The Princess of Wales revived a royal tiara which hasn’t been seen worn publicly in almost a century at the State Banquet for the President of South Korea on Tuesday evening.
The Strathmore Rose tiara was given to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later the Queen Mother, when she married the Duke of York, later King George VI, in 1923. As Duchess of York, Elizabeth was pictured wearing the tiara in 1926, the same year her daughter, who would go on to become Queen Elizabeth II, was born.
Since then, the tiara has been largely confined to the royal vaults, although it was displayed at the V&A as part of its 2002 Tiaras exhibition.
The Princess wore a spectacular white caped gown by Jenny Packham, one of her favoured couturiers, for the banquet honouring President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee’s visit to the UK. It may be a new design but could also be an upcycled version of a similar gown worn by Catherine for the South Africa state banquet a year ago.
The new version comes with a shortened capelet detail and delicate floral embroidery which may have been chosen especially to tie in with the Strathmore Rose tiara. It could also be seen as a tribute to the South Korean national flower, the mugunghwa or South Korean hibiscus which is also referred to as the Korean rose. Earlier in the day, Queen Camilla gave South Korea’s First Lady a pashmina embroidered with the flowers by the Royal School of Needlework. These carefully choreographed tributes symbolise the soft power and diplomacy at play during a State Visit.
Catherine’s elbow-length opera gloves were a nod to the eveningwear style formula crafted by the late Queen Elizabeth who would always finish her gala looks with long white gloves. She also wore the late monarch’s diamond earrings.
Queen Camilla also delved into the royal tiara collection to give a rarely-seen style a fresh outing. The spectacular Burmese ruby tiara, crafted in 1973 using 96 rubies given to Queen Elizabeth by the people of Burma, also features a rose design. It was famously worn by the late Queen at the State Banquet for President Donald Trump - the tiara choice went viral because the rubies were said to ‘ward off evil’ and it was speculated that this was a subtly knowing selection from Her late Majesty.
Camilla’s striking new red velvet gown by Fiona Clare was one of the boldest eveningwear statements we have seen from the Queen and acted as a sequel to the Princess of Wales’ red cape worn earlier in the day.
The choice to re-introduce the Strathmore Rose tiara is not only significant because it has been out of view for so long, but because the Princess of Wales has only ever been seen in three tiaras during her 12 years as part of the Royal family. Her most-worn tiara is the Cambridge Lover’s knot tiara while she chose the Cartier Halo tiara on her wedding day and opted for the Lotus Flower tiara for the China State Banquet in 2015.
The royal jewellery collection is now under the control of the King so it will have been his decision to allow Catherine to wear this almost-forgotten piece of royal jewellery history. It’s a touching gesture given the close relationship which the King enjoyed with his grandmother and the fondness with which he’s spoken of his daughter-in-law. Earlier this month, he referred to her as ‘beloved’ during a speech in Kenya.
Although this was a formal state occasion, the Princess’s tiara is emblematic of the close family ties at the centre of the pageantry. “Kate has often indicated that she’d like to emulate the Queen Mother in her royal role, and she’s often gravitated toward pieces of jewelry from her collection,” says Lauren Kiehna, royal jewellery expert and founder of The Court Jeweller. “As this year marks the centenary of the wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and this tiara was one of the wedding gifts presented on that occasion, the choice of this tiara for the banquet is an especially meaningful one.”