Who hasn’t dreamed of becoming a princess as a little girl? From riding in a horse-drawn carriage to attending fancy state banquets, everything about it sounds equally magnificent as it does mystical. But perhaps the most fun is getting to wear those dazzling tiaras! Every tiara tells a tale — and it’s often of deceit, divorce, and family feuds. Here’s a look at some of the greatest British Royal family tiaras.
Current Wearer: Anne, Princess Royal
The Festoon tiara was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s only daughter, Anne. She received this treasure in 1973, the same year the Princess said “I do” to her first husband, Mark Phillips. But contrary to popular belief, the headpiece wasn’t given to her as a wedding present.
Instead, Anne received the diamond tiara as a “thank you” for christening a ship from a Hong Kong firm called the World-Wide Shipping Group. The first time she wore it was in her engagement photos, though it became a staple in her state-banquet attire soon after. More recently, Anne loaned it to her daughter-in-law Autumn Kelly (pictured here) for her 2008 wedding to Peter Phillips.
Current Wearer: Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara first came into the spotlight after Queen Elizabeth II wore it for her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947. It was passed down to her from her mother, who was in turn given the tiara in 1936 by her own mother-in-law Queen Mary — hence the name.
Unbeknownst to many, the diamond parure almost caused a royal disaster. It snapped while being fixed onto Queen Elizabeth II’s hair. Police escorts had to drive the tiara for a hasty repair before the Queen could make her way to Westminster Abbey. If you look closely at the images from that day, proof of the quick mend is shown in the small space between the center-most spike and the fringe to the right of it.
Current Wearer: Sarah, Duchess of York
It’s very rare that we see a British royal bride wear a new tiara to her wedding. However, Sarah Ferguson had this privilege when she married Prince Andrew in 1986. In a rather surprising move, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip purchased a sparkling new headpiece for the Duchess to help emphasize her shift from commoner to Royal Family member.
The tiara later became known as the York Diamond tiara. It remains in the former Duchess’ possession, even after the couple’s very public 1996 divorce, which was mired in media tumult. In fact, Sarah busted out the headpiece once again for Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball in 2001.
Most of the tiaras owned by the British Royal Family came into their possession though the blood lines of either Queen Elizabeth II, her mom the Queen Mum, her grandmother Queen Mary, or her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra. But the Meander tiara is an exception.
This Greek headpiece was given to Princess Alice of Battenberg after she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903. Years later, she passed it on to her daughter-in-law Princess Elizabeth for her wedding. After becoming queen, Elizabeth chose grander headpieces, passing this one along to Princess Anne. The tiara has become a staple in Anne’s wardrobe, although one of its more notable appearances as of late was at her daughter Zara Phillips’ wedding to Mike Tindall in 2011.
Current Wearer: Lady Willoughby de Eresby
A typical example of 18th century tiara style, the Ancaster Heathcote traces back to 1786. It has descended through generations of the Heathcote family since. Its most recent owner was one of the Queen’s six maids of honor at her coronation, Lady Willoughby de Eresby, or Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby.
Most recently, Lady Willoughby loaned the headpiece to her second cousin, Rose Astor, who wore it to walk down the isle with Hugh van Cutsem in 2005. Prince William was an usher at their wedding and he also happens to be the godfather of their daughter, Grace. In turn, Grace was the flower girl at William’s wedding with Kate Middleton.
To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the President of Brazil gifted her a set of diamond and aquamarine-studded earrings and a necklace on behalf of his people. In 1957, the Queen turned the jewelry pieces into a tiara. One year later, Brazil gave her a bracelet and large brooch to go along with it.
It seems Brazil really likes the Queen, because when she made her first visit in 1968, São Paulo’s Governor again presented her with a gift — this time, an aquamarine and diamond hairpiece. According to Leslie Field in The Queen’s Jewels, the Queen used these stones to supersize her tiara, and she hasn’t stopped adding to it since.
NEXT: Each tiara keeps getting more dazzling than the last!
Current Wearer: Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester
The Iveagh tiara takes its name from the pair of Irish aristocrats-turned-earl-and-countess, Lord and Lady Iveagh, who gifted the future Queen Mary the set of jewels for her 1893 wedding to the future King George V. While she didn’t wear this sparkler on her wedding day, she did wear it on a number of other occasions.
One thing worth noting is that Mary never made any considerable changes to the tiara when she wore it, a surprising move for someone known for experimenting with her jewels. When she passed away in 1953, the headpiece was inherited by her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Gloucester. It is currently in the possession of the current Duchess of Gloucester, Birgitte, whose daughter Lady Rose Windsor wore it to her 2008 nuptials with George Gilman.
Current Wearer: Unworn, but belongs to Queen Elizabeth II
With so many tiaras in the Royal Family’s collection, it’s easy to pick favorites and leave some lesser-known ones behind. The latter is the case with the Strathmore Rose tiara, which reportedly hasn’t been worn by anyone for nearly 100 years. There has been speculation as to why we haven’t seen the tiara worn in modern times.
Some say it’s because it’s similar to other 1920s headpieces, placed low across the forehead, and that’s just not how they’re worn nowadays. This theory has been debunked, however, as images of the Queen Mother wearing it atop her head do exist. What this tells us is that the floral-themed tiara, originally given to the Queen Mother as a wedding gift by her father Earl of Strathmore, is quite versatile and should make a comeback!
Queen Elizabeth II’s Burmese Ruby tiara is no stranger to controversy. It was first made at her request in 1973 using stones from a tiara that was given to her as a wedding gift by the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, an Indian monarch. Though she wore the Nizam’s original gift towards the beginning of her reign, its destruction — so to speak — left many fans up in arms.
The Burmese Ruby tiara pairs the Nizam’s stones with 96 rubies that were gifted to Queen Elizabeth from the people of Myanmar. Burmese people believe wearing rubies is a way of warding off evil, so when the Queen wore this parure in 2019 to welcome the US President to the UK, many believed she was making a power move to try and shade him. Subtle!
Current Wearer: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
A timeless tiara made of pearls and diamonds, the Lotus Flower is a perfect example of the royal custom of repurposing age-old family jewelry. Its fine pieces come from a necklace the Queen Mother was given by her husband as a wedding gift in 1923.
Since then, the headpiece has changed hands a number of times. Its most recent owner is Kate Middleton, who has been spotted wearing a tiara eleven times since December 2019, two of which were when she wore the Lotus Flower. The Duchess of Cambridge donned the royal headpiece to a diplomatic function at Buckingham Palace in what was her “first post-wedding tiara moment,” and again at a 2015 state banquet to honor China’s President.
Current Wearer: Queen Elizabeth II
Whereas most of the tiaras in Queen Elizabeth II’s collection were once bequeathed to her, the Modern Sapphire tiara wasn’t one of them. This headpiece originally belonged to the Belgian King Leopold II’s daughter, Princess Louise. They are distant cousins, and the tiara came into the Queen’s possession after she purchased it in 1958.
Before it joined the Queen’s collection, Louise wore the tiara’s sapphires and diamonds as a necklace. Legend has it that she was a bit of a femme fatale who had a long list of lovers after leaving her husband. Her coquettish ways led her to be estranged from her family, leaving her in a serious financial pickle. She sold her jewelry to earn back some money, which is presumably how the necklace ended up on the market.
Current Wearer: Sold in 2006
One of the most impressive tiaras in the British royal collection, the Poltimore first got its name from its original owner, Lady Poltimore, around 1870. Nearly a century later, in 1960, it made headlines when Princess Margaret bought it at an auction and wore it to her wedding.
Little did anyone know that the dazzling headpiece would again make headlines 46 years later. This time, it was at the center of a Royal Family scandal. In 2006, four years after her death, a photo of Margaret taken in 1962 was leaked. As portrayed in the Netflix series The Crown, she was sitting in a bathtub wearing nothing but the Poltimore tiara.
The Gloucester Honeysuckle tiara is a hefty headpiece made sometime around 1913 for Queen Mary. Assembled from deconstructed jewels, it comes with an interchangeable center: a fancy feature that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Mary’s taste in jewelry.
Queen Mary gifted the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, on her wedding day in 1935. And to continue the trend, Alice later passed it down to her own daughter-in-law, Birgitte. The Duchess can be seen wearing the tiara with the diamond honeysuckle interior, a pink topaz interior, or an emerald interior. With so much flexibility, no wonder it’s her favorite tiara!
Current Wearer: Unworn, but belongs to the Spencer family
When Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981, she didn’t choose to wear a tiara from the royal treasure troves, but instead opted for one that belonged to her family, the Spencers. It became known as the Spencer tiara, and was extra symbolic because it was also worn by Diana’s mother and sisters for their nuptials.
With diamond-encrusted tulips, stars, and scrolls, the Spencer tiara was considered a favorite of Princess Di. Many fans believed Kate Middleton would honor her mother-in-law at her wedding by wearing this very tiara. That’s especially because it’s standard for royal brides to wear jewels from their husband’s family. However, as the headpiece belonged to the Spencers and not to the Royal Family, she wasn’t able to.
NEXT: This famous tiara was worn on a very recent wedding day — and it’s breathtaking.
Back in 1936, King George VI commissioned the making of the Cartier Halo tiara to give to his wife Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon three weeks before they became King and Queen. It was later given to the current queen on her 18th birthday. She in turn loaned it to Kate Middleton for her wedding in 2011.
In a lot of ways, the Duchess of Cambridge was responsible for making this tiara “famous.” She had no family jewels to pick from when it came time for her to walk down the aisle, so she opted for the Cartier Halo. With 739 brilliant-cut and 149 baton-cut diamonds, this piece is simply breathtaking.
Current Wearer: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
As many recall, there was lots of controversy surrounding Meghan Markle‘s wedding tiara in 2018. Initially, sources reported Meghan had her heart set on a diamond and emerald-encrusted headpiece worn by Princess Eugenie. But the Queen shot down her request and, according to The Sun, told Harry “she gets what tiara she’s given by me.”
Meghan ended up walking down the aisle wearing the Queen Mary Bandeau tiara; not a bad choice, though not her first choice. One of the reasons experts believe Her Majesty could have denied Meghan’s first request is because royal brides don’t typically wear color gemstoned-tiaras. So why was Princess Eugenie an exception to the rule? Perhaps because she isn’t as senior in the Royal Family as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are (well, were…).
Made with an intricate design of diamonds, sapphires, and pearls, the Cartier Indian tiara dates back to the early 20th century. It belonged to Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria who was known among other things for her disastrous marriage to the German Prince Aribert of Anhalt.
Marie Louise’s father-in-law infamously annulled her marriage to the Prince without her knowledge. She had conveniently been away on a trip at the time it happened, and returned to hear she no longer had a husband. After she passed away in 1956, the Princess left this statement piece for her godson, Prince Richard of Gloucester. These days, it is donned by Birgitte, the Duchess of Gloucester.
Current Wearer: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
One of Princess Diana’s favorite tiaras was the Cambridge Lover’s Knot. Originally made in 1914 for Queen Mary, Diana received the royal headpiece as a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth II. It was through the Princess of Wales that this sparkler became one of the Royal Family’s most recognizable pieces of jewelry.
Diana wore it to a number of events before, sources claim, she was forced to return it following her divorce. While this fact is unconfirmed, one thing known for sure is that it’s now in the possession of the Duchess of Cambridge, and has become her formal headpiece of choice.
In 1888, the Prince and Princess of Wales — who later became the United Kingdom’s King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra — celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Not only did people consider this to be an incredible milestone, but courtiers also saw the moment as an opportunity to impress the royal couple by offering them gifts. These courtiers ran into problems, however.
Not even aristocrats in the late 19th century had much money. In fact, many of them had already started turning to American heirs in hopes of attaining some financial support. That’s when one group calling themselves the Ladies of Society pooled together their money, and bought Alexandra something she was yearning for. It was a diamond tiara that mimicked the halo-like headpieces worn by Russian nobility, and it has stayed in the family ever since.
Current Wearer: Lady Melissa Percy
Although this flashy headpiece called the Northumberland is considered a tiara, it definitely looks more like a crown. It’s no wonder the Percy family to whom it belongs are referred to as the “Kings of the North”! Jon Snow, eat your heart out.
The first traces of this tiara date back to 1845, when the 6th Duke of Northumberland married Louisa Percy. Most recently, it was worn by Lady Melissa Percy when she walked down the aisle with Thomas van Straubenzee in 2013. Unfortunately, unlike the tiara itself, their marriage wasn’t able to stand the test of time, and the couple split three years later.
NEXT: These tiaras are among the most valuable ones in the Royal Family’s collection.
Like its name suggests, the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara traces back to Russian royalty. Its first owner, the Duchess of Vladimir, fled to Venice upon hearing news of an impending revolution. As she ran away, she left her precious jewels hidden away at the Vladimir Palace.
In an operation mirroring James Bond, a British officer disguised himself as a Palace worker and snuck in to grab the hidden jewels. He safely transported them out of Russia and into London, where the Duchess’ family auctioned them off for money to support themselves. The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara was sold to Queen Mary. Naturally, Queen Mary added to the headpiece, later passing it down to Queen Elizabeth II. It is now considered one of the Queen’s favorite tiaras.
Current Wearer: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Considered one of the largest tiaras in the Royal Family’s collection, the Delhi Durbar tiara is currently worn by the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla. But long before it came into her possession, this dazzling diadem belonged to the jewelry aficionado Queen Mary.
In the days of colonialism, Queen Mary’s husband King George V had a second coronation in 1911 as the Emperor of India. It was for this ceremonial gathering, called the Delhi Durbar, that the Delhi Durbar tiara was made. The reason the Queen couldn’t wear a previously-owned tiara for the occasion was because Crown Jewels were prohibited from leaving the United Kingdom.
The history of the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara dates back to the beginning of the 1880s, when tragedy unexpectedly struck a British royal wedding. Princess Mary of Teck was about to wed the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, heir to the throne, but her dreams were crushed after he suddenly died of influenza.
Next in line to the throne was the Duke’s brother, Prince George. However, he had his eyes set on his cousin, Princess Marie of Edinburgh. But after she turned him down, he ended up proposing to his deceased brother’s fiancée. It was at the couple’s wedding in 1893 that Princess Mary received this iconic tiara from a group of British and Irish girls.
Current Wearer: Princess Eugenie of York
Princess Eugenie of York broke two royal traditions on her wedding day in 2018. Firstly, she didn’t wear a veil. Secondly, she donned the emerald-colored tiara coveted by Meghan Markle, the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik. This came as a surprise, especially to those who expected Eugenie to wear her mother’s wedding tiara, the York Diamond.
The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara was made in 1919 and belonged to a famous socialite, Dame Margaret Greville. Upon her death, she passed the 93.7-carat parure to the Queen Mother, who then bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth II. Princess Eugenie was the first Royal Family member to wear the heirloom in public.
Current Wearer: Queen Elizabeth II.
One of Queen Elizabeth II’s most symbolic and significant pieces of jewelry is her George IV State Diadem tiara, dating back to the early 19th century. It’s not only one of the oldest insignia of royalty still in use today; it was also made for a man, despite now being worn exclusively by queens.
The Diadem was first made for King George IV’s coronation in 1821. Remaining on brand with his flamboyant style, he wore the headpiece over a velvet hat for his procession. Consisting of 1,333 diamonds, the tiara later fell into the hands of Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, and Queen Mary, before making its way to Queen Elizabeth II.
Sources: Harpers Bazaar, Cheatsheet, Marie Claire