22 May 2018

Tiara Thursday (on a Tuesday): Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara

As promised, here's an in-depth look at the tiara that made a surprise reappearance on the Duchess of Sussex on her wedding day. Plus, some clarification on the difference between this tiara and similar bandeaux from Queen Mary’s collection – they’re easy to get confused!

Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara
Royal Collection Trust
The story starts with the detachable brooch that sits at the center of Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara. It dates from 1893 and is the oldest part of the tiara. The brooch is a classic style with a large brilliant diamond at the center, surrounded by nine brilliant diamonds. It was a gift to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary) from the County of Lincoln for her 1893 wedding to the Duke of York (later King George V).

Royal Collection Trust
Mary received a staggering amount of jewelry as a bride, including more than 40 brooches and multiple tiaras. Her wedding gifts still play a large role in the jewel collection of her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen demonstrated the depth of that 1893 haul by wearing another one of Mary’s wedding gifts, the Richmond Brooch, to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding.

Royal Collection Trust
Queen Mary commissioned this Diamond Bandeau Tiara specifically to fit the County of Lincoln brooch in 1932. This English-made jewel is crafted from large and small brilliant diamonds pavé-set in platinum, in a design pierced with interlaced ovals. There are 11 different sections to the structure, giving the bandeau flexibility. The tiara also includes clusters of 7 larger diamonds to each side, somewhat echoing the basic design of the central brooch.

Queen Mary, 1950
The County of Lincoln brooch is detachable from the tiara. Examples of Queen Mary wearing the tiara are scarce; some have wondered if Mary might have used a different centerpiece, but it’s difficult to be certain. It would, however, have been a very Mary touch to swap out the center. She is, after all, the one behind the flexible pendants of the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and the changing centerpiece of the Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara, to name just two examples.

A comparison: Four bandeau tiaras that belonged to Queen Mary
Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara was among several small-ish bandeau tiaras in her collection, most seemingly created or acquired in the 1920s and 1930s. These pieces can be easily confused, but the designs are clearly different, as you can see from the comparison above. They are:
  1. Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara, our topic here (created 1932). Some called this tiara the "filigree tiara" in the past, before any official information was available.
  2. Marie Feodorovna’s Sapphire Bandeau, which has similar overall shape but different design. This was last worn by Princess Margaret.
  3. A small bandeau Queen Mary acquired in the 1920s and later used as a base for emeralds borrowed from the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara; the bandeau was left to the Kent branch of the family and appears to have been reconfigured into the Kent Diamond and Pearl Fringe Tiara.
  4. Queen Mary’s Lozenge Bandeau, used as a base for pearls borrowed from her Lover’s Knot Tiara, and later worn on its own by Princess Margaret.
(This is not a comprehensive list, just those that have been covered here.) It seems that these were a used by Queen Mary for gala performances and other such events in her later years; smaller options for smaller events, I suppose.

The Duchess of Sussex
Royal Family Channel screencap
Queen Mary’s Bandeau Tiara went unseen for decades after her death, its whereabouts unknown to the public. Until, that is, it reappeared on Meghan Markle as she married Prince Harry. Queen Mary bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and it only took around 65 years to find a new wearer.

Royal Family Channel screencap
The Queen loaned the tiara to the new Duchess of Sussex. It worked wonderfully well as a wedding tiara, a statement piece to anchor an impressive veil that was also low enough to look good underneath a blusher as she arrived at the chapel. The base of the tiara was nicely wrapped for her in dark velvet so that it disappeared into Meghan’s hair.

Embed from Getty Images
Some have asked if Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara will be a lifetime loan to the Duchess, a question that can only be answered by waiting to see if she continues to wear it. (Many brides do end up using their wedding tiara regularly; the Duchess of Cambridge is a prime example of those who don’t.) We could be in for a bit of a wait for her next tiara opportunity, given that Prince Harry is not a regular attendee at state banquets (his first was in 2017) and he has not attended the annual Diplomatic Reception. It took two and a half years to see the Duchess of Cambridge in a tiara again after her wedding. Until then, we’ll just have to delight in a sparkly mystery solved once and for all!

How do you think this bandeau did as a wedding tiara?