Message in a tiara: what does Kate’s Halo tiara tell us?

Jewels are loaded with symbolism and messages and even more so at high profile events such as a royal wedding. And, bar the crown itself, the epitome of the ceremonial jewel is the tiara. Don't think that the choice of tiara was anything but a very carefully considered message spelt out in jewels.There is no question that Kate had to wear a tiara and look like a princess but exactly what head gear was the source of much fascination. The bookies, or gambling shops, are the true barometer of British psyche where the nation pours out its soulful hunches and cash on the most important issues. Pre-wedding bets were flying on everything from choice of honeymoon airline to which tiara Kate would wear. Intrigue peaked when a middle-aged, well-spoken lady walked into Ladbrokes in Ascot, Berks a week before the wedding to put £6,000 on the Russian Fringe tiara. The Russian Fringe or George III tiara made by Garrard in 1830 was the one the Queen herself wore on her wedding day. Up until this large bet, Ladbroke's favourite had been the 1914 Cambridge 'Lover's Knot' by Garrard commissioned by Queen Mary that had been one of Diana's preferred. Our well spoken punter lost £6,000 and of course the £72,000 that would have been hers had her bet come good because Kate came down the aisle with the 1936 Cartier Halo tiara twinkling away on her head. The fact that the Duchess of Cambridge didn't wear one of the significant tiaras is telling. I had earmarked all the big ones in my copy of  'Tiara' written by the hugely knowledgeable Geoffrey C Munn.  Diana wore a family tiara, the Spencer tiara, because she could, though normally the Queen lends the bride one of hers. The Duchess of York received a new tiara purchased by the Queen in 1986 from Garrard. In 1999, Sophie of Wessex wore a tiara from Queen Elizabeth's personal collection, designed and remodelled by Garrard. The Halo tiara was  purchased from Cartier London in 1936 by the stuttering Duke of York, who three weeks later became King George VI, and was recently played by Colin Firth in The King's Speech. He bought it for his wife who later became the Queen Mother. She gave it to her daughter, Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen), on her 18th birthday. The choice of this rather low-key tiara that has not been worn previously at a Royal wedding suggests to me a compromise. There was a nod to royal tradition in that Kate did wear a tiara, but not a symbolic piece laden with history. The fact that it was loaned hints that maybe Kate is not another tiara-wearing old-school royal, but a bridge between the past and what the country hopes  a new generation of Royals could become. Wearing a tiara Halo that belonged to your grandmother-in-law's mother is very personal and a in my eyes, a more intimate gesture than being presented with a box-fresh tiara, as was the case of Sophie the Duchess of Wessex or the wayward Sarah, Duchess of York. Joanna Hardy, jewellery expert, formerly of Sotheby's remarks on the choice: "The whole event was very much in keeping with today, making them accessible to the people so wearing a huge tiara would not have been appropriate. But a lot of thought has gone into what they wore...Kate was wearing jewels that belonged to two very special women to William's, his mother and grandmother." Simon Schama who described the Royal Couple on the BBC today as they rode by in an open carriage from Westminster Abbey as 'a couple of beautiful kids' reminds us how this wedding is different. "Royal Weddings used to be about power...basically mergers and acquisitions...not now, it's really about the next generation making something old, very fresh for the future." And if the choice of headwear helps achieve this, then bravo to the Cartier Halo tiara.

  • Cartier 1936 Halo tiara as worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William. The tiara was made in Cartier's London workshops and includes almost 800 diamonds. Photo: Cartier archives

Cartier 1936 Halo tiara as worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William. The tiara was made in Cartier's London workshops and includes almost 800 diamonds. Photo: Cartier archives

Cartier 1936 Halo tiara as worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William. The tiara was made in Cartier's London workshops and includes almost 800 diamonds. Photo: Cartier archives