It was the biggest night of the year in the Royal calendar, and Duchess Catherine dressed accordingly. She arrived at Buckingham Palace Tuesday night for the Diplomatic Christmas Reception wearing a white lace Alexander McQueen gown, diamond chandelier earrings, and a glittering diamond tiara.
This is believed to be the first time the Duchess has worn a tiara since her 2011 wedding to Prince William of Wales.
The annual Diplomatic Reception is hosted by the Queen in the Palace Ballroom, and honors the heads of all 172 missions currently operating in London. It is by-and-large a private event, and no images from inside Tuesday’s events will be released.
Although the Duchess of Cambridge is certainly within her right to don a crown, her appearance at the white-tie affair took many by surprise. The low-key royal couple typically avoids the kind of lavish state affair that would require tiaras. Kensington Palace confirmed on Tuesday that the tiara in question, the Lotus Flower tiara, was lent to Catherine by the Queen for the Reception.
The Lotus Fower
The Lotus, sometimes called the Papyrus tiara, was originally made in 1925 for the Queen Mother. Then Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, she had the tiara fashioned from a necklace given to her by her husband, the future King George VI, as a wedding gift.
The tiara is composed of fanned lotus/papyrus motifs mounts framed in scrolled palmettes. The fans are crowned by diamond arches surmounted by diamonds and the tiara is studded with two base pearls and a central top pearl.
The Duchess of York almost always wore the Lotus slung low across her brow in the bandeau style popular in the ’20s and ’30s. She wore the tiara quite regularly until her coronation as Queen, when she retired the Lotus for larger and more impressive crowns, such as the Boucheron. In 1959, the Queen Mother passed the Lotus down to her second daughter, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden. Like her mother, Princess Margaret wore the tiara often in her younger years.
Before Tuesday, the tiara had last been seen in October 1993, when Margaret lent the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Serena Stanhope for her marriage to Viscount Linley.
After Princess Margaret’s death in 2002, her children held an auction of her jewels to pay the inheritance tax on her estate. While many of her most precious belongings, including the Poltimore tiara and a Faberge clock, were sold to the highest bidder, the Lotus Flower tiara remained unaccounted for, and it was speculated that the jewel had passed to either of her two children.
Out of the Vault
While the Lotus Flower tiara has not been seen in many years, it remains a popular choice among the young Royal women. Duchess Catherine has a history of favoring the Queen Mum’s jewels, and it is hoped the fourth generation wearer will bring out the Lotus for many state occasions to come.