Today marks the 80th Anniversary of the Death of Dame Margaret Greville, the Hon Mrs Greville, who was passed away on this day in 1942! The illegitimate daughter of a brewery millionaire, she married the son of a Baron, and became a noted Society Hostess, from her magnificent home at Polesden Lacey, getting close to the Queen Mother, to whom she left her enormous Jewellery Collection, so to mark the Anniversary today, we are featuring the Greville Tiara!
Designed as a distinctive honeycomb by Lucien Hirtz of Boucheron in Paris in 1921, using stones from an earlier Palmette Tiara, the original Greville Tiara, also known as the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, was shaped like a Kokoshnik, with large diamonds set within the ‘honeycombs’. Despite her legendary jewellery collection, Dame Margaret was rarely pictured in grand jewels, though she may have worn this Tiara for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, at which she was a personal guest of the King and Queen.
Dame Margaret Greville made no secret of the fact that she would leave Polesden Lacey to the then Duke and Duchess of York, but after their accession to the Throne in 1937, she instead left the house to the National Trust, which was only revealed after her death. However, the majority of her magnificent Jewellery Collection, all pieces valued over 100 pounds, was still inherited by Queen Elizabeth, who appears to have worn the Greville Tiara and Greville Festoon Necklace even before inheriting them, on the famous Royal Visit to Paris in 1938 (in images recently discovered by Franck). In 1942, the Queen wrote to Queen Mary:
I must tell you that Mrs Greville has left me her jewels, She has left them to me ‘with her loving thoughts,’ dear old thing, and I feel very touched, I don’t suppose I shall see what they consist of for a long time, owing to the slowness of lawyers & death duties etc, but it is rather exciting to be left something, and I do admire beautiful stones with all my heart.”
When the jewels arrived to the Queen a few months later, there was much unwanted press attention on the contents of the initialled black trunk, which included this Diamond Tiara, an Emerald Tiara, the Festoon Necklace, a Ruby and Diamond Floral Bandeau Necklace, two Emerald Necklaces, and a pair of Pearl Earrings, alongside several spectacular Diamond Earrings, Necklaces, Brooches and Bracelets, the true extent of which has never been publicly revealed.
Due to the ongoing war, Queen Elizabeth was unable to publicly wear the Greville Tiara until 1947, when it was debuted on the Royal Family’s Tour of South Africa, and after that was worn for the Dutch State Visit in 1950, during the Danish State Visit to Britain in 1951, and on a visit to Rhodesia in 1953, not long after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, when the now Queen Mother was left with the Greville Tiara, along with Queen Victoria’s Oriental Circlet Tiara and Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara.
Later in 1953, the Queen Mother had the Tiara slightly altered by Cartier, with additional hight added by reconfiguring the top row and a large marquise-cut diamond along with four round diamonds added from a dismantled brooch.
The Tiara then became a favourite of the Queen Mother, worn alternatingly with Queen Victoria’s Oriental Circlet Tiara, for the rest of her five decades of widowhood. The Tiara was worn on for a visit to New York City in 1954, at the RAF 40th Anniversary Banquet in 1958, for a visit to the Vatican in 1959, during the French State Visit to Britain in 1960, for a Gala Performance at Covent Garden in 1960, during the Belgian State Visit to Britain in 1963, for the Wedding of her goddaughter, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, and Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in 1968, at the RAF Golden Jubilee Banquet in 1968, on the Italian State Visit to Britain in 1969, and for the Commonwealth Leaders’ Banquet at Buckingham Palace in 1969, in the midst of countless Gala Evenings.
The Greville Tiara continued to be worn as the Queen Mother entered her 70s, more often with Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Gift Necklace or the Greville Emerald Necklace than with the Greville Festoon Necklace, with prominent appearances at the Japanese State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in 1971, during the Afghan State Visit to Britain in 1971, for the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral in 1971, during the Dutch State Visit to Britain in 1972, for the Swedish State Visit to Britain in 1975, the Wedding Gala of the Prince of Wales in 1981, the Oman State Visit to Britain in 1982, the Royal Film Premiere of Gandhi in 1982, the Dutch State Visit to Britain in 1982, for the Queen’s 60th Birthday Concert in 1986, and during the Spanish State Visit to Britain in 1986, alongside numerous Galas, Banquets, and Portraits.
The Queen Mother continued to wear the Greville Tiara into her 90s, usually with the Greville Festoon Necklace, with some notable appearances during the Polish State Visit to Britain in 1991, the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral in 1991, the Malaysian State Visit to Britain in 1993, and finally for Japanese and German State Banquets in 1998, which were her final Tiara Appearances. After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, the Greville Tiara, like all her jewels, was inherited by the Queen.
However, like many of the Queen Mother’s jewels, the Greville Tiara is on long-term loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, wife of the Queen Mother’s favourite grandson, the Prince of Wales, who has the Cubitt-Shand Tiara from her own family and was loaned the Delhi Durbar Tiara for her first State Banquet. The Greville Tiara first made a public appearance at a Brazilian State Banquet in 2006, and since then has been worn for the majority of her Tiara events, including all State Banquets and most diplomatic Receptions.
The Greville Tiara has been worn for all four of the Duchess’ foreign Tiara appearances; at the CHOGM Banquet in Uganda in 2007, at Queen Beatrix’s Abdication Dinner in 2013, for the CHOGM Banquet in Sri Lanka in 2013, and at the CHOGM Banquet in Malta in 2015. The Tiara has also been worn when the Prince and Duchess have joined the Queen at the State Openings of Parliament, though that has been a rare case in recent years due to the less formal dress code as a result of Brexit and the Pandemic.
In the past few years, the Greville Tiara has become a major part of the ‘uniform’ of the Duchess of Cornwall, who bears it well in her everlasting hairstyles, usually worn with a white gown and one of her Pearl Chokers or her Modern Diamond Suite, though there can be some slight variations. The Greville Tiara was last publicly worn for the Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace in 2019, though there is no doubt we will see it worn for years to come!
UPDATE: This article was pre-written and scheduled before the Duchess became Queen of the United Kingdom, and thus, now it is unlikely that the Tiara will be worn anytime soon, with the Queen preferably wearing pieces from the Royal Collection.