The Most Over-The-Top Headpieces Worn To Royal Weddings

Royal weddings come with a lot of extravagance, but nothing takes the cake quite like the headpieces guests wear. In the United Kingdom, the headpieces are called fascinators and seem to serve no functional purpose whatsoever. Think of them as headbands gone wild.

The purely aesthetic headpieces are simply for adornment and have become a symbol of high-society women in royal circles. In fact, it's become a royal tradition for women in the family to wear hats, and fascinators certainly fit the bill. The late Princess Diana wore some epic headpieces and hats in her day, and the tradition carries on.

We're most likely to see fascinators at royal weddings because they've become synonymous with British status. "When it comes to a special occasion in British society, the special occasion is not complete without a hat," fashion director Hilary Alexander told ABC News. "There has to be a hat, it's part of the social fabric." And when it comes to these headpieces, it seems like the more over the top, the better.

Princess Beatrice's headpiece at Catherine and William's wedding

At this point, there may be no headpiece more famous than the one Princess Beatrice wore in 2011. She wore a spectacularly ornate fascinator to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, made by Philip Treacy. The headpiece was beige, the same color as her coat dress, and it stood vertically on her head in a bow shape.

Beatrice was absolutely ridiculed online for what was infamously dubbed "the pretzel hat," and milliner Treacy was also roasted for it. Speaking on Desert Island Discs for BBC Radio 4, Treacy recalled that he thought the hat might destroy his reputation. "There was a moment where I thought I would find myself with my head on a spike outside the Tower of London," he said. "But it was a very modern hat, and modernity is always an unusual thing."

As for Beatrice, she made lemonade out of lemons and sold the headpiece on eBay for £81,100.01 — over $100,000. She donated the money to UNICEF and Children in Crisis. On the auction page, Beatrice thanked her bidders. "I've been amazed by the amount of attention the hat has attracted," she wrote, per the BBC. "It's a wonderful opportunity to raise as much money as possible for two fantastic charities. I hope whoever wins the auction has as much fun with the hat as I have." That's certainly an impressive turnaround after all of the trolling.

Princess Eugenie's blue headpiece

Princess Eugenie, sister to Princess Beatrice, also wore a headpiece by Philip Treacy to the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales. Her hat was of a different variety altogether, but it was no less ornate. Eugenie chose a blue, almond-shaped hat that boasted a rich bouquet of plumage near the back of her head. The blue of her hat perfectly accompanied the blue of her Vivienne Westwood skirt and jacket. Like her sister, Eugenie was lambasted online for wearing such an elaborate headpiece.

This ridicule was hard on both of them — and not for the last time. In September 2018, the sisters sat down with British Vogue and gave an example of another time they struggled with harsh criticism in the press. "There was a horrible article that had been written about Beatrice, and she got really upset," Eugenie told the outlet. "[S]he had a bit of a wobble and cried. I was looking after her. And then about an hour later, I had a wobble and started crying, and Bea was there for me." Clearly, it was a lot to take in for both of the sisters, but they took it in stride.

Queen Camilla turned it up at Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall's wedding

Camilla, Queen Consort, wore an ornate headpiece to the wedding of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall. The wedding, which took place on July 30, 2011, was hot on the heels of that of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales' big day. However, Phillips and Tindall's big day was much more subdued than that of their predecessors. They tied the knot at an intimate gathering in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What wasn't subdued was Camilla's headpiece. The then-Duchess of Cornwall wore a large, floral wreath that looked something like a halo. At the base were several pale pink roses, and the headpiece cascaded from there in a spray of white flowers. Camilla was teased online, with some saying that she had worn a "pot plant" on her head, per The Mirror. Camilla paired her headpiece with a mint-green coatdress and opted for statement jewelry. She wore a choker made of five strands of pearls, centered around a pink topaz set in diamonds. She was no wallflower at that wedding!

Catherine, Princess of Wales, chose feathers for the wedding of Laura Parker-Bowles

Catherine, Princess of Wales, rarely misses the mark with her fashion, but the headpiece she wore to the wedding of Laura Parker-Bowles was from an era of taste that she's fortunately grown out of. To be fair, it was back in 2006, and Catherine was still just girlfriend status. Nevertheless, the wedding of the daughter of Camilla, Queen Consort, and Andrew Parker Bowles was a high-profile event to attend. It was a big step for Prince William and Catherine as a couple, as they celebrated his step-sister's special day.

Catherine opted for a cream-colored coatdress, a fashion staple she has still not dropped. The coat was by Day Birger et Mikkelsen and she paired it with nude heels and a round, feathery, fluffy fascinator made of cream and brown colored feathers. While we've seen Catherine re-wear the coat several times since, the fascinator has never made another appearance.

Princess Beatrice and the butterflies

Leave it to Princess Beatrice to make the list twice. Our girl loves her headpieces. In 2008, she attended the wedding of her cousin Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly and chose an absolute rainbow of accessories. Like she did years later, Beatrice commissioned her hat from Philip Treacy, who crafted a headpiece made of butterflies that crowded the right side of her head. She wore an equally colorful dress with tones that matched her butterflies and paired her look with a white blazer.

Unfortunately, the young princess was teased for her choice of headwear and, considering the fact that she was younger here than she was at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, the mockery likely hurt just as much, if not more. This is why fashion editor Hadley Freeman's piece in The Guardian in praise of Beatrice was that much more refreshing. Freeman pointed out that Beatrice had routinely been roasted in the press at this point, so she knew it was coming. The fact that she showed up in a headpiece made of monarch butterflies in flight was a pretty impressive stance of self-assurance.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson went all blue at Catherine and William's wedding

English socialite and media personality Tara Palmer-Tomkinson attended the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, in a monochromatic blue outfit that grabbed everyone's attention. Palmer-Tomkinson wore an off-the-shoulder blue dress with blue opera-length gloves. She paired these with blue stiletto heels, a blue clutch, and a matching, oval-shaped fascinator that hovered vertically over her head. In the center of it was a blue flower.

In fashion assessments after the royal wedding, British outlets voted that Palmer-Tomkinson had done quite well for herself in sartorial choices. She had actually been concerned about a nose injury. Due to cocaine use in her earlier years, Palmer-Tomkinson had her nose reconstructed in 2006, but the results of the surgery had since sagged, and Palmer-Tomkinson needed to have her nose worked on again. "If I can get my nose fixed for the wedding that would be ideal," she had told the Daily Mail months before the wedding. Perhaps that's why her headpiece hung so low on her face. Tragically, Palmer-Tomkinson died in 2017 when she was 45 of a perforated ulcer.

Camilla goes all pink for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding

Camilla, Queen Consort, knocked it out of the park again with the over-the-top headpiece she chose for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Camilla arrived in pastel pink, wearing a hat by Philip Treacy that was also a shade of pink. Camilla's subdued coatdress, designed by Anna Valentine, made way for the opulence of her headpiece. The piece was circular in shape with layers of full feathers, giving her outfit a dazzling, playful look. Camilla also opted for the five-string choker of pearls that fans saw her in before at the wedding of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall.

Camilla has a long-standing relationship with milliner Treacy. He designed the two headpieces she wore for her own wedding day, opting out of the more traditional, more subdued tiara when she married then-Prince Charles. "Millinery is closely associated with the aristocracy so it still holds its regal connotations without being seen as too ostentatious," fashion instructor Louisa Rogers told Express. Camilla seems to have struck the perfect balance of elegant headwear without getting too formal. And her pink fluffy piece at Harry and Meghan's wedding was far from formal. It was all play.

Zara Phillips' intense look at William and Catherine's wedding

It seems that Philip Treacy is the go-to man for headpieces at royal weddings. He must get busy when it's the nuptial season for royals! At the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, Zara Phillips chose a hat by none other than Treacy. Phillips wore her black headpiece at a slant, a stiff cluster of black ribbon wrapping around it and jutting out from it in a way that almost made it look as if it were in motion. Perhaps because the hat was such a statement piece, she kept her jewelry minimal, wearing only pearl stud earrings.

Phillips' hat was a perfect complement to her metallic silver coat dress, which cropped at the knee and tied at the back with a bow. Fashion guru Molly Elizabeth spoke to Express about Phillips' look. "The grey coatdress seems to be a Paul Costelloe design with the Irish designer stating in April 2011 that he was dressing someone for the wedding event: 'It's a coat and dress,'" she said, quoting Costelloe. Of course, Elizabeth also made mention of the headpiece. "As with many royal events, Zara chose a large yet still elegant Philip Treacy creation," she added.

Queen Elizabeth's colorful hat at Prince Harry and Meghan Markles' wedding was typical of her

The late Queen Elizabeth II was never one to shy away from eventful headwear. In fact, it was more common to see the queen in statement hats rather than the fascinators that were often seen on other royal women. We saw a perfect example of the queen's taste in the hat that she chose to wear for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding. She pulled up at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle wearing a citrus-green dress with purple accessories. The royal family's official website actually gave details about the royal family's outfits at the wedding and described the queen's look in detail.

The dress she wore under her lime-green coatdress was done in purple, gray, and bright green silk. Her coat and dress were by Stuart Parvin. The hat that she wore was made by Angela Kelly and wrapped in the same silk her coat was. It was decorated with crystals and pearls by Lucy Price.

We never saw Princess Anne's bold headpiece again

Princess Anne has also rocked a few outlandish headpieces in her day. When the Princess Royal attended the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, she arrived in a lavender look. She chose a headpiece that was also lavender and sat flat on top of her head. She wore her hair in an updo and made her headpiece the central focus. In the middle of the headpiece there was a purple flower with lace. The look was heavily coordinated with a purple and green coatdress over a purple shift dress. She wore a necklace made of three strands of pearls.

Anne recycled the dress at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2022 for the Not Forgotten Association, a charity that helps wounded active-service military and veterans and of which she is a patron. However, the Princess Royal didn't recycle the headpiece. It could have been that the garden party simply wasn't formal enough for such a statement item, or it could be that the lavender headpiece was a one-hit wonder in her wardrobe.