Not all great British tiaras are from the Queen’s jewelry vault. One of Princess Diana‘s most famous toppers – the Spencer Tiara – actually belongs to her family, who can trace their aristocratic lineage back to the Tudor period. Since Friday marks the 35th anniversary of Diana and Prince Charles’ spectacular royal wedding, let’s take a closer at one of the most famous non-royal sparklers in the world.
Like all good royal pieces, the Spencer Tiara is actually made up of other pieces of jewelry. The central part of the tiara was given as a wedding present to Lady Cynthia Hamilton (aka, Diana’s grandmother) when she married Albert, Viscount Althorp, the future 7th Earl Spencer, in 1919. The topper was given to Cynthia by Albert’s great aunt, Lady Sarah Isabella Spencer, who died later that year.
The ends of the tiara are said to have come from a sparkler once belonging to Frances Manby, the last known Viscountess of Montagu. (The line died when her husband, Mark Browne, the then-9th Viscount Montagu, died nine months after their wedding in 1797.) Somehow these pieces ended up in Sarah’s possession and those got passed down to Cynthia and Albert.
The current version – which is constructed with diamonds shaped into tulips and stars surrounded by attractive scrolls – was probably finalized sometime in the ’30s. It has become a popular wedding tiara for the Spencer family: Diana’s sisters – Lady Sarah and Jane, Baroness Fellowes – both wore the sparkler for their wedding days and Victoria Lockwood, who was the first wife of Diana’s brother Charles, the current Earl of Spencer, wore it when she married into the famed aristocratic family in 1989 (where little Prince Harry served as a pageboy). However, Diana’s mother, Frances, did not wear the tiara when she married into the Spencer family in 1954.
Of course, the Spencer Tiara’s most famous wedding moment was when Diana married Prince Charles in 1981. While her future mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth II loaned Diana the Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara for the wedding, the princess-to-be decided to stick to her family roots and go with the Spencer topper for the big day.
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And just because Diana married into the royal family didn’t mean she ignored her own family vault of jewels – she frequently wore the Spencer Tiara throughout her life as it was said that it was lighter and easier to wear than the other royal items.
The tiara, which still belongs to the Spencer family, has not been publicly worn since Diana’s death in 1997. However, it has been publicly seen as it is frequently loaned out for various Diana-themed exhibits around the world. Because the tiara actually belongs to the Spencers, it is highly unlikely that Princess Kate would ever wear it unless they decided to loan it out to her. Besides, as we’ve seen, Kate has no problem borrowing from gran-gran‘s jewelry box when it comes to impressive jewels.
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