The Queen and the Princess of Wales put on a glittering display of regal splendour at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening as they attended the annual Diplomatic Reception.
Decked out in historic family jewels and bespoke gowns, the two most senior women in the Royal family appeared to be sending a message underscoring their unique positions and ability to deliver a rare form of grandeur.
Their statement came after a week in which the Royal family has been embroiled in a racism row following the publication of Omid Scobie’s book, Endgame, and a mistake in the Dutch translation naming the King and Princess of Wales as the alleged royals who made comments about the colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby’s skin.
The royals have not yet commented on the story, but their heirloom jewellery and upscale fashion suggested that Camilla and Catherine are determined to display a focus on continuity and majesty rather than the latest media furore.
Indeed both women wore tiaras and jewels which tie them to a long line of Queens and Princesses.
The Princess of Wales wore her favourite tiara, the Cambridge Lover’s knot which dates back to 1914 and was created by Garrard for Queen Mary as a replica of a piece belonging to her aunt, Princess Augusta of Cambridge. The ornate design features a diamond frame with a row of drop pearls. The tiara was used by Queen Elizabeth II before being loaned to Princess Diana who wore it numerous times despite complaining that it gave her a headache. Catherine also wore Queen Elizabeth’s elaborate diamond Cartier earrings.
Queen Camilla wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, a favourite of the late Queen Elizabeth who is said to have enjoyed wearing it because it is one of the most lightweight in the royal collection. It is only the second time that the Queen has worn this important piece; she first wore it in October at a Mansion House dinner in honour of her and the King’s Coronation.
One of the most delicate designs in the royal archives, the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara was originally a gift to the Duchess of York, who later became Queen Mary, in 1893 and so-called because it was given to her by a committee of women - the design also resembles a circle of girls holding hands. Queen Mary then gave it to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift in 1947. It later became synonymous with Elizabeth’s image when she became Queen and wore it for portraits which featured on coins and banknotes.
Camilla also re-introduced a rather unusual piece of royal jewellery to public view at the diplomatic reception. She opted to wear a diamond ‘stomacher’ which belonged to the late Queen Mother on her cream gown by Fiona Clare, one of her most trusted couturiers. This large piece of jewellery, sometimes referred to as a devant de corsage because of the way it decorates the bodice of a dress, once featured heavily in royal women’s jewel rotations, creating opportunities for maximum adornment and status-signalling.
By wearing one again, decades after they fell out of fashion, Camilla is once more deploying the stomacher as a signifier of her seniority.
Even the Princess of Wales’ pale pink Jenny Packham dress served a purpose; it was last seen at the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan and Rajwa Al-Saif in June, a subtle reminder of Kate’s position meaning she is now invited to all the most important nuptials of royals and aristocrats. At the weekend, it was reported that Harry and Meghan have been missed off the guest list for the wedding of the Duke of Westminster next summer, set to be the society invitation of the year, so as not to cause an awkward situation for the Windsors.
The Royal family may now spend much of its time carrying out engagements where down-to-earth relatability is paramount - earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Princess of Wales opened a children’s hospital ward wearing a businesslike Alexander McQueen suit and the Prince of Wales donned a Big Issue seller cap and tabard to sell the magazine in London - but occasions like the diplomatic reception are a reminder of their access to a dazzling jewellery archive and the best British design talent, as well as an excuse to wear them.