The Duchess was the picture of elegance this evening as she attended the annual diplomatic reception with Prince William.
Kate was in a new gown with statement jewels (including a ring!) for the white-tie affair at Buckingham Palace. It is the sixth time the couple has attended the function.
HM Queen Elizabeth II hosts the annual event, the highlight of the social season for many, with a guest list that numbers roughly 1,000.
The royal event is the largest reception held at Buckingham Palace, requiring hours of intricate planning by the Master of the Household and the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, as well as the commandeering of almost every member of waiting staff.
UPDATE: Richard Plamer reports there were 950 guests at last night’s reception.
Also attending this evening’s affair, the Prince of Wales, just visible in the photo above, and the Duchess of Cornwall. Here you can see the two Duchesses along with Prince William.
Below, the three royal women.
The event is attended by ambassadors, high commissioners, and roughly 600 foreign diplomats based in London, as well as British diplomats and notable public figures.
Guests were also split into two sittings, the first from 7 to 8pm, taking place in the State Dining, the Blue Drawing and the White Drawing rooms. The second supper, from 9 to 10pm, was served in the Picture Gallery, Green Drawing and Ball Supper rooms. During that time members of the royal family greet guests and there’s also an opportunity for dancing in the Ball Supper Room after the buffet.
The Duchess chatting with guests.
Now for what the royals wore for the evening party, beginning with HM, who was in a gown by Angela Kelly.
HM had on the Vladimir tiara, which can be worn with pearl drops, emerald drops, or no drops at all; tonight, we saw emeralds. She also wore the Greville Emerald Earrings; a pair inherited from the Queen Mother in 2002 per The Court Jeweller, who also notes HM wore two art deco bracelets, both by Cartier. Here is a closer look at the glittering diamonds and emeralds.
The big news was the Queen’s necklace, apparently a piece never before seen according to royal jewel experts The Court Jeweller and The Royal Order of Splendour. The jaw-dropping piece features “square faceted emeralds in diamond clusters with diamond spacer ornaments and diamond and cabochon emerald drops,” according to The Court Jeweller’s report.
If I’m not mistaken, HM doesn’t debut many significant pieces of jewelry, so it was a treat to see her in this tonight.
The Duchess of Cornwall wore a cream embroidered gown by Bruce Oldfield and the Greville Tiara. The Court Jeweller reports the Duchess also wore “one of her signature diamond and pearl choker necklaces and the grand diamond earrings from her demi-parure. She also wore a diamond bracelet on her left wrist. (Sadly, I do not have good photos of those items.)
More on the tiara from Royal Order of Splendour:
It was made by Boucheron for the Hon. Mrs. Greville (a well-known society maven) in 1921 out of stones salvaged from another tiara. Having no heirs of her own, she left her considerable jewel collection to Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) when she died in 1942. With wartime austerity in place, the inheritance slept in the vault for a couple years before Queen Elizabeth began wearing the tiara. Not too long, though: it was in use by the late 1940s.
The dress features a fitted bodice, long sleeves puffed at the shoulder, and a neckline similar to a jersey knit gown by Alexander McQueen at Saks ($7290) shown below. It does not have the lace/bejeweled insets at the waistline or the back or quite as much puff at the shoulder seam, and because it is velvet, it drapes differently, but this does give you a look at the sweetheart neckline on a ready-to-wear piece.
Thank you to Regal Monarchist on Twitter for sharing the McQueen gown link.
Now for a quick review of Kate’s diplomatic reception looks over the years. Below, the Duchess attending the reception this evening, last year when she wore Jenny Packham, and in 2016 when she also was in a Jenny Packham design.
We do not have any photos from 2017 other than through a car window.
The practice of allowing a pool photographer to shoot pictures for release to the media is recent. Previously there were no photos released, or we would see one or two from the very beginning of the event, so this is a nice development that looks like it may become a permanent practice.
Moving to the rest of Kate’s ensemble, many immediately recognized Kate’s tiara, the Lover’s Knot.
The Royal Order of Splendour notes the tiara “sticks to the basic design common in other lover’s knot tiaras, featuring pearl pendants dangling from diamond knots in a diamond framework.” It was made by Garrard, commissioned by Queen Mary in 1914.
The Court Jeweller points out the “lover’s knot motif was very popular in the nineteenth century; the knots are the pretzel-like elements at the top of the tiara — the part from which the pendant pearls are suspended.” In this photo from tonight, you can see the band at the bottom which helps holds the tiara in place, is covered in dark brown velvet to blend in with Kate’s hair color.
And from The Royal Order of Splendour: “Queen Elizabeth II inherited the tiara on Queen Mary’s death in 1953 and wore it herself earlier in her reign. The tiara gained world fame when she loaned it to Diana, Princess of Wales following her 1981 marriage.”
On the far left below, you see the Duchess wearing the Lotus Flower tiara to this event in 2013; beginning in 2015, the Duchess has exclusively worn the Lover’s Knot tiara for the reception. I think the tiara will also be associated with the Duchess as it has become a signature piece for her.
The Duchess also wore the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace this evening. On loan from HM, we first saw her wear the piece to a 2014 National Portrait Gallery engagement.
The necklace was a wedding gift for the then-Princess Elizabeth. Below you see HM wearing the necklace in a photo used for the cover of Elizabeth: Reigning in Style, a book studying the Queen’s wardrobe over the decades.
The double-drop pendant has 13 emerald-cut diamonds and can be detached from the chain of 38 brilliant-cut open-back collets — more from Artemisia’s Royal Jewels blog.
One of the most beautiful gifts came from the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Nizam was the owner of one of the most celebrated and largest private jewellery collections in the world, and his gift was suitably impressive – a demi-parure of a tiara andnecklace was purchased from Cartier.Actually, in a way it was acquired by Elizabeth herself: the Nizam wasn’t in London at the time and left Cartier instructions that the Princess will personally choose her present.
The Royal Collection has a good photo of the necklace.
The ring is unusual because we don’t often see Kate wearing rings other than her engagement/wedding/eternity rings. The Duchess was also sporting shimmering earrings and a diamond ring we’ve not seen her wear before.
UPDATE 12/12: Franck suggests on the History of Royal Jewels message board that it is “the diamond ring from the Diamond Chandelier Drop Demi-Parure (from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia – 1987 state visit).” He also notes “Queen Elizabeth II wore the ring during a state visit in Germany in 1992.”
Emma 4 Royals suggests the earrings are part of the Diamond Chandelier Drop Demi-Parure, a necklace and earring set worn with some frequency by HM. The earrings were also seen recently on the Countess of Wessex, in June at the state dinner. I think Emma’s theory is probably correct. Below, a photo from the state dinner.
Kate was wearing her Royal Family Order on her left shoulder. Personally given by HM to female members of the Royal Family, Kate first wore the order in December 2017. It features a miniature portrait of the Queen painted on glass, surrounded by diamonds topped by a red enameled crown. We show it as worn to the Netherlands state dinner in October 2018 so you can better see the portrait (l) and again tonight (r).
The Duchess also had on the sash and badge associated with her status as a Dame Grand Cross of the (GCVO) Royal Victorian Order. The honor was given to her on her eighth wedding anniversary this April as recognition of her service to the sovereign. Kate first wore the order to the United States state dinner in June.
The badge (seen lower left as worn in June) is a Maltese cross with a medallion depicting the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria on a red background, surrounded by a blue ring bearing the motto of the order.
Here is a closer look at the badge.
UPDATE 12/12: Jewelry expert extraordinaire Franck, who left a comment with the fab info about Kate’s ring, also commented about a brooch holding Kate’s sash in place. You can see that at the June state dinner she used her oak leaf/acorns brooch at the right shoulder. Last night the Duchess did have something on her right back shoulder that looks like it is holding the sash in place. Franck, who knows far more about royal jewels than I, suggests it is a bar brooch. I don’t 100% agree, it doesn’t look like a bar brooch to me, but it is almost impossible to tell from the one tiny photo I have what it is, exactly. Below, an image shown above of Kate shaking hands; I have added the best detail shot I can find to the lower right corner.
It almost looks like there are triangular pieces or shapes at the end and sides….? Does it look that way to anyone else?
We’ll leave you with one more photo from this evening.
- Read about all of tonight’s jewels at The Court Jeweller and/or Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault; Town and Country has an interesting piece about the Vladimir Tiara you can read here; there is more about the Lover’s Knot tiara at The Royal Order of Splendour in this post; The Court Jeweller offers details as well in this post
- The Daily Mail’s coverage is here; The Telegraph’s article is here; The Daily Express piece is here; The Daily Mirror’s piece is here; The Sun’s coverage is here
- Bethan Holt’s fashion column for The Telegraph is here; Simon Perry’s People story is here; Town and Country’s piece is here; the Hello! article is here; Just Jared’s gallery is here; the Fug Girls post is here