Duchess of Northumberland’s Tiaras

Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Northumberland, who turns 60 today! As the wife of the illustrious Duke of Northumberland, she is the chatelaine of the famous Alnwick Castle among a host of stately homes around the country, and is known for redeveloping the The Alnwick Garden. The Duchess is also the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland. In honour of her birthday, we are taking a look at the Duchess of Northumberland’s Tiaras, none of which she has publicly worn.

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But first, lets learn about the Duchess of Northumberland! The daughter of stockbroker John Richard  and the later Lady Buchan-Hepburn, Jane Richard was born in Edinburgh and aspired to become a champion figure-skater, practising for the Scottish Junior Championships but quitting when she was 13 and enrolling at the Cobham Hall School in Kent, following which she took a secretarial course in Oxford. In 1979, she married Lord Ralph Percy, second son of the 10th Duke of Northumberland, and the couple had four children, Lady Katie, Earl Percy, Lady Melissa, and Lord Max (married to Princess Nora of Oettingen-Spielberg), before unexpectedly succeeding to the Dukedom following the death of her brother-in-law, the 11th Duke, from an overdose. One of Britain’s Premier Dukedoms, the 12th Duche and Duchess became the custodians of Alnwick Castle, famous as Hogwarts, and Syon House in London. Initially unhappy in her new role, the Duchess took on the project of renovating the extensive Alnwick Garden at Alnwick Castle, and turned it into one of the biggest visitor attractions in North East England, through great criticism and strain, but with the support of family friend, the Prince of Wales, and has famously cultivated the world’s deadliest garden. Since 2009, the Duchess has been the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, a post previously held by twelve members of the Percy family, but the Duchess is the first woman to receive the distinction, and holds that along with her patronage of over 150 charities. We wish Her Grace a very Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!

Strawberry Leaf Coronet

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Made of diamonds from a ceremonial sword present by King George IV to the 3rd Duke, the Northumberland Strawberry Leaf Coronet featured large strawberry leaf motifs rising from a diamond base, and was in the style of a Spanish Ducal Coronet. It was frequently worn by Helen Percy, the 8th Duchess of Northumberland, who was the Mistress of the Robes to the Queen Mother and frequently attended a host of glittering events, including the Coronations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. However, it was those events that proved fatal. In 1963, the Coronet was stolen when the Duchess’ car was ambushed outside her London home, after she had retrieved the piece from the bank. The Duchess of Devonshire wrote about the incident:

Even though Helen, Duchess of Northumberland, once had her tiara snatched off her head as she was leaving their house in Easton Square, we did not think of being mugged (the word did not exist).”

Foliate Tiara

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A wedding gift from the 6th Duke to his bride in 1845, the glittering Foliate Tiara can be broken down into 14 brooches and be worn as a necklace. While the 8th Duchess favoured the Coronet, her daughter-in-law, the 9th Duchess, frequently wore this tiara, most notably at Queen Charlotte’s Ball and the Queen’s Coronation (when she was heavily pregnant). Most recently, the Foliate Tiara was worn by Lady Melissa Percy at her wedding to Thomas van Straubenzee in 2013.

Scroll Tiara

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This Scroll Tiara of unknown provenance was worn by Lady Katie Percy at her 2011 wedding to Patrick Valentine. No other ladies of the Percy Family have been publicly photographed in this piece, neither before the wedding nor since, though the design looks to be an antique family heirloom.

Palmette Tiara

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Helen, the 8th Duchess of Northumberland also wore this splendid Diamond Tiara, of honeysuckle motifs, quite often in the 1950s, notably for a Gala Performance at Covent Garden in 1950, the Opening of the Royal Festival Hall in 1951, and a Gala Performance during the Belgian State Visit in 1963. Again the provenance and its current location is unknown, but the design is similar to a Tiara worn by Queen Dina of Jordan at her Wedding to King Hussein in 1955.


4 thoughts on “Duchess of Northumberland’s Tiaras

  1. I think all three tiaras are lovely and quite different from each other. There seems to also be an heirloom diamond necklace as well. It’s amazing that the sisters didn’t use the same tiara as there were two (at least) in their vaults. I wonder if there are any more we don’t know of!

    1. There is at least another one more, which was worn by Helen, the Dowager Duchess at numerous occasions, but there is no clear face shot, so I didn’t include it!

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