Kate’s Borrowed Jewels Part Two: The Cartier Halo Tiara

In case you missed our post from yesterday, we are recounting the royal jewels that Kate has borrowed so far. Check out yesterday’s post by clicking here. Today we are diving into the background behind Kate’s first tiara.

#3 The Cartier Halo Diamond Tiara

There was a lot of speculation as to what tiara Kate would wear. We were thrilled it was this one. According to the official Royal Collection website, the tiara “is formed as a band of 16 graduated scrolls set with 739 brilliants and 149 baton diamonds.” Gorgeous!

This piece by Cartier was purchased by the then Duke of York for his wife Elizabeth (now most commonly known as the Queen Mum) shortly before his brother stepped down as King to marry Wallis Simpson. This is one of the few pictures we have of the former Duchess of York wearing it:
Here’s a closer look

The tiara was next passed onto Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her 18th birthday. Here is a picture of Margaret wearing the tiara (nice of her sister to lend it!). This is such a flattering picture of her! Love the rich lipstick.

Princess Anne was the next royal lady to wear the tiara, and wear it she did!

This tiara seems to have been her ‘go to’ tiara in her early years, before she got into wearing the Greek Key Pattern Tiara more often.

Check out the hair:

The tiara looks very elegant for this official portrait:

This brings us to Kate, the fifth royal lady to wear it and the first to do so on her wedding day.  On the morning of the wedding, it was announced that the tiara was on loan from the Queen.

It’s likely that this tiara will be the tiara Kate will wear for the foreseeable future. After all, the diamond earrings that her parents gave her as a wedding present were designed to echo the scrolls of the tiara. That’s a clue that the tiara was chosen well in advance, making the whole idea that Kate was planning to wear flowers in her hair (as was widely reported) null and void.

Please bring these earrings and the tiara out again soon, Kate!

And to end, a ghoulish shot of the tiara with Kate’s veil from the exhibit at Buckingham Palace.

If you think you’d like to try on the Halo Tiara yourself, check it out here. It looks pretty great, right?!

Queen Victoria’s Bridesmaids & Thoughts of her Wedding

So far on this blog, we’ve talked about Queen Victoria’s Wedding Jewelry and her wedding dress. Today, we’re going to talk about her bridesmaids. Turns out Queen Victoria was something of a designer. For her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, she panted a watercolour painting of the gown she envisioned for her twelve bridesmaids.  This sketch is now kept in the Royal Collection and shows a bridesmaid decked out in a white off the shoulder gown with sprays of roses in the hair, on the bodice, and on the skirt.

When the Queen completed the sketch, it was given to the Mistress of the Robes, the Duchess of Sutherland, who ensured that it was faithfully copied by the dressmakers.

We’re curious to know more about who these bridesmaids were. They were all the eldest daughters of peers and nine of the Queen’s bridesmaids are shown in this rendering, which we found here.

The nine bridesmaids shown here are: Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope, mother of Lord Rosebery; Lady Caroline Lennox (died 1849); Lady Elizabeth Howard (died 1891); Lady Mary Fitzalan Howard (died 1897); Lady Sarah Villiers (died 1853); Lady Jane Bouverie; Lady Mary Grimston (died 1879); Lady Frances Cowper (died 1880); Lady Elizabeth Sackville West (died 1897).

Queen Victoria also drew a small picture of herself on her wedding day in her diary. The diary below is held in the archives at Windsor. After Queen Victoria’s death, her daughter Princess beatrice went through the late Queen’s diaries and destroyed them after editing and copying them. The handwriting below is consequently that of Princess Beatrice. The small sketch looks like it was cut out and pasted so would be the original drawing.

This excerpt reads as follows:

“February 10, Windsor Castle

Slept well & breakfasted at 1⁄2p. 9, before which Mama came, bringing me a nosegay of orange flowers, & good Lehzen gave me a dear little ring. Wrote my Journal & saw Lord Melbourne. Had my hair dressed & the wreath of orange flowers put on my head. My wreath & veil were worn, according to the rough sketch. Saw my precious Albert alone, for the last time as my Bridegroom, & he fetched in Uncle & Ernest for a moment. At 1⁄2p. 12 I set off, dearest Albert having gone before, & Mama & the Duchess of Sutherland went with me in the carriage. I wore a white satin dress, with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, an imitation of an old design. My jewels were my Turkish diamond necklace & earrings & dear Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch. I never saw such crowds as there were in the Park, & they cheered most enthusiastically.”

Wish we could take a look at Kate’s diary entry from her April 29, 2011 wedding!

Diana’s Flat ~ Coleherne Court, London

Happy Monday! We’ve decided to start out the week with a look at where Diana lived prior to her marriage to Prince Charles. Lady Diana Spencer lived at 60 Coleherne Court in Earls Court, in between Chelsea and South Kensington in London, from July 1, 1979 until February 23, 1981.

Coleherne Court, in the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington

Most reports state that the flat was bought for her by her father but in fact it was purchased by her mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd. In fact, Frances bought all three of her daughters their first apartments.

Diana with her mother, Frances, at the wedding of her brother Charles, Viscount Althorp

Coleherne Court is a gorgeous mansion block and was built between 1901 and 1904 in red brick and Portland stone. Housing 213 luxury apartments, the building spans three blocks and is set in an acre of landscaped gardens that are for residents only.

Diana’s flat was purchased in 1979 for £50,000. In 1998 Diana’s flat was on the market at £450,000. Today, flats in this building sell for around £1.4million. After Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles, Frances Shand Kydd sold the flat to Japanese buyers for £100,000, an excellent profit margin!

Here are a couple of shots of the interior of the flat as it appeared in 1998:

Prior to her engagement to Prince Charles, Diana was photographed outside of her apartment constantly. Some photographers even rented the flat across the street to get more photos.

Diana’s flat was in Block H, and she had three roommates who paid rent, Carolyn (Pride) Bartholomew, Virginia Pitman, Ann Bolton.

Diana charged her roommates £18 per week for rent. She reportedly posted a sign on her door saying, “Chief Chick.” Nowadays, a three bedroom flat in this building rents for £2,500 per week (or, divided by four roomates, £625 per week).

Diana attended her previous roommates’ weddings and was godmother to their children. Diana seems to have kept in touch the most with Carolyn Bartholomew, who later threatened to go to the press about Diana’s bulimia if she didn’t get treatment.

Here is a picture of Diana, Carolyn and William taken in 1989 at Highgrove, the country home of Charles and Diana.

On February 23, 1981, the night before her engagement to Prince Charles was officially announced, Diana left her flat and moved into Clarence House, the Queen Mother’s residence near Buckingham Palace. She left a note for her roommates that said, ‘For God’s sake ring me up – I’m going to need you.’

Fun Fact before we end – Sophie, Countess of Wessex also lived in the building for a short time before she married Prince Edward. We wonder why this hasn’t been reported on more – it’s quite a funny coincidence, no?

Princess Diana’s Wedding Looks

Happy Monday!

Princess Diana had one of the most viewed weddings in the last few decades, and one of the most recognized wedding dresses. Today we thought we’d take a look at what she wore when she was a guest at the weddings of her family and friends during her days as Princess of Wales.

1) Wedding of Viscount Althorp (Charles Spencer) and Victoria Lockwood, 1989

Diana, William and Charles at the wedding of her brother Charles

Diana wore one of our favourite all time Diana outfits to her brother’s first wedding; a light blue and white dress and tailcoat by Catherine Walker. Love this – so classic! Diana also wore this outfit to Ascot.

The Queen also attended this wedding; after all, she is godmother to Charles Spencer. (Let’s think about this for a second – when Charles Spencer criticized the royal family in his eulogy his godmother the Queen is the head of that family – how brazen!). Princess Margaret was also invited. The royals and Spencers go way back…even before they were neighbours at Sandringham.

The bride wore the Spencer tiara and the reception took place at Althorp.

Love this picture of the bride and groom, just sorry it’s so small here:

Here’s a close up of Victoria Lockwood, who at this point carried the title Viscountess Althorp, in the Spencer tiara:

And another shot of Diana that day. Here she is with her mum:

2) Wedding of Carolyn Pride and William Bartholomew in 1982. 

Carolyn was one of Diana’s flatmates from when she lived at Coleherne Court in the flat bought for her by her mother when she moved to London. Diana lived there until her engagement was announced in the winter of 1981. At that time it was reported that when when Diana left the flat the night before the big engagement announcement, she left a note that read, “For God’s sake ring me up – I’m going to need you.” Carolyn and Diana were old school friends and later Diana would be godmother to Carolyn’s son, Jack. Here’s a link to a video of Diana arriving at the wedding.

And another photo for good measure:

3) Sarah Ferguson and HRH Prince Andrew, 1986

Diana famously helped bring Sarah and Andrew together (who had known each other as children) by having them seated together at a party at Windsor Castle for Ascot. At the wedding, Diana wore a black and blue polka dot dress. We believe this was a repeat outfit – please let us know in the comments if we are mistaken – which is quite thoughtful and helped to keep Sarah as the centre of attention at the wedding.

Here’s  a bigger picture:

And another!

Do you have any other favourite Diana wedding guest looks?

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Jewelry

We had a lot of fun talking about Queen Victoria’s wedding dress yesterday, and are really looking forward to it going on display this March at Kensington Palace. Click here for a refresher.

Today, we are going to discuss the gorgeous jewelry that Queen Victoria wore on her wedding day (almost 162 years ago). All in all, Queen Victoria wore rather a lot of jewelry: a serious diamond necklace with matching earrings that she called her “Turkish Diamonds” and a sapphire brooch given to her by the Prince Albert.

Sapphire Brooch aka “Prince Albert’s Sapphire Brooch”

First up is this stunning sapphire brooch. It consists of an oval surrounded by brilliant diamonds and is set in gold. It measures 3.7 x 4.1cm. This piece was a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria; he gave it to her the day before the wedding at Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria described the brooch as being ‘a splendid brooch, a large sapphire set round with diamonds, which is really quite beautiful’. She sure gave it pride of place on her dress – and talk about a something blue!

Check it out in the portrait of Queen Victoria below:

It is not known where Prince Albert acquired this piece. The Royal Collection conjectures that ‘The brooch may have been supplied by a leading London jeweller such as Kitching & Abud or Mortimer & Hunt, both of whom Prince Albert patronised significantly in the early years of the marriage. If, however, the Prince purchased the brooch abroad, it may be among the unspecified payments to firms in Hanau.’

In her will, Queen Victoria specified that this piece was to be an heirloom of the Crown which is how it is still in the Royal Collection. Queen Elizabeth still wears this brooch, which we are always very excited to see. Here are some examples of the Queen bringing out this particular piece of bling over the years. As you can see, she tends to match it to her blue ensembles:

The “Turkish Jewels”: Diamond Necklace & Earrings

So what are the “Turkish Jewels” that Queen Victoria wore? Queen Victoria was gifted numerous diamonds by Sultan Mahmud of Turkey in 1838. They were then and made up into a necklace and earrings the following year by Rundells & Bridge, a jewellery firm based in London. The firm held the royal warrant from 1797 until 1843.

The necklace featured diamond rosettes and strands of diamonds. The earrings were equally elaborate and must have been very heavy on Victoria’s ears. Take another look at the portrait above to see how large they were – they look like something that Beyonce would wear to an awards show.

It is believed that Queen Victoria left the necklace to her son, the Duke of Connaught, upon her death. Sadly it is no longer a part of the Royal Collection and its whereabouts are unknown (same goes for the earrings).

Please let us know if you have any more information about this necklace and earring set – we’d love to know if it still exists! Fingers crossed that it does and hasn’t been dismantled…

Bridesmaid’s Turquoise Eagle Brooch

To end off, let’s take a look at the bridesmaids gifts that Queen Victoria’s 12 bridesmaids received. This brooch was designed with both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s input and were manufactured by the London jeweller Charles du Vée.  The brooches feature a turquoise eagle (representing Prince Albert’s Coburg family) with a diamond beak, ruby eyes and pearls in each talon. Not too shabby!

One of these brooches remains in the Royal Collection and the Royal Collection website gives lots of information about this piece. It says,  “According to The Times of 10 February, ‘The whole workmanship [of the brooches] is very superior and exactly in accordance with the directions of the Royal Bride’. The stones used were all highly symbolic: turquoises and pearls representing true love, rubies for passion and diamonds for eternityAfter the wedding ceremony, each train bearer was presented with one of these brooches in a blue velvet box. Several of these survive in the families of their original recipients, for example at Woburn Abbey and at Hatfield House. An example, possibly this one, belonged to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise (1872-1956).”

What do you make of Queen Victoria’s wedding jewelry?

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Dress, February 10 1840

We’ve talked about our favourite royal wedding dresses, and though Queen Victoria’s dress dress didn’t make it on the list, it is certainly a significant gown with lots of fun history attached to it so we thought we’d dive into a discussion about it today.

For lucky readers who are in London this spring, don’t forget that  the Victoria Revealed exhibition at Kensington Palace opens in March and will include the wedding dress! This will be the first time Queen Victoria’s wedding dress has been displayed in a decade. Just imagine that in 160 years, there very well could be an exhibition on Kate’s dress. It’s been put into storage so that it can be preserved as long as possible…but we digress.

According to the book Royal Wedding Dresses by Nigel Arch & Joanna Marschner, when Princess Victoria and Prince Albert were babies the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Prince Albert’s grandmother) remarked, “what a charming pendant he would be to his charming cousin.” Well, that certainly turned out to be the case. Queen Victoria first met Albert in 1836 when he came to England for the first time. On October 15, 1839 the Queen and Prince Albert were engaged during his second trip.

As the sovereign, Queen Victoria had to be the one to propose – rather awkward! Of her proposal she wrote in her journal, “I said to him that I thought he must be aware why I wished him to come here – and that it would make  me happy if he would consent to what I wished.” Not a bad way of putting it! Clearly, Prince Albert got the hint as to what she was talking about.

The wedding day was set for February 10, 1840 to take place at the Chapel Royal in St. James’ Palace. So, the next order of business was to look back at history to see how the last Queen of England’s wedding was handled. Turned out the last wedding of a reigning Queen was in 1554 so there wasn’t much helpful information.  Queen Victoria’s journal gives us a hint as to how the plans for her dress went. She wrote, “Talked of wearing my robes at the wedding, which I wished not.” Instead, Queen Victoria wore a white, silk satin court dress which was highly fashionable at that time.

The dress was made entirely of British materials: The silk satin came from Spitalfields in London and the Queen’s dresser, a lady by the name of Mrs. Bettans, created the dress. The English Honiton lace trim was made in Devon by more than 200 lace workers and  took eight months to complete. The dress also had a train measuring 6 yards that was trimmed in orange blossoms to match the Queen’s orange blossom headdress.

This picture shows the dress laid out in preparation for conservation work.

Here is a close up look at the sleeve. Rather like Lady Diana’s wedding dress sleeves:

The idea that Queen Victoria started the trend towards white wedding dresses isn’t exactly accurate; white wedding dresses had been worn by the nobility for decades prior. White was considered a sign of status since it is hard to maintain and therefore was not a practical for poorer brides who would wear the dress they wore for their weddings for many future occasions.  It is perhaps more accurate to say that she helped this trend gain popularity.

Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes matched the dress and  are now held by the Northampton Borough Council. The ribbons were meant to be tied around the ankles much like ballet slippers:

They were made by Gundry and Son, 1 Soho Square, Boot and Shoemakers to the Queen. Here’s a look at the inside of the shoe:

Rain poured down on the wedding day and the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace was filled with guests (for this reason ladies had been requested to not wear court trains). The ceremony began shortly before one and took about 15 minutes. The ceremony was followed by a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace, and by four o’clock the Queen and Prince Albert were on their way to Windsor Castle for their honeymoon.

Queen Victoria loved to reminisce about her wedding day, and wore her wedding dress again several times after the wedding. For example, Queen Victoria commissioned the portrait below as an anniversary gift for Prince Albert in 1847, seven years after their wedding. This portrait is held in the Royal Collection was done by artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 18. More information about this portrait can be found on the official website of the Royal Collection. Click here to access that website.

Several years after that, she and Albert recreated it later in life wearing their wedding apparel. Check out the photograph of this below.

Tomorrow. we will discuss the gorgeous jewelry that Queen Victoria wore on her wedding day. See you then! In the meantime, let us know what you think of Queen Victoria’s dress.

Celebrating One Year Since William and Kate’s Engagement in Kenya

Well, it’s been one year since William and Kate were secretly engaged at a remote cabin in Kenya.  As has been widely reported, William and Kate were engaged while on holiday with friends.

As Kate later said in the November 16th official engagement interview,“We were out there with friends and things, so I really didn’t expect it at all.” 

For 24 hours, William and Kate left the group and went by helicopter to Rutundu Log Cabins where William proposed. Here is a picture of the cabin:

Based on the guestbook that they signed, the engagement would have taken place on October 20th.

In the guestbook, dated October 21 2010, William wrote:

William and Kate's notes in the guestbook at the cabin in Kenya where William proposed

“Such fun to be back! Brought more warm clothes this time! Looked after so well, thank you guys! Look forward to next time, soon I hope. William”

Kate added,

“Thank you for such a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly no fish to be found but we had great fun trying. I love the warm fires and candlelights — so romantic! Hope to be back again soon. Catherine Middleton.”

Kate’s comment about not catching any fish reminds of Diana’s funny comment at Balmoral when she didn’t catch any fish and said, ‘It’s alright. I’ve already caught the biggest fish!’.

The cabin was rustic and without electricity – here are a few pictures:

While at the cabin, William and Kate were helped by a safari guide, an attendant and a chef.

They were next seen publicly just a few days later on October 23rd at the wedding of friends Harry Mead and Rosie Bradford in the village of Northleach. There was a flurry of speculation that an engagement announcement was imminent since it was unusual for them to be pictured together arriving at an event.

The next big hint that an engagement announcement was imminent was when these pictures emerged of Carole and Michael Middleton hunting on the Birkhall Estate – Charles’ Scottish residence – as guests of Prince Charles.

Kate referenced this trip in the November 16th engagement interview when she said:

‘I think as any mother would be she was absolutely over the moon. And actually we had quite an awkward situation because I knew and I knew that William had asked my father but I didn’t know if my mother knew. So I came back from Scotland and my mother didn’t make it clear to me whether she knew or not so both of us were there sort of looking at each other and feeling quite awkward about it.’

William and Kate intended to make the official announcement of their engagement sooner than November 16th, but pushed it back a few days when Kate’s grandfather sadly died on November 2nd. His funeral was held on Friday, November 12th. (Interestingly Peter Middleton met Prince Philip in 1962 – read more about that here).

We’ll leave you with this enjoyable quote from William in the November 16th engagement interview:

‘…it is just really easy being with each other, it is really fun and I’m extremely funny and she loves that so it’s been good.’