02 March 2012

Flashback Friday: Coronation Guests and Their Jewels

A model displaying coronets and tiaras for the coronation
The impending coronation of Queen Elizabeth II sent the invited guests into a frenzy of preparation. This was to be a post-war celebration for all time - even grander than the previous coronation in 1937, and everyone strove to show up in their very best. The aristocracy set about dusting off carriages to take them to Westminster Abbey and rustling up the proper robes and coronets for their rank in the nobility. They also broke out their finest jewels from the depths of storage in banks and vaults to produce the sparkliest gathering in Britain for a long time, certainly a level of glitter that hasn't been seen since.

With 8,251 guests in attendance, cataloging all the jewels on show is probably an impossible feat (at the least, a life's work which I am far too lazy to attempt). But we can take a look at few of the photographed guests with notable jewels, and that's just what we'll do today, starting with the royal family:

The complete consort crown of the Queen Mother; the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and a very bored Prince Charles during the coronation; the Halo Scroll Tiara
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, wore the circlet from her queen consort crown, complete with the Koh-i-Noor diamond in the center. Her crown was made for her for her husband's 1937 coronation as Queen Mary's crown was unexpectedly going to be in use on Queen Mary (who decided to break tradition and attend in 1937). Princess Margaret wore the Halo Scroll Tiara, one of her regular tiaras when she was younger. It was loaned to her by the queen and is obviously now famous for its appearance on the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding day. Like most of the women in the royal family, Elizabeth and Margaret were both dressed by Norman Hartnell.

Left to Right: the Kent family (the Duke of Kent, Prince Michael, the Duchess, Princess Alexandra), the Kent Festoon Tiara (above), the Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara (below), the Gloucester family (Prince William, the Duchess, Prince Richard, the Duke)
The Duchess of Gloucester wore her Honeysuckle Tiara; there are a few different options for the center stone here, and she went with diamonds for coronation day. This is worn often now by the current Duchess of Gloucester. The Duchess of Kent wore her diamond and pearl tiara. Her daughter Princess Alexandra went without a tiara, but did have her princess' coronet.

L to R: Princess Mary (two photos), Princess Marie Louise, the Cartier Indian Tiara
Princess Mary, the Princess Royal and the Countess of Harewood, was one of the most bedecked royal ladies. She wore a massive diamond scroll tiara with an interchangeable center element - here, she's using a sapphire brooch given to her by her mother, Queen Mary, which is in the same style as Prince Albert's Sapphire Brooch. She's also wearing a huge diamond and sapphire ornament from her husband on her dress and the diamond and sapphire necklace given to her by her father (along with Queen Victoria's Sapphire Coronet) for her wedding. These items were all auctioned off after her death. Princess Marie Louise wore her Cartier Indian Tiara with diamonds, sapphires, and pearls which is now worn by the Duchess of Gloucester. "Cousin Louie" was not a Princess of the United Kingdom but a Princess of Schleswig-Holstein (she dropped the Schleswig-Holstein when the family ditched their German titles). As such, she wasn't entitled to the same robe and wore a simple velvet train instead.

Tradition says that other reigning monarchs don't usually attend coronations (or whatever they may be called in any given country). Thus, the turnout for the coronation of Elizabeth II was rich with heirs and others, from which a few tiaras can be picked out.
L to R: Crown Princess Märtha, Empress Joséphine's Emerald Tiara (above), the Belgian Scroll Tiara (below), Hereditary Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte
Norway's Crown Princess Märtha wore Empress Joséphine's massive emerald tiara, while the then Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Joséphine-Charlotte, wore her own Belgian Scroll Tiara.

The Countess of Barcelona and the Fleur de Lys Tiara
Spain was an exiled monarchy at the time, but they were well represented with the Countess of Barcelona (mother of the current king) in the biggest Spanish tiara, the Fleur de Lys.

L to R: The Portland family, the Essex tiara (above), the Portland tiara (below), Mrs. Churchill
Moving away from royalty, the Duchess of Portland wore the massive Portland Diamond Tiara (a second Portland option to the sapphire tiara that made your Top 15). Clementine Churchill, wife to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, borrowed the diamond Essex Tiara made for Adele, Countess of Essex for the day.
L to R: Earl and Countess Mountbatten, the Mountbatten tiara (above), the Spencer tiara (below), the Countess Spencer
The Countess Mountbatten wore the diamond Mountbatten Tiara, now sold off. The Countess Spencer (that would be Diana, Princess of Wales' grandmother) wore the other diamond Spencer tiara, which is...well...different from the one most know and many love. It still belongs to the Spencers and is currently on tour with the traveling Diana exhibit, though Diana never wore it.

L to R: The Marchioness of Cambridge, the Westminster Halo Tiara (above), the Marchioness' tiara (below), the Duchess of Westminster
The Marchioness of Cambridge wore a tiara of stars and pearl spikes which is an absolute dead ringer for a tiara currently owned by Princess Benedikte of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and frequently worn by her two daughters. The Duchess of Westminster wore the Westminster Halo Tiara, which must have made quite the impression amongst the coronation sea of tiaras. The tiara has since been sold by the family.

As I said, with more than 8,000 guests in attendance, there's plenty more tiara hunting. But for now, this will be the sparkly end to our look at Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Photos: Corbis/Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II/Getty Images/Geoffrey Munn