Each November or December, the British Monarch throws open the doors of Buckingham Palace and welcomes more than 500 members of the diplomatic corps posted to the United Kingdom, from all over the world.
As one of the most important and formal receptions of the year, and the royal family turns out in strict white tie and decorations, including the family’s most important natural diamonds and Royal Orders, to entertain ambassadors, high commissioners and government officials from around the world, who reside in the UK.
It is one of the few occasions when all of the State Rooms are used. The family wanders around speaking to the many luminaries who represent their countries and people in London.
The event was previously spearheaded by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her long seventy year reign and comprises of a drinks reception, followed by two sittings of a spectacular buffet. The first takes place in the State Dining Room, The Blue Drawing Room and The White Drawing Room. The second is served in the Picture Gallery, the Green Drawing Room and the Ball Supper Room. After the buffet dinner, there is dancing in the Ball Room.
For the past few years Kate Middleton, previously as the Duchess of Cambridge but for the past two years as the Princess of Wales, has predominately worn the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara, with a sumptuous diamond necklace and earrings. Kate was first seen in this exquisite piece, made in 1913 by Garrard for Queen Mary and beloved by Princess Diana, in December 2015 for Buckingham Palace’s annual Diplomatic Reception. She wore it again last week, along with the fabulous and very diamond-centric Greville Chandelier earrings.
Queen Mary commissioned it to replicate her grandmother and then aunt’s early 1800s ‘Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara.’ When Garrard delivered the headpiece to Her Majesty only months before the start of the First World War, there were 19 upright pearls on the cresting, as well as the 19 pendant pearls we see today, which were transferred to the Vladimir Tiara to be interchangeable with the emeralds. Lovers Knot comes from the eponymous bows that run the length of the band – the bow is tied in a complicated knot, making it hard to untie – symbolising the ties of love.
Last year, Kate wore the Lotus Flower Tiara which had originally belonged to the Queen Mother.
Queen Camilla has often worn the Greville Tiara, but last year at her first reception as Queen Consort, she wore the George VI Sapphire Tiara and Necklace and earrings.
However, it was one of the natural diamond jewels that Her Majesty Queen Camilla wore on Tuesday, that has got jewelry connoisseurs around the world talking; a very majestic diamond devant de corsage, otherwise known as a stomacher.
The Palace announced that it had belonged to the Queen Mother, and we believe that it must have been part of the Greville Collection that was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Dame Margaret Greville in 1942. This enormous collection of more than sixty pieces arrived at Buckingham Palace in a black tin trunk with ‘MHG’ emblazoned upon the top.
Dame Margaret Greville, born in 1863, initially became a friend of Queen Mary – another jewellery aficionada. Between them, they would frequent Boucheron, Cartier London, Fabergé and of course Garrard. According to the inimitable Suzanne Martinez of Lang Antiques in San Francisco, the stomacher was most likely made in France pre-1915, thus Belle Epoque; so was it by Boucheron? The generous benefactor had gone there more than anywhere else, and what is known as The Greville Tiara, worn most frequently by Queen Camilla – is by Boucheron. In fact there is barely an event that a piece of Dame Margaret’s bequest is not worn, by the women of the Royal Family.
But back to the stomacher – this fabulous piece has natural diamonds set in four tassels, that hang below and either side of three kite-shaped panels of floral designs – there is a bow at the apex of the corsage. For the time being there is no more information from Buckingham Palace on the devant de corsage, but let’s hope there will be soon – as well as more instances of it being worn.
The Queen Consort also wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, which was given to Queen Mary in 1893 as a wedding present from the young women of the UK, made by Garrard. It was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II and is designed with festoons and fleur-de-lis spectacularly set with natural diamonds in its entirety. Queen Camilla was further bedecked in diamonds–a three-row bracelet and a fabulous pair of shoulder duster earrings.
The event marks the start of the Christmas Season for the Royal Family – and is always the most sparkling of the year.