The best royal tiaras: Meghan Markle, Princess Diana and Kate Middleton's bridal jewels and their history

Megan C. Hills

As the ultimate jewellery status symbol, tiaras are mostly the reserve of royalty and aristocrats. Heirloom pieces passed down from generation-to-generation, each tiara has a history as rich as its design.

There's a few you'll probably recognise, like Queen Elizabeth II’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara (which appears on British currency) as well as the Cartier creation Kate Middleton picked for her wedding day in 2011. But royal families on the continent have some pretty spectacular tiaras of their own, featuring gobstopper-sized sapphires and exquisite botanical motifs.

British royal dress code rules dictate that only married women can wear tiaras. As etiquette expert Grant Harrold told the BBC, “for married ladies [a tiara was traditionally] a sign of status and would show you were taken and not looking for a husband. For the gentleman it was a clear sign not to make advances towards the lady in question."

Last year Meghan Markle’s wedding sparked a bridal tiara trend. After the ceremony, Debenhams reported that searches on their site for “bridal tiara” climbed by 117%, as people sought a bit of (affordable) headgear for their own big day.

Here's some of the most breathtaking tiaras worn by royal women. If we had one of these we wouldn't take it off - even in the bath.

Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara: The Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau Tiara

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Worn by: Meghan Markle, Queen Mary

There was speculation over which tiara bride-to-be Meghan Markle would choose to wear on her wedding day - if she chose to wear one at all. While some people put money on her wearing Princess Diana's beloved Spencer tiara, in the end she opted for the Queen Mary Bandeau Tiara.

The tiara was loaned to Meghan by Queen Elizabeth for her nuptials to Prince Harry, which took place in May last year. Before the Duchess of Sussex wore it on her big day, the tiara hadn't been worn in 65 years. It was previously worn and well loved by Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth's grandmother.

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Like a lot of royal tiaras, it has a dual purpose. The centrepiece is also a brooch, which was given to Queen Mary on her wedding day. Set with ten massive diamonds, the brooch is detachable, and the band can be adjusted in size as it's made up of eleven different sections.

If you look closely at Meghan's wedding day photos, you might notice the base of the tiara is wrapped in a thin strip of black velvet. Royal jewellery blog Order of Splendor say that this was added for the wedding day so that the tiara "disappeared into her hair".

Kate Middleton's Wedding Tiara: The Cartier Halo Tiara

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Worn by: Kate Middleton

This tiara became famous when Kate Middleton wore it to marry Prince William. It was first bought in 1936 by King George VI, who gave it to his wife Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) as a gift.

The tiara is set with over 1000 diamonds (739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 149 baguette diamonds). The Royal Collection Trust also add that it was crafted as a "band of 16 graduated scrolls".

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Although other royals have re-worn their wedding tiaras, Kate has yet to wear the Cartier Halo Tiara again. That might be because it's been something of a hot ticket since the wedding, exhibited in 2011 at Buckingham palace (above) and at a 2018 Cartier exhibition in Australia.

Princess Eugenie's Wedding Tiara: The Greville Kokoshnik Emerald Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Eugenie

For her nuptials to Jack Brooksbank, Queen Elizabeth let her granddaughter borrow the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara. According to the Royal Family's official website, it was crafted by Boucheron in the "kokoshnik style popularised in the Russian Imperial Court" and was made for Dame Margaret Greville (who left it to Queen Elizabeth II).

The central emerald is apparently 93.7 carats (yes, you read that right - 93), set in a platinum band with brilliant and rose cut diamonds. According to a royal biography by Robert Jobson, the tiara was rumoured to be Meghan Markle's first choice for her wedding, but the Queen reportedly preferred she wore one that did not have links to Russia.

Princess Diana's Wedding Tiara: Spencer Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Diana, Celia McCorquodale

This tiara isn’t technically a royal piece but still deserves a spot in the hall of fame. When Lady Diana married Prince Charles, she paid homage to her own family with the Spencer Tiara. The piece had been in the family for decades and had gone through many changes, as the family added a topper and extended the ends of the tiara with other pieces in their jewellery collection. By the 1930s, it was fully complete and many women of the Spencer family have worn it on their wedding day ever since.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the silver tiara’s many diamonds are set in tulips, scrolls and other floral patterns. After Diana’s death, the tiara hadn’t been seen in public for years until Princess Diana’s niece Celia McCorquodale wore it for her own wedding last June.

The Lover's Knot Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, Queen Mary

The Lover’s Knot Tiara is one of the most famous pieces in the royal vault, and was one of Princess Diana’s favourites. The Court Jeweller reports that the tiara was actually created from another piece called the Ladies of England tiara by Queen Mary, who later passed it down to Queen Elizabeth II.

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Apparently Princess Diana was supposed to wear the tiara as her something borrowed on her wedding day, but instead chose to wear her family's Spencer Tiara. After Diana passed away the tiara disappeared from the public eye, until Kate Middleton wore it in 2015 for a state banquet. The tiara is made up of diamonds and hanging pearls set in silver and gold. It was reportedly so heavy it used to give Princess Diana headaches.

The Mellerio Floral Tiara

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Worn by: Queen Letizia and Queen Sofia of Spain

This delicate floral-themed tiara is one of Queen Letizia of Spain's favourites and she's worn it many times throughout the year, including earlier this February when the Spanish royal family invited Peru's President Vizcarra into their home. Crafted by French jewellers Mellerio dits Meller, the piece dates back to the late 19th century and was a wedding gift for her mother-in-law Queen Sofia back when she married King Juan Carlos I in 1962. According to Hello, the piece can also be converted to a necklace.

The Greville Tiara (Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara)

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Worn by: Queen Mother, Duchess of Cornwall

This is one of the most architectural pieces on the list and was one of the Queen Mother’s favourites - she chose to wear it for an official portrait. Also known as the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, this piece was originally created by Boucheron for Dame Margaret Greville, the same woman who owned Princess Eugenie’s wedding tiara.

After Greville (a close friend of Queen Mary) passed away, the tiara was passed onto the Queen Mother who wore it out constantly and even had extra diamonds added to the top row, according to Order of Splendor.

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Since then, the Queen has loaned it to her daughter-in-law Camilla Parker-Bowles. She's been seen wearing it to numerous official events, from a state banquet back in 2013 through to an appearance in Sri Lanka in 2017.

The Prussian Tiara

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Worn by: Queen Letizia of Spain, Queen Sofia of Spain

If Megara from Hercules ever got to wear a tiara, it would surely be this one. This brilliant diamond tiara belongs to the Spanish royal family and is well loved by Queen Letizia, who wore it on her wedding day. With Grecian motifs and laurel leaf details, it’s the teardrop pendant in the middle that catches the viewer’s eye.

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It was made originally for Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia for her wedding in 1913 to Prince Ernst August of Hanover, whose daughter Friederike eventually married into the Greek royal family. It finally passed into the hands of the Spanish royal family when Princess Sofia of Prussia married future Spanish King Juan Carlos in 1962, bringing the tiara with her.

The Dutch Sapphire Parure Tiara

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For King Wilhelm-Alexander's inauguration in 2013 the Dutch royals' stepped out in their finery. Queen Maxima wore the incredible Dutch Sapphire Parure Tiara, matching her outfit to its striking blues. According to the Natural Sapphire Company, the piece is made up of 33 blue sapphires and 655 diamonds set in platinum in a distinctly Gothic style.

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The tiara in its complete form actually features a tall plumed point, which Queen Maxima chose to swap it out with a big round diamond to match the others on the tiara. Queen Maxima has worn it several times since - we don't blame her.

The Hanoverian Floral Tiara

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The Hanoverian Floral Tiara has become a go-to for women marrying into the Hanover royal family. According to Tatler, the tiara is believed to date back to the 1900s and as with the Spencer tiara depicts a series of intertwined florals. The tiara was seen as recently as 2018, when Alessandra de Osma married Prince Christian of Hanover in Peru.

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The tiara also made a public appearance the year before, when Ekaterina Malysheva maried Hereditary Prince Ernst August of Hanover. The always elegant Princess Caroline has also been seen in the tiara, wearing it back in 2004 for Crown Princess Mary of Denmark's wedding to Crown Prince Frederik.

Queen Mary's Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara

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Worn by: Queen Elizabeth II

Besides having the coolest name, this is Queen Elizabeth’s most iconic tiara. Prior to Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary’s royal wedding in 1893, women around the country from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland society raised money to commission it. According to Garrard, Queen Mary called it one of her “most valued” gifts. It's certainly valuable, with elaborate diamond peaks set with 13 brilliant diamonds.

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It was then passed down to Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day and has become the tiara she’s been pictured wearing the most - it's even on British currency.

Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Madeleine and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

This stunning blue tiara is one of the many masterpieces in the Swedish royal collection. As with the emerald Greville tiara, it follows the Russian kokoshnik style with sky blue aquamarine gems set in diamonds.

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The tiara has been worn more recenty by Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine, who both opted to wear it at the lavish Nobel Prize banquet - on different years. Both women opted to wear dresses in a matching shade.

Connaught Diamond Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Madeleine of Sweden, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Queen Silvia

Another of the Swedish royal family’s striking pieces, it’s very popular with women in the family. Also known as the Forget-Me-Knot tiara, it features five diamond loops with a delicate detachable pendant.

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Princess Madeleine wore it when she attended the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria in 2010, while Victoria also re-wore it last year for the annual Nobel Prize banquet in Stockholm.

Queen Elizabeth's Wedding Day Tiara: Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara

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Worn by: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary

On her wedding day in 1947 Queen Elizabeth II’s hairdresser accidentally snapped the tiara in half just hours before her wedding to Prince Philip. Luckily, there was a court jeweller on standby and the tiara was taken via police escort to the diamond jewellers at Garrard who helped repair it in the nick of time.

The tiara was crafted in 1919 for Queen Mary - made from diamonds taken from a necklace. According to the Telegraph, the tiara is formed of “47 diamond bars separated by smaller diamond spikes” and set in gold and silver.

Stuart Diamond Tiara

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Worn by: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

Queen Maxima’s 2018 visit to the UK was historical in more ways than one, as she brought her best jewels with her: namely, the Stuart Diamond Tiara. It was the first time in 36 years that a Dutch royal had officially visited the UK and all eyes were on the giant rock in the centre of Queen Maxima’s tiara.

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Apparently the tiara was first purchased in 1690 when King William III bought it for his wife Queen Mary II. Apparently, it was unusual at the time for people to wear jewellery featuring gigantic diamonds as it was “common practice” that they were cut into two instead.

Wondering how big the diamond is? It’s apparently 39.75 carats.

The Poltimore Tiara

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Worn by: Princess Margaret

Princess Margaret was one of the most stylish royals of her time and on her wedding day to Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, she pulled out all the stops. Not content with the collection already in the royal arsenal, HRH went out and bought a new tiara at auction in 1949 for £5,500: the Poltimore Tiara.

The tiara was originally made for Lady Poltimore and dates back to 1870.

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Margaret wore the crown-like tiara for her wedding day, which featured a “graduated line of cushion-shaped and old-cut diamond clusters alternating with diamond-set scroll motifs” set in “silver and gold”.

Controversially, the tiara was sold at auction at Christie’s in 2006 where it was estimated to go for between £150,000-£200,000. In the end it blew far way past this estimate, selling for £926,400 to a private Asian buyer.

The Cut Steel Tiara

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Worn by: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

This tiara is one of Crown Princess Victoria’s favourites. It’s also one of the most unusual on the list. While you’ll find diamonds and emeralds for days on the other pieces, you won’t find a single gemstone on the Cut Steel tiara.

The clue’s in the name as the cut steel technique used on the tiara is what makes it sparkle. According to Laelius Antiques, jewellers employed “steel-faceted studs to create a beautiful, dazzling diamond effect”. According to antique dealers 1st Dibs, "cut steel became popular in the 18th century as a substitute for diamonds, the pieces carefully faceted to reflect the light of candles."

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Here, you can see that it’s been expertly crafted to create a nature motif with little acorns and leaves. It’s also inlaid in a gold setting and is said to have been originally made for Queen Hortense of Holland in the early Nineteenth Century, before it was brought over to Sweden.