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Crowning Glories: 9 Spectacular British Royal Tiaras With Extraordinary Histories

Crowning Glories: 9 Spectacular British Royal Tiaras With Extraordinary Histories

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Royal weddings, Buckingham Palace galas, and elegant state parties attended by bejewelled ladies and crisply-dressed gentlemen – across all seasons, the British royal family makes its appearance in a seemingly unending circuit of events. From outfit analyses to the who’s-who in attendance, sharp-eyed royal watchers take great pleasure in picking out the details. Perhaps the best part about this is the joy one inevitably derives from catching glimpses of the British royal tiaras. After all, where the royal family is concerned, all that glitters is, indeed, gold. 

With renewed interest surrounding the British royal family following the coronation of King Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla, this past year has proven to be a wonderful treasure trove for tiara-spotting. The coronation, which occurred on 6 May 2023, saw numerous British crown jewels and coronation regalia unveiled.  

british royal tiara, royal tiara
Earlier in May, King Charles III was crowned at Westminster Abbey with the crown of St. Edward. (Image: Richard Pohle/POOL/AFP)

Chief among them: St. Edward’s crown, named for Edward the Confessor, an Anglo-Saxon English king who ruled from 1042 until his death in 1066. Initially noted among his regalia in 1161 when he was canonised, the crown, with its storied history would go on to be used in the coronations of several other British monarchs – Henry III, Richard II, Henry IV, and most interestingly, Queen Anne Boleyn. Sadly, this first iteration of the crown would meet an unjust fate during the English Civil War, when it was melted down by Parliament to symbolise the fall of the ‘detestable rule of kings’. The second iteration was created in 1661 upon the restoration of the monarchy, where it has sat on the head of many a king and queen – Charles II, James II, William III, George V, George VI, Elizabeth II, and now, Charles III. Its current iteration is encrusted in 444 precious and semi-precious stones, weighing 2.23 kilograms. 

Yet another crown jewel that made its appearance at the coronation was the Crown of Queen Mary, which was originally made for the coronation of Queen Mary of Teck (Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved grandmother). For the coronation of King Charles III, where it was used to crown Queen Camilla, it was reset with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds, with four of its original eight half-arches removed. 

At the end of the coronation ceremony and upon withdrawing from Westminster Abbey, King Charles III donned the Imperial State Crown. An impressive spectacle weighing 1.06 kilograms, the crown is adorned with 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies, a shining symbol of the sovereign which is worn at the State Opening of Parliament. 

What are the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom? 

The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are a collection of royal ceremonial objects that belong to the ruling sovereign in right of the crown. They include a combination of coronation regalia, gemstones, and more. Separately, the monarch may have their own private collection of jewels, such as Queen Elizabeth II’s collection, which featured many tiaras that have become the subject of much public discussion. 

When is it appropriate to wear a tiara? 

As with all things in life, rules, too, exist for tiara-wearing. As a general observation, tiaras are to be worn at official state events and visits, white-tie balls, coronations, royal dinners, and of course, royal weddings. They are generally only worn by married women over the age of 18. Once a British royal tiara is loaned to a specific member of the royal family, it is theirs to wear for life.  

Queen Elizabeth II arriving at the Manoel Theatre in Valleta, Malta, 1967, wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara – one of the most iconic of British royal tiaras. (Image: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

How large is the British royal tiara collection? 

While it is impossible to know for certain how large the British royal family’s private collection is, speculative reports have suggested that it contains at least 50 tiaras. The exquisite collection once belonging to the late Queen Elizabeth II is estimated to be worth £533 million (approx. HKD 5.224 billion), making it a dazzling inheritance that will include some magnificent — some a little controversial — gemstones and jewels. 

Nine spectacular British royal tiaras

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara 

girls of great britain and ireland tiara british royal tiara
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favourites. (Image: Royal Collection Trust)

A clear favourite of Queen Elizabeth, this iconic British royal tiara has seen much use by the late sovereign, even featuring in a place of prominence on British paper currency. The tiara was first commissioned by Lady Eva Greville, chairperson of a committee of aristocratic women who called themselves the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland’ — hence the name.

The committee would prove so successful in raising funds for the tiara that they would end up with more money than was needed, though it was put to very good use. In a shocking blow to Britain, a maritime disaster saw over 350 lives lost in the 1893 collision and subsequent sinking of the HMS Victoria battleship. Queen Mary of Teck, for whom the tiara had been commissioned, personally requested that the surplus funds be used to support the widows and children of the lost sailors. 

Purchased from Garrard and manufactured by Wolff & Co., the completed tiara was then presented as a stunning gift to Queen Mary for the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of York, who would later be crowned George V. Queen Mary would eventually gift the tiara to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding present, thereupon after it has become a beloved symbol of friendship and familial ties, lovingly referred to as ‘Granny’s tiara’ within the royal family. Most recently, it was seen as a sparkling part of Queen Camilla’s ensemble on an October visit to Mansion House. 

The dazzling piece originally featured 14 large pearls, which have since been reset into the Lover’s Knot tiara. It also has a bandeau, which could be removed to be worn separately. Today, the tiara as we know it features fleurs-de-lis designs, bearing 13 brilliant-cut diamonds repurposed from the County of Surry Necklace and tiara set — and the bandeau has been restored. It is said to be worth an estimated £20,000,000. 

Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik tiara 

queen alexandra's kokoshnik tiara british royal tiara
Not to be mistaken with Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara, Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik tiara features rounder edges. (Image: Royal Collection Trust)

The Prince and Princess of Wales (later crowned King Edward VI and Queen Alexandra) achieved a royal marital milestone in 1888 — their silver wedding anniversary following 25 years of marriage. In celebration, a committee comprising the 365 peereses of the United Kingdom, led by the Marchioness of Salisbury, Maria, Marchioness of Ailesbury, the Countess Spencer, and the Countess of Cork raised money to purchase a stunning gift for the future queen — the Kokoshnik tiara. 

With input coming directly from the recipient herself, the ladies set about commissioning the glittering masterpiece, which was made by court jewellers Garrad & Co. Inspired by a Kokoshnik-style tiara belonging to Alexandra’s sister, Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (the mother of Tzar Nicholas of Russia), the gorgeous piece takes its form from traditional Russian headwear, forming a glittering wall comprising over 400 diamonds pavé-set in 61 vertical white gold bars.

Alexandra is said to have loved the tiara dearly and wore it often in life. When she passed, the tiara went to her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary, who would eventually pass it on to Queen Elizabeth II, where it would become a beloved piece deserving of its place in modern history. And, most interestingly, the tiara can also be adapted to be worn as a magnificent necklace. Because of its intricate craftsmanship and historical provenance, experts are loathe to assign a price tag to the tiara; however, it is estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds. 

The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara 

Grand duchess vladimir tiara with cambridge emerald pendants british royal tiara
The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, here bearing the Cambridge emeralds in the stead of pearls. (Image: Royal Collection Trust)

Originally commissioned in 1874 by Grand Duchess Vladimir (then Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) for the occasion of her marriage to Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, this intricate, elegant tiara is composed of 15 interlinked diamond circles set in gold and silver. Among the finest of the Grand Duchess’ jewels, the tiara was commissioned from Russian court jeweller Bolin, and featured hanging pear-shaped pearls; it could also be worn in its original form, or as a closed coronet.  

In the height of the Russian revolution, the tiara was dramatically smuggled of the country, and was eventually sold to Queen Mary of Teck in 1921. Throughout the years, the tiara has undergone several renovations and reconstructions, and today is made of platinum. In 1924, Queen Mary would arrange for 15 of the Cambridge cabochon emeralds to be mounted as pendants, so that they could be worn in place of the pearls. The versatile tiara could also be worn without the pendants, allowing its elegant silhouette to shine. Indeed, as a personal favourite of Queen Elizabeth II, the Vladimir tiara has more than seen its share of the sun, with the sprightly queen even commenting that it is ‘quieter’ when worn without the hanging stones.  

Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara 

british royal tiara cambridge lover's knot tiara on princess diana
Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 – 1997) attends a dinner at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, November 1985; here, she is pictured in the Lover’s Knot tiara. (Image: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

Perhaps one of the most widely-seen British royal tiaras of today, the Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara was a particular favourite of Princess Diana’s, and today, is worn by her daughter-in-law, Catherine, Princess of Wales. A beautiful piece well deserving of its place in contemporary royal history, the diadem first came to life in 1913, when it was commissioned by Queen Mary.

Produced by E. Wolff & Co. for the House of Garrard using diamonds and pearls from Queen Mary’s private collection, the tiara was made to mirror the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, which was owned by Queen Mary’s grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. It is said that Queen Mary sacrificed one of her own pieces — the Ladies of England tiara — to produce the replica. 


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Its design is inherently gothic revival, prominently featuring lover’s knot bows repeated along the entire length of the tiara. 19 oriental pearls sit perfectly suspended beneath each knot, each featuring a large brilliant-cut diamond. Upon her death, Queen Mary passed the tiara on to Queen Elizabeth II; the tiara would eventually find its way to Princess Diana, for whom it became a great favourite despite its staggering weight. On Diana’s divorce from King Charles III (then Prince Charles), the tiara was returned to the palace and safely stored away. It remained out of public sight until 2015, when Catherine, Princess of Wales, publicly wore it for the first time at that year’s annual diplomatic reception. It remains a personal favourite of the Princess, who has worn it faithfully through the years for numerous state occasions. This British royal tiara is estimated to be worth £1 million.  

The Meander tiara 

Zara Phillips, here pictured on her wedding day wearing Princess Andrew’s Meander tiara — a favourite of her mother, Princess Anne’s. (Photo: Danny Martindale/FilmMagic)

A wedding gift presented to Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) from her mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark (also known as Princess Andrew), the Meander tiara, which is also known as Princess Andrew’s meander tiara, features neoclassical Greek and Roman design elements.

The classically sleek tiara borrows its series of interlocking spirals from the design of the Greek key; a traditional symbol of harmony, it is a favoured design for royal bridal tiaras. The spirals are punctuated by large diamonds, each wreathed in laurels and scrolls to lend additional sparkle and shine. 

Although Queen Elizabeth herself never wore the tiara publicly, it was nonetheless occasionally worn by her sister, Princess Margaret. In 1972, this British royal tiara was given to Princess Anne, who for all intents and purposes appears to favour it greatly. The tiara in question was worn during her engagement to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, and for an official portrait to mark her 50th birthday. In 2011, the tiara was loaned to her daughter, Zara Phillips, who wore it for her wedding.  

Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara 

Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara can be converted into a necklace. (Image: Royal Collection Trust)

First commissioned in 1919, the fringe tiara is a beautiful kokoshnik-style piece that was forged using diamonds that were part of Queen Victoria’s wedding gifts to Queen Mary (then Princess Mary) in 1893. Named for the spires that form its iconic shape, this British royal tiara began its life as a necklace that had once been worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra, until it was transformed into its current state. As a tiara, it was well-loved by Queen Mary, who favoured it over Queen Alexandra’s kokoshnik which had been larger, and likely harder to manage.

The tiara would eventually be given to Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) in August of 1936. Since then, it has become a well-loved wedding tiara, and has been worn at three royal weddings: that of Queen Elizabeth II (Then Princess Elizabeth) in 1947, Princess Anne for her wedding to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, and Princess Beatrice for her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020. 

A magnificent masterpiece of splendour, Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara boasts 47 tapering bars bearing 633 brilliant and 271 rose diamonds; these are arranged in alternating fashion with smaller spikes bearing lozenge-set diamonds. Because of its versatile nature, the tiara can also be worn as a necklace — though there is quite literally, a catch. As Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) was getting dressed on the day of her wedding, the tiara snapped by accident.

The monarch later recounted of the incident, “The catch, which I didn’t know existed, it suddenly went [gesturing with her hands]”. Thankfully, the court jewellers Garrard had been stationed on site in case of emergency, and the tiara was restored in time for the proceedings. Oh, happy day.  

The tiara is estimated to be worth £5 million. 

Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara 

For her wedding, Princess Eugenie of York was loaned the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara, which is said to be worth £10 million. (Photo: Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)

Perhaps the grandest and most expensive piece in the British royal family’s collection of jewels, the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara is estimated to be worth a staggering £10 million. Once a part of an incredible chest of jewels belonging to British society hostess and philanthropist Dame Margaret Greville (also known as Mrs. Ronnie Greville to the London social set), the tiara, alongside many other glittering bon bons, came to land in the hands of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, through an unlikely friendship and an uncanny bequest. 

A close friend of King Edward VII, Dame Margaret maintained fond ties with King George V and Queen Mary of Teck. This multi-generational friendship would endure the years, and she fostered a familial relationship with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, frequently referring to the latter as the ‘daughter she had never had’. Upon her death, her extraordinary collection of jewellery, which included over sixty pieces from jewel houses the likes of Cartier and Boucheron, was bequeathed to The Queen Mother. Among them: The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara. 


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While rumoured to be The Queen Mother’s favourite, the sparkling tiara never saw the light of day — at least not until the wedding day of Princess Eugenie of York in 2018, when it was worn as part of the princess’ wedding ensemble. The 1920s Art Deco piece, which was constructed by French jewellery house Boucheron, features brilliant and rose cut diamonds pavé set in platinum, and thirteen emeralds – the largest of which is a cabochon rumoured to weigh 93 carats.  

The George IV State Diadem 

Queen Camilla, pictured wearing the George IV State Diadem and the Coronation Necklace made by Garrard for Queen Victoria in 1858, travels down The Mall in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach to attend the The State Opening of Parliament on November 7, 2023. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

While not necessarily a British royal tiara, the George IV State Diadem presents far too imposing and extraordinary a profile to be excluded. Crafted by Rundells in 1820 for the notoriously colourful coronation of King George IV, the opulent diadem features a silver and gold-lined openwork frame set with 1,333 diamonds (weighing 320 carats) and a narrow band of pearls.

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Four crosses-pattée encircle the diadem alongside four sprays to represent the national emblems of England, Ireland, and Scotland: roses, shamrocks, and thistles. A four-carat pale yellow brilliant diamond sits in pride of place within the front cross. 

With precious stones regularly hired for use in coronations at the time, there is little evidence that those upon the diadem have been disturbed or removed. Rightfully, this fuels the deduction that they had been bartered for with old stones of equal worth from the king’s extensive personal collection. To date, this symbolic diadem has graced the heads of four queens: Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth II, who wore it for her coronation, and every year of her reign thereafter at the State Opening of Parliament. It is meant only for sovereigns and queen consorts. 

The Oriental circlet  

british royal tiara, the oriental circlet
The Oriental circlet was one of The Queen Mother’s personal favourites, and was only worn once by Queen Elizabeth II. It has not been seen in public since 2005. (Image: Royal Collection/Tiaras – A History of Splendour)

If for no other reason besides how pretty it is, the Oriental Circlet is well deserving of its place on our list of British royal tiaras. Commissioned and designed by Prince Albert in 1853 for his beloved wife Queen Victoria, the stunning circlet is composed of seventeen ‘Moghul arches and lotus flowers’ and was made by court jewellers Garrard & Co. Originally set with some 2,600 diamonds and opals, which were the prince’s favourite stones, the circlet was well-received by the young queen, who then commissioned a matching opal necklace, opal earrings, and an opal brooch. 

The circlet would come to be remodelled in 1858 following a successful Hanover claim to some of its royal jewels, which were then removed and returned. Queen Victoria would then replace them by breaking some of her old jewels and buying new diamonds. Following the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861 and well into her widowhood, Queen Victoria never wore the circlet again. It was subsequently designated as an Heirloom of the Crown upon her own death in 1901. In 1902, the circlet was remodelled by her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra, who reduced the arches to eleven, and replaced the opals with rubies. Parts of the tiara were also made to be removable, so as to accommodate a time when ‘a lighter and more simple tiara is required’. 


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The tiara was eventually passed on to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, for whom it appeared to be a great favourite — so much so that she retained it for personal use despite her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II’s, queenly ascension. Since her passing in 2002, it has only been worn once: by Queen Elizabeth II during a State Visit to Malta in 2005. The Oriental circlet is estimated to be worth £6 million today. 

(Main and featured images: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

How many tiaras does the British royal family have? 

While it is difficult to note an exact number, it is estimated that the British royal family’s collection includes at least 50 tiaras. 

What is the history of royal tiaras? 

It is widely accepted that tiaras originated from Ancient Greece, where simple laurel headbands were used to crown Olympic winners and victorious warriors.  

Generally perceived to be royal headpieces, tiaras derive their origin from simple laurel headbands that were used to crown Olympic winners and warriors returning from victory in Ancient Greece.  

Why do royals wear tiaras? 

Tiaras are symbolic of power and authority, both emblematic of sovereign rulers since ancient times. Royals today wear tiaras as a way to maintain age-old traditions maintained by the aristocracy. 

What is the oldest royal tiara in the UK? 

The Palatine Crown, also known as the Crown of Princess Blanche dates as far back as 1370-1380. It is the oldest surviving royal crown that is recorded to have been in England, though it is currently on display in the treasury of the Munich Residenz. Other historical crowns and tiaras include St. Edward’s Crown (1661), the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara (1874), Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik tiara (1888), and The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara (1893).  

Source: Prestige Online

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