Kate Middleton's Best Tiara Moments Yet

What's a princess without her tiara? Take it from Catherine, Princess of Wales, who adorns her fairytale with all the sparkle it deserves. Since joining the British royal family in 2011, Catherine has never missed a beat in dazzling the world with tasteful fashion, notching up the grace every now and then with a surprise tiara moment. Often a majestic headpiece is seen resting on her head as part of her regal ensemble — and it's more than just a pretty thing. "It's a rite of passage, a fabulous concoction, a gasp piece and a final flourish," according to Martin Leggatt of London's Graff jewelers. As a senior working member of the monarchy, Catherine has made good use of her access to Buckingham's millions-worth jewelry vaults where tiaras can be found in abundance. 

"The tiara is quite literally the crowning glory," Jean-Marc Mansvelt, head of Paris' luxury jewelers Chaumet, said (via Vogue). While experts deem that the tiara isn't an absolute signifier of status — given that any married British royal is typically permitted to wear one (per Town & Country) — it sure juts out as a symbol of distinction for its wearer. Long before she assumed her current title, Catherine, whose ascent to the rank of Queen Consort (and therefore to crowns) may not be too far, had aced the princess-wearing-tiara look. As we prepare for her to impress anew as the official Princess of Wales, let's take a look back at her best tiara moments yet! 

Beginning with the wedding tiara, of course

To say that it was a literal moment on April 29, 2011, when Catherine, Princess of Wales, first walked up the stairs of Westminster Abbey in her wedding fineries would not be an exaggeration. The to-be royal had perfectly dressed the part of a princess stepping into her real-life fairytale, complete with an exquisite headpiece. Catherine couldn't have made a better tiara debut than with the Cartier Halo Tiara, a royal heirloom that has graced many a royal head for decades (via Tatler). Queen Elizabeth, for whom it was commissioned in 1936, was its first owner. In the weeks before he became king, George VI procured the diamond tiara for his wife from premier jewelry house Cartier (via The Jewellery Editor).

Encrusted with almost a thousand brilliant diamonds, the dainty tiara features a platinum frame decked with scroll motifs — which explains why it is also called the Cartier Scroll tiara. The queen passed the "small diamond tiara," as she called it, to her daughter Princess Elizabeth when she turned 18 (via The Court Jeweller). The young princess generously shared her birthday present with her sister Princess Margaret (spotted sporting the tiara often) and later with her daughter Princess Anne, after becoming queen. Catherine was the next to borrow it. At approximately $1.7 million (per The Knot), the Cartier Halo isn't the priciest of tiaras in the royal coffers but holds high repute for being a young royal favorite. 

Gracing the state banquet with the Lotus Flower tiara

If you were asked to imagine a tiara, your brain would likely conjure images with a keen likeness to the Lotus Flower Tiara. With precious pearls suspended over delicate arches that silhouette flower designs, this one is every bit the prototypical tiara. So Catherine, Princess of Wales made a fine choice by reaching for it for her first state banquet since becoming royalty (via ABC7 News). Marking her second outing with the Lotus Flower (the first being the Palace's annual reception in 2013), she showed up — and we mean, really showed up — for the dinner during Xi Jinping's visit in October 2015. All eyes were on Catherine, who stole the show with her million-dollar smile and tiara, paired with a scarlet Jenny Packham dress. The dress, too, seemed to be a careful selection, given the color's significance in Chinese culture. 

The Lotus Flower was a prized possession of Queen Elizabeth's and, interestingly, hadn't always been a tiara. The diamond-encrusted regalia was originally a necklace gifted to the Queen Mother by her husband, King George VI, as a wedding gift in 1923 (per Daily Express). However, just months after getting it, she switched up her gift (haven't we all been there?) and got the neckpiece altered into a tiara. The diadem remained a longtime favorite of her younger daughter Princess Margaret and ultimately ended up in the royal jewelry collection, from where Catherine loaned it.  

The Lover's Knot tiara appears in a royal family photo

Catherine, Princess of Wales, brought out the ravishing Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara for the Palace's annual diplomatic reception in 2016. A timeless headpiece whose majestic splendor was underscored by Princess Diana's frequent wearing of it, this specific Lover's Knot has been in the British royal family since 1914 and belonged to Queen Mary (per Town & Country). Particulars are of consequence here since the Lover's Knot has an older sibling it took after. According to The Court Jeweller, Queen Mary's grandmother Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, claimed ownership over the original Lover's Knot and passed it down to her daughter Grand Duchess Augusta. It seems the queen was so enamored by the tiara that she commissioned the House of Garrard to create another of a similar make with family jewels.

The tiara's distinct design — comprising 38 teardrop pearls, 19 encrusted arches, and knot-like motifs — lends the legendary headpiece its name, as noted by Reader's Digest. Queen Elizabeth II inherited the Cambridge Lover's Knot from her mother, kindly sharing it with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law. For the royal reception, Catherine, ever the prudent recycler, donned a red Jenny Packham gown she had previously worn for a state banquet to complement the Lover's Knot that rested on her head for only the second time publicly (via People). As for the original family-favorite diadem, it was auctioned off in 1981 for a hefty sum, and its present whereabouts are unknown.  

Kate Middleton pairs the Lover's Knot with an icy blue dress

It became apparent that the Cambridge Lover's Knot was loved by Catherine, Princess of Wales, in steady continuation of Princess Diana's legacy. The Lover's Knot, which Queen Elizabeth II inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary, was given to Diana as a wedding gift in 1981, per The Telegraph. In all her years as a royal A-lister — and, might we add, a literal fashion icon — Diana wore the Lover's Knot enough times for it to become her trademark tiara. In fact, The Court Jeweller has pointed out that this was the only tiara from the British monarchy's coffers that Diana was ever photographed wearing! Following Diana's divorce, the precious headpiece returned to the Palace, only for Catherine to pick up on her mother-in-law's tradition.

The Lover's Knot made its fifth stunning public appearance atop Catherine's head in October 2018 at a state banquet honoring Dutch royals (via Vogue). She paired the tiara with an icy blue mermaid gown by Alexander McQueen and an heirloom necklace that belonged to Queen Alexandra. But wearing the Lover's Knot apparently doesn't feel as dreamy as it looks. Legend famously goes that this bejeweled headpiece was heavy enough to give Diana headaches. "The pearls are large and, together with the array of varying sizes of diamonds, would add to a hefty weight," gemologist Alexandra Michell revealed (via Daily Express). Well, given the effortless grace Catherine carries it with, one could never guess! 

Kate Middleton's first tiara moment since becoming Princess of Wales

Momentous occasions call for momentous symbolism. In September 2022, after her husband, William became Prince of Wales, Catherine was bestowed the royal rank of Princess of Wales. For her first public appearance since assuming the title, Catherine showed up for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in November wearing a resplendent Jenny Packham cape gown and a now-familiar ornament resting delicately upon her head: the Lover's Knot (per People). Conscious or unconscious, the gesture sure was sentimental, given that the iconic headpiece was beloved by Princess Diana, who once stood where her daughter-in-law Catherine now does. That it marked the first time in three years that Catherine was spotted sporting a precious diadem made her outing as a tiara-bearing princess all the more memorable.  

Catherine's royal tribute didn't end there. Per Elle, the pearls adorning her ears, too, were once part of Diana's jewelry collection! Her choice of a white ensemble can also be tied to Queen Elizabeth II's preference for the color for state events (via Hello!). It was power dressing at its finest! Meanwhile, hawk-eyed netizens were quick to point out something interesting going on with Catherine's earrings — they seemed to have been worn the other way around. The curve of the diamond-cut jewelry sat differently from when Catherine wore them earlier that year. We would have noticed — had we been able to peel our gaze away from that dazzling tiara for one second! 

The Lotus Flower tiara makes a return to the palace's annual diplomatic reception

In a stunning return to her initial, post-marriage jewelry roots, Catherine, Princess of Wales, slipped on the tasteful Lotus Flower Tiara for the Palace's diplomatic reception in December 2022. The look shadowed the one from a state banquet in 2015 — except this time, she paired the Lotus Flower with a different but equally regal red number by Jenny Packham. If something stands out about this tiara moment that you're not quite able to place a finger on, here's a hint: it's the hair. In a never-before-seen style, the headpiece sat atop the princess' flowing locks in contrast to all the times that her hair under a tiara had been slicked back into a bun, People pointed out. It was likely not intentional (or was it?), but Catherine's whole do was rather "Barbiecore," Harper's Bazaar thought. More of this look, please! 

Notably, the only royal head the diamond and pearl headpiece from the Garrard of London has been seen on since its previous holder Princess Margaret's death in 2002 is Catherine's (via Women's Wear Daily). Vintage pictures show that its original wearer Queen Elizabeth didn't place the Lotus Flower atop her head at all, preferring instead to seat it low on her forehead, conforming to the early 20th-century tradition of wearing tiaras. Author Leslie Field revealed that this tiara's delicate make probably renders it comfortable to wear — no headaches with this one! 

Surprisingly, Kate Middleton has only worn 3 royal tiaras till now

You'd think you would have seen more of Catherine, Princess of Wales, in sparkling toppers, given her position and public visibility. Surprisingly, as of December 2022, she has been spotted out and about in tiaras only 13 times! Occasions to borrow jewelry from the royal vaults have been plenty in the decade that she has been a royal, but tiara indulgence isn't a task as straightforward as fairytales have made it seem. Many age-old customs circumscribe it, consequently limiting the times and places a tiara can be borne. "They are worn on formal white tie events, and state occasions such as state banquets," royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider. This is why Catherine doesn't casually stroll around London in a tiara! 

The wearing of tiaras is apparently also guided by personal preference — and it seems Catherine likes to keep headaches to a minimum, what with some staple favorites being notoriously heavy (via The Mirror). But when it comes to it, one can best believe the princess is spoilt for choice. Queen Elizabeth II's snuffbox is said to hold approximately 50 tiaras whose value runs into millions (via Harper's Bazaar). The only three tiaras that Catherine has worn to date — the Cartier Halo, the Lover's Knot, and the Lotus Flower — have all been obtained from the late monarch's collection. And she has made each loan worth it, making headlines with every single tiara moment. 

She'll wear a regal crown when she's queen

The world has only been treated to the sight of Catherine, Princess of Wales in tiaras. But a future where we see her in a crown may not be too far. Catherine is next in line to the royal title of Queen Consort, a position currently held by King Charles III's wife, Camilla. And when her time for succession comes, it is believed that Catherine will be coronated with one of the most priceless pieces from the royal family coffers: the Queen Mother's Crown (via Cosmopolitan). Studded with the dazzling Koh-i-Nûr in a platinum frame glittering with another 2,800 diamonds, the regalia was designed in 1937 for Queen Elizabeth and then handed down to her daughter Queen Elizabeth II, per the Royal Collection Trust

Royal sources state that "a Queen Consort is crowned with the King," steering expectations for Catherine's crowning when William, Prince of Wales, assumes the throne after his father. In the meantime, the Queen Mother's Crown may well find a new wearer in Camilla, who will be honored at the King's coronation in May 2023. But the 105.6 carat Koh-i-Nûr's long-disputed history that links it to Britain's colonial past in India amid contested claims of ownership might prompt a major alteration to the headpiece. "I do believe that the Koh-i-Nûr will and should be removed from the crown if it is used," Lauren Kiehna, royal jewelry expert, told People.

Yes, there's royal protocol surrounding tiaras

Like everything else in the royal family, the wearing of tiaras comes with a handy rulebook. These elegant headpieces have commanded great significance in aristocratic traditions for centuries and, therefore, are not without its own codes of propriety. "One of the mainstays of European royalty and aristocracy is to do what you have always done, and formal dress, jewelry, and tiaras are just part of this," jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn explained (via Town & Country). 

The foremost rule makes tiaras an adornment to be worn only by married women, their wedding day marking the first time they wear one. Henceforth, it's a public notifier that the woman is taken, etiquette specialist Grant Harrold told the BBC. Though the wedding tiara is ideally expected to come from the bride's own family collection, former non-aristocrat Catherine, Princess of Wales, opted for a British royal family heirloom on her big day. 

The correct way to wear a tiara is by aligning its bejeweled make with the angle of its wearer's face so it sparkles through in full glory (via Forbes). The band must be well-affixed and concealed by hair. Interestingly, the tiara is guided less by rank than by events that justify its wearing. Considered a part of formal evening attire, tiaras are traditionally mandated to be worn only after 6 P.M., replacing daytime hats and fascinators (via Marie Claire). That probably explains why one doesn't see Catherine out and about in tiaras too often!

The royal family's jaw-dropping tiara collection

The legacy of the British royal family is tethered to glittering riches, many with disputed histories against the context of the empire's colonial past. The value of the British crown jewels — which aren't state property but come under royal authority — is estimated to go up to almost $6 billion, with private jewelry collections accounting for many eye-popping millions more (per Reader's Digest). Tiaras contribute to the wealth of Britain's monarchical vaults, some of the most famous pieces contained in Queen Elizabeth II's personal stockpile. 

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, for instance. One of the most recognizable sparklers (you might have seen it on a sterling banknote, no biggie!), it was an evident favorite of the queen and figures on several official portraits (via the Royal Collection Trust). She kept her jewelry safe open for royal ladies in the family to borrow from, lending exquisite heirloom headpieces like the Diamond Bandeau Tiara to Meghan Markle on her wedding day. According to historian Lauren Kiehna, King Charles III will likely sustain his mother's tradition of generosity with ornaments after his possible inheritance of them.  

The British royals' tiara reserve is priceless. But if we absolutely have to put a number to that elusive behemoth ... let's just say that the most expensive headpiece is estimated to be over $12 million (via money.co.uk). It's the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara that Princess Eugenie wore to her wedding, in case you were wondering.