09 December 2015

Tiara Thursday (on a Wednesday): The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, Revisited

I intended to continue with our Year in Review series today, but I was NOT expecting the tiara surprise we got last night. I covered the Duchess of Cambridge's appearance in the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara at the Jewel Vault last night, and today a revisit of the history of the tiara itself is in order. It was just the second tiara to ever be featured on our Tiara Thursday series, so we're due for a refresh.

The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara
The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara was commissioned from E. Wolff & Co. for Garrard in 1913 by our favorite magpie, Queen Mary. Accordingly, it is also called Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara. Queen Mary modeled her new tiara off of a tiara owned by her grandmother, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. The inspiration tiara passed to Queen Mary's aunt, Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

The tiara Queen Mary had replicated, as worn by her grandmother (left) and aunt (right)
The basic design of the piece - swinging pearl pendants hanging from diamond arches capped with lover's knots - wasn't unique to begin with; several others exist that are quite similar (options were included when we voted on ultimate pearl tiaras). The version commissioned by Queen Mary features 19 baroque pearl pendants.

Mary, with the original upright pearls in place
As she was wont to do, Queen Mary used existing jewels in her collection to provide the stones for the new design. The dismantled Some Ladies of England Tiara provided many of the required diamonds and pearls; the pearls that originally topped the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara also joined the cause, along with pearls taken from other pieces. As she was also wont to do, Queen Mary altered the piece over time, most notably removing the original top row of upright pearls.

After Mary died in 1953, the tiara passed to Queen Elizabeth II. She wore it with some regularity in the early years of her reign, particularly the 1950s, but it eventually went back to storage as she began to favor the group of tiaras we still see her wear today.

Next came the best known part of our tale: the Queen loaned the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara to Diana, Princess of Wales, and it soon became one of her signature pieces. Many have called this her "favorite" tiara, and while I'm not sure that is strictly correct (she was said to complain it was too heavy, too headache-inducing, and even too noisy due to the swinging pearls), there's no doubt that she made it an iconic piece.

Video: Diana wears the tiara for a 1982 return banquet during a state visit from Queen Beatrix
The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara is often said to have been among the Queen's wedding gifts to Diana, but it was still a lifetime loan, meaning the tiara remained the Queen's property. In fact, the best resource for this, The Queen's Diamonds by Hugh Roberts - which also includes other details on the tiara - does not say it was a wedding gift, just that it was worn by Diana. It returned to the vault after Diana, and I joined many of you in wondering just how long we'd have to wait to see it reappear. Would the connection with Diana mean it would stay hidden away for decades?

Happily, the answer was no. The Queen loaned it to the Duchess of Cambridge for the 2015 Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace, the third tiara worn in her first four tiara appearances. The base does appear to have been wrapped in dark velvet, a change from the light base of Diana's time, and that leaves me hopeful that we will see it become an anchor in Kate's loaned collection.

I've seen a lot of verdicts so far on the size of the tiara or the way it was worn. For me, I'm reserving judgement until we can actually see it, you know, when she's not sitting back in a car on the move. I have enough jumpy claps stored up from its mere reappearance to last me until then.

Programming Note: Yes, we will have an open post tomorrow (December 10) for the Nobel Prize Awards ceremony in Sweden! The Stockholm ceremony starts around 4:30 pm local time tomorrow (10:30 am EST), and you know I'll have all the streaming links/info for you in the open post. We'll be diverting from our usual schedule for Nobel coverage for the rest of the week.

Photos: Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II, Wikimedia Commons, and via Getty Images