Happy Birthday to Princess Michael of Kent, who turns 72 today. Born a Baroness of German and Hungarian descent, she spent her childhood in Australia and had gotten married and divorced to an English Banker, when she met Prince Michael of Kent (a cousin of the Queen) in the 1970s. They got married in 1978 in Vienna, and though Prince Michael lost his succession rights to the throne, they were reinstated in 2015. Princess Michael is an author, and one of her most popular books, The Serpent and The Moon, is about her famous ancestor Diane de Poitiers. The couple have two children and live in Kensington Palace. In honour of her birthday, we will take a look at one of her most worn tiaras during her tenure as a member of the British Royal family.
The Kent Festoon Tiara is composed of a series of elaborate diamond elements (festoons) topped by a single pearl. The tiara originally featured a base of collet diamonds, but they were replaced with a base of a row of pearls by Princess Michael. Unlike most other jewels from the Kent collection, this tiara has no clear provenance. It was made, possibly by Cartier, around 1900. The tiara first appeared on Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent in the 1950s, and may have been inherited from Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (a daughter of Queen Victoria) in 1939.
Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, the daughter-in-law of King George V and aunt of Queen Elizabeth II, started wearing the Festoon Tiara in the 1950s, by then widowed for almost 10 years. Some of the earliest appearances were at the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and a series of portraits by Dorothy Wilding. Princess Marina wore the Festoon Tiara for a lot of grand occasions during the 1950s and 60s, often with her Girandole Earrings. At her death in 1968, the Kent Festoon Tiara passed to her younger son, Prince Michael of Kent.
In 1960, Princess Marina lent the Festoon Tiara to her daughter, Princess Alexandra of Kent, when she represented the Queen during the Independence of Nigeria. Princess Alexandra wore the tiara at one of the main events and the opening of parliament, when she delivered speeches.
In 1962, Princess Marina again lent the Festoon Tiara, this time to her daughter-in-law and successor Katherine, Duchess of Kent. The Duchess wore the Tiara when she and the Duke went to represent the Queen at the Independence of Uganda. The Duchess of Kent wore the tiara at the main ceremony and at the Opening of Parliament the next day. In 1965, the Duchess of Kent wore the Tiara at a gala event during the Independence of Gambia.
Princess Michael of Kent started to wear her mother-in-law’s Festoon Tiara soon after her marriage. Though not her most worn Tiara, which is the City of London Fringe, the Festoon Tiara has been worn for many official portraits and foreign royal events. Prince and Princess Michael regularly attend (but are not usually photographed at) State Banquets, and the Kent Festoon Tiara was worn most recently at the Wedding Ball of Crown Prince Leka of Albania in October. I wish Princess Michael a very Happy Birthday and many more Tiara wearing occasions.
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