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret also had tiaras that were their personal possessions. One of the Queen Mother's favorites, the Greville tiara, is now owned by the Queen, and frequently worn by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Occasionally, tiaras are sold and leave the larger Royal Family, such as both the Poltimore tiara worn by Princess Margaret at her wedding which was sold by her children to satisfy staggering death duties, and Queen Victoria's wedding tiara, which was recently sold to a foreign buyer by the previous owners, the Lascelles family.
Tiaras worn by the Queen and Royal Family are generally made or maintained by one or more firms designated Crown Jewellers. It is not uncommon that tiaras are remodeled over time, according to the needs and preferences of the wearer, and the dictates of fashion. Some tiaras, such as the Poltimore tiara, also break down into a necklace, broaches and/or bracelets.
Queen Mary's Fringe TiaraQueen Mary's Fringe Tiara, also known as the George II Fringe Tiara, was created for Queen Mary, and given to Queen Elizabeth in 1936. She, in turn, lent it to Princess Elizabeth to wear on her wedding day. Queen Mary first had the tiara made up from a necklace she was given as a wedding present in 1893. Garrard created the new tiara, which could still be worn as a necklace. The Queen Mother seldom wore the tiara, preferring two others, but again lent it to Princess Anne for her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips. On the Queen Mother's death, the Queen inherited it and began wearing it.
The fringe tiara originated in Russia, and is a common feature of many royal tiara collections. A fringe tiara consists of graduated diamond posts, the tallest in the center and descending in size, separated by narrower posts in a differing shape. The stones are closer together and have a dense, less lacy appearance than most tiaras.
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland TiaraBelieved by many to be the Queen's favorite tiara. The tiara was purchased from the Crown Jewelers Garrard in 1893 as a wedding present for Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary. The original verision had pearl finials at the top, later removed and replaced with diamond collets; the pearls became part of the Lover's Knot tiara. Queen Mary later removed the bandeau at the bottom and wore it as a separate piece. The two remained separate when the tiara was given to Queen Elizabeth; she had it reattached in 1969, giving the tiara extra height.
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland is one of the most identifiable tiaras the Queen wears; she is pictured wearing it on the current British currency. When not worn by the Queen, it can be viewed at the Queen's Gallery in London.
The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
With the fall of the Russian monarchy, many of the jewels owned by the Russian royal families found their way into the collections of monarchs from other countries as suddenly-impoverished royals found it necessary to sell the pieces in their collections smuggled out of the country during the Russian Revolution. Among these pieces is the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara.Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (aska Grand Duchess Vladimir Alexandrovich) amassed a sizeable collection of jewels, and set up a court to rival that of Nicholas and Alexandra, where she could show them off. This tiara was among her finest pieces, consisting of 15 intertwined circles, each with a drop pearl within it, created by Bolin, the Russian court jeweler, in the late 1800s. The tiara was sold by her daughter to Queen Mary in 1921. In 1924, Queen Mary arranged for 15 of the Cambridge emeralds to be mounted so they could be worn with the tiara. The tiara can also be worn without pendants, making the tiara lighter to wear.
Although the Queen generally wears the tiara with the pearls, has occasionally worn the tiara with no stones, commenting that it is "quieter" than with the hanging stones. Like the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland, this tiara is among the Queen's favorites.
The Cambridge Lover's Knot TiaraThe Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara was commissioned from Garrard by Queen Mary in 1913. The tiara consists of stones already owned by Queen Mary, largely taken from a tiara she was given as a wedding gift and later dismantled. The tiara consists of 19 inverted arches, bridged by a diamond lover's knot, from which a pearl drop hangs, capped by a diamond finial. It originally included upright pearl finials, similar to the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, but these were later removed.
Queen Elizabeth inherited the tiara after Queen Mary's death, and wore it early in her reign before putting it in the royal vault for a time. In 1981, she loaned it to Diana, Princess of Wales upon her marriage to Prince Charles. Princess Diana wore the tiara often, although she found it heavy to wear. On her death, it returned to storage, and only recently has been seen again, now worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on two occasions.
Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik TiaraQueen Alexandra's Kokosknik tiara is in the Russian fringe style popular in the late 19th century. A kokosknik is an arched headdress word in Russia to anchor a headscarf; its basic shape was adapted into a tiara for Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) for her 25th wedding anniversary in 1888. The tiara, a gift from the 365 peeresses of the realm, was inspired by jewels owned by Alexandra's sister Dagmar, later Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia (the mother of Tzar Nicholas of Russia.)
The tiara is made up of 488 round diamonds set in platinum bars, and was created by Garrard, the Crown Jeweller. Queen Alexandra wore it often. Upon her death in 1925, it passed to Queen Mary, who also wore it. Upon the death of her husband, Edward VII, she retained the tiara as a personal possession rather than passing it to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). When she died in 1953, it was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II, who wears it frequently. Like Queen Mary's Fringe tiara, the Kokoshnik can also be adapted to be worn as a necklace.
The Cartier Halo TiaraPreviously known as the Scroll Tiara, the Cartier Halo Tiara was owned by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, although she seldom wore it. The tiara was made in 1936, just weeks before the Duke and Duchess of York became king and queen. The Duchess was seen wearing it only once; preferring the grander tiaras available to her when she became Queen. The tiara was given to Princess Elizabeth as an 18th birthday gift. Although she never wore it herself, she lent it to Princess Margaret, who wore it frequently as a young woman, then later, to Princess Anne.
Often thought of as a young woman's tiara, it soon was retired to the vault until it reappeared in 2011, anchoring Katherine Middleton's bridal veil at her wedding to Prince William. Accompanying the tiara were a pair of drop earrings made for the Duchess by Robinson Pelham, which echo the finials on the tiara, a wedding gift from her father and mother.
The Greville TiaraAlso known as the Bucheron Honeycomb Tiara, this tiara was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It was designed by Boucheron in 1921 for well-known society hostess Margaret (Mrs. Ronald) Grenville, who was a close friend of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Having had no children, she left her collection of jewels, sometimes known as the "Greville Hoard" to the Queen in 1942. The tiara is among the largest in the Queen's collection.
Originally the tiara had a closed top, but after the war, the Queen had Cartier remodel the tiara to open up and rearrange the top level to add small diamond finials, including a central marquise-cut diamond. The tiara soon became one of the Queen Mother's two favorites. On her death in 2002 it passed to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who never wore it. In 2005, she lent it to, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who wears it regularly, as it is well suited to her stature and abundant hair.
The Meander TiaraAlso known as Princess Andrew's meander tiara, this tiara was made for Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip's mother. In 1947, the tiara was given to Queen Elizabeth as a wedding gift. She did not wear it, although Princess Margaret did so occasionally. The tiara is now owned by Princess Anne, who wears it frequently. In 2011, Anne's daughter, Zara Phillips wore the tiara at her wedding to Mike Tindall.
A meander tiara is made of diamonds, and takes its inspiration from neoclassical Greek and Roman design. It features a series of interlocking spirals (also known as a Greek key), believed to symbolize unity. It is a favored design for royal bridal tiaras. The origin of the tiara is unclear, although Geoffrey Munn of Wartsky, London, believes it was constructed in the early 20th century, possibly by Cartier, for Princess Alice of Battenburg's marriage to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.
Crowns versus Tiaras and Diadems
What is the difference between a crown, a tiara and a diadem? Although descriptions can vary, typically:
- A crown forms a full circle with a fabric cap inside the circle, and is enclosed by arches at the top. A crown is worn by a sovereign as a symbol of their power and majesty, usually at state occasions. Crowns are made of precious metal, and are decorated with precious stones. The consort of a monarch may also wear a crown.
- A coronet is a small crown that is worn by other members of the royal family, or British nobility. The design of each coronet identifies the wearer's rank.
- A diadem forms a full circle, but is open at the top. It derives from a headband worn by ancient Greeks and Romans, but has become more elaborate over time. Some crowns can be adapted to diadems by removing their arches, such as with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's crown.
- A tiara forms a semi-circle, but is open at the back. Tiaras are worn by the nobility and other women at white-tie events where the royal family is present. They may be made of precious metals and diamonds, such as the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, or may include pearls and/or colored stones, such as the Burmese ruby tiara.
Queen Elizabeth is said to have the largest and most valuable collection of tiaras in the world. It includes tiaras inherited from generations of her family as well as those given to her as gifts. Recently she has begun to favor tiaras in her collection with colored stones, such as the Brazilian aquamarine tiara worn at a recent state dinner for the King and Queen of Spain.
The Crown Jewellers
Since 1843, one member of the Royal Household has been a jeweler charged with the responsibility of caring for the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown and St. Edward's Crown. From 1843 to 2007, that position was held by a jeweler working for Garrard and Co., which held the royal warrant; for much of the Queen's early reign, the Crown Jeweler was William H. Summers. In 2006, Garrard was acquired by a private equity firm, leading Buckingham Palace to make a change the following year, appointing Harry Collins of G. Collins and Sons, the Queen's personal jeweler, as the Crown Jeweler. In 2012, Collins stepped down and the role is now held by Martin Swift of Mappin & Webb. Swift is one of only three people who can touch the Crown of St. Edward, the others being the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.