Queen Camilla honoured her late mother-in-law by wearing one of Elizabeth IIs favourite pieces of jewellery, and one most closely associated with her, last week.
Known affectionately as Grannys Tiara it,will seem familiar to many of us as this was the one we often saw Queen Elizabeth wearing when her image appeared on coins and stamps from Britain and the Commonwealth.
It is all the more all the more significant, then, that Camilla should have worn it at the the Coronation Dinner at London’s Mansion House.
And all the more surprising, perhaps, that such a well-known and important piece of jewellery was funded by popular subscription.
Queen Camilla wearing The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara attending a reception and dinner in honour of the Coronation at Mansion House in London last week
Made by Garrards in 1893 this silver, gold and diamond tiara was a wedding present for the future Queen Mary from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland
Lady Eva Dugdale, nee Greville, friend and Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Mary who organised the collection
King George V and Queen Mary in fancy dress with theThe Girls of Great Britain and Ireland headpiece, worn as a coronet on this occasion
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara was a wedding present to Charless great grandmother, Princess Mary of Teck who married the future George V on 6 July 1893.
Marys lifelong friend, Lady Eva Greville formed a committee and asked girls from across Britain and Ireland to send contributions of any sum from 1d to 5 from themselves or their friends.
5,000 was raised and 1,600 of it was used to purchase a diamond, gold and silver tiara in a festoon and scroll design from Garrard & Co, the crown jeweller.
The tiara was still in course of manufacture when the royal wedding presents were displayed at the Imperial Institute so the public only saw a paper replica.
The surplus money, together with other monetary gifts to mark the wedding was donated by the bride and groom to the Victoria Fund for widows and orphans of the 358 sailors lost in a recent naval catastrophe.
The Duchess of York was delighted with the new tiara and in a thank you note to Lady Eva wrote: How can I find words sufficiently to thank you and all the young ladies of England [sic] for the truly magnificent present I have received? I need scarcely assure you that the tiara will ever be one of my most valued wedding presents.
One of the benefits of the gift was its adaptability, since it could be worn as a tiara, as a necklace or as a coronet.
It was as the latter that Mary wore it in July 1897 at the Devonshire House Ball when she appeared at this fancy dress event as a lady from the court of Queen Marguerite of Valois, a diplomatic choice of character as her mother-in-law Alexandra, Princess of Wales appeared as Queen Marguerite herself.
Queen Mary was passionate about her jewel collection and frequently changed the designs of the pieces.
In 1914 she asked Garrard to swap the jewels from two of her wedding tiaras and also to create a third Lovers Knot Tiara.
Garrard charged her 34 to take 13 brilliants from the County of Surrey tiara and 26 smaller brilliants to form the tops to the Girls of Great Britain Tiara in place of pearls.
These large oriental pearls that had been on diamond spikes on the Girls Tiara were put with others in the Lovers Knot headpiece which Queen Mary often wore. In 1953 along with many other jewels she bequeathed it in her will to Elizabeth II.
It was frequently worn by Diana, Princess of Wales but returned to the royal collection following her death.
It is now a favourite of Catherine, Princess of Wales who first wore it at a Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace in 2015.
At some point around the time of the First World War, Mary had the bandeau, made up of two rows of diamonds separated by lozenge shaped diamonds and brilliants, removed from the Girls of Britain tiara.
For the next 20 years she wore the tiara and bandeau as two separate pieces.
She gave both items to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present in 1947 when they were displayed on velvet arc shaped cushions for the public to see at St Jamess Palace.
Elizabeth clearly adored the piece she referred to as Grannys Tiara. One reason was that it was lighter than many of the other tiaras she had in her collection but at the same time it was an impressive and suitably regal piece.
Catherine, Princess of Wales wearing the ‘Lover’s Knot Tiara’ during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on November 22, 2022 in London
Mary had the bandeau, made up of two rows of diamonds separated by lozenge shaped diamonds and brilliants, removed from the tiara. For the next 20 years she wore the tiara and bandeau as two separate pieces
Gifts presented to Princess Elizabeth on her wedding to Prince Philip. The tiara and bandeau are featured at the top of the page
She wore the tiara for the first photo session of her new reign, just 20 days after her accession when she was still in black mourning for her father George VI
Queen Elizabeth II wearing the tiara in the royal box before the gala performance of ‘King Henry VIII’ at the Old Vic
Queen Elizabeth wears the tiara as she greets guests in the Blue Drawing Room for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in April 2018
She wore it for the first photo session of her new reign, just twenty days after her accession when she was still in black mourning for her father George VI. During the session 59 photos were captured by society photographer Dorothy Wilding, the first female photographer to receive a royal warrant.
The purpose of the session was to produce portraits to use as the basis for Elizabeths image on new coins, stamps, and banknotes.
In 1969 Queen Elizabeth, who like her grandmother enjoyed experimenting with her jewel collection, reunited the bandeau with the tiara to create a more substantial piece.
She continued to wear it at galas, state banquets and in portraits for the rest of her life.
Aptly the tiara most associated with her is thought to have been last seen in public at a diplomatic reception she hosted at Buckingham Palace in December 2018 for ambassadors accredited to this country from across the globe.
- Ian Lloyd is author of The Queen: 70 Chapters in the Life of Elizabeth II