While she was Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer was often seen wearing her family’s Spencer tiara, and we were fascinated to learn a few years ago that the Spencer family owns another tiara in addition to this famous piece.
The Spencer Tiara
Here’s the Spencer tiara that we all know well. It joined the Spencer family when Lady Sarah Spencer gave it to Lady Cynthia Hamilton on Lady Cynthia’s marriage to Viscount Spencer (Albert) in 1919. In 1922 Viscount Spencer inherited the earldom (he was the 7th Earl Spencer) and The Earl and Countess lived at the family seat, Althorp. They had two children, one of whom became the father of Diana who would later marry Prince Charles.
Here’s a picture of Lady Cynthia on the left (portrait by by John Singer Sargent), and her granddaughter Lady Diana on the right. We can sure see the family resemblance!
As is well known, the Spencer family has a long lasting relationship with the British royal family. Countess Spencer served as a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth from 1937 to her death in 1972.
Later, Andrew Morton wrote in Diana: Her True Story that Diana, “believes that her grandmother looks after her in the spirit world.”
Anyway, back to the tiaras!
This tiara is made of gold that has been formed into tulip and star-like flowers,and is decorated with dozens of diamonds in silver settings. Diana famously wore this piece on her wedding day and at many formal events afterwards. How nice to be able to wear your own family’s tiara when marrying the heir to the throne!
This tiara has appeared at many Spencer weddings. Here is Diana’s sister Sarah at her wedding:
Victoria Lockwood, Diana’s brother’s first wife, kept the tradition alive at their wedding:
And, up next we have tiara number two…
The Honeysuckle Tiara
It’s not quite as fairy tale princess as the other Spencer tiara. The older of the two tiaras, it has been in the Spencer family since at least 1885. It looks heavy, and the feather motif along the top seems a bit, well spike-y, while the bottom is quite angular and harsh and doesn’t quite ‘go’ with the top. It almost seems like two tiaras, doesn’t it? All in all, we can see why Diana chose the other tiara to wear at the wedding and at later ‘tiara events’. The other tiara just looks more wearable.
Here’s another view of the tiara before it was altered to its current state:
In the picture above, there are large round diamonds along the bottom which are not in the first picture at the top. The piece has been altered to have the bottom diamonds removed and the centre ‘splash’ at the front added. The feather motifs were raised, more were added to the sides, and the angular design at the bottom was carried across the front. Interesting!
Here is a picture of the wife of the 5th Earl Spencer, Lady Charlotte Seymour, wearing the tiara in 1885. This is the earliest picture we have been able to find.
Lady Cynthia (who we discussed above) wore this tiara to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Hmm…perhaps the alteration took place after this event. This is the most recent picture of the piece being worn publicly as far as we know. Do let us know if we are wrong about that.
Diana never wore this tiara (at least not publicly) but here is a doctored photo of what she would have looked like wearing it: