The meaning behind the Princess of Wales’ jewellery during Ramaphosa’s state visit

Nothing warrants a rifle through the royal jewellery vaults like a state occasion, says Tamara Abraham - CHRIS JACKSON
Nothing warrants a rifle through the royal jewellery vaults like a state occasion, says Tamara Abraham - CHRIS JACKSON

Nothing warrants a rifle through the royal jewellery vaults like a state occasion, and this week’s visit from Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, did not disappoint.

As the first state banquet of King Charles’ reign, and in turn, Catherine’s as Princess of Wales, she has been granted access to a wealth of new pieces which convey her new status.

Over the past 24 hours we’ve seen her wear Queen Alexandra’s historic Three Feathers brooch, a new (antique) art-deco brooch, and the return of the much-loved Lover’s Knot tiara. These are the stories behind them…

Queen Alexandra’s Three Feathers brooch

This was the first time Kate has been pictured with the brooch, which has been worn by Princesses of Wales since it was gifted to Princess Alexandra of Denmark by the Ladies of North Wales society when she married the future King Edward VII in 1863. After Alexandra’s death in 1925, it was inherited by the Queen Mother, who then gifted it to Diana when she married the then-Prince Charles.

The central feature is the Prince of Wales crest, which is embellished with diamonds, rubies and emeralds to represent the colours of the Welsh flag. The pendant (which is detachable) is a 15-carat cabochon emerald.

Diana wore the brooch frequently during her time as Princess of Wales, so in wearing it, Kate is paying homage to her late mother-in-law, as well as telegraphing her new status.

Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the Ceremonial Welcome at Horse Guards Parade for President Cyril Ramaphosa
Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the Ceremonial Welcome at Horse Guards Parade for President Cyril Ramaphosa

The Collingwood pearl drop earrings

We’ve seen Kate in these earrings several times before, most notably at the Baftas and for nephew Archie’s christening in 2019, as well as for a Buckingham Palace reception in 2018. They previously belonged to Diana, and were part of the personal jewellery collection left to her sons in order that they could be worn and enjoyed by their future

Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara

Commissioned by Queen Mary in 1913, this tiara is a copy of the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, which had been a wedding gift to her aunt, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, a century prior. It was inherited by Mary’s granddaughter, the late Queen, after her death in 1953.

The tiara was on long-term loan to Princess Diana during the 1980s and is now Kate’s tiara of choice for formal occasions such as Tuesday’s banquet for Ramaphosa.

The Queen Mother gifted the brooch to Diana when she married the then-Prince Charles - Chris Jackson
The Queen Mother gifted the brooch to Diana when she married the then-Prince Charles - Chris Jackson

According to Lauren Kienha of the Court Jeweller, the tiara was made by Garrard and originally featured another row of upright pearls atop the tiara as well, although Mary later had those replaced with a row of diamonds.

Horseshoe and Laurel Leaf pearl drop earrings

These earrings belonged to Diana too, and are a pair she continued to wear after her divorce from Charles. Kate wore them most recently for the Service Of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. Laurel is traditionally a symbol of achievement and success (the root of the word ‘laureate’), while the horseshoe signifies luck and protection.

 Catherine, Princess of Wales during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
Catherine, Princess of Wales during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace

Diamond art-deco brooch

This was also seen for the first time at the Service of Remembrance and appears to be a new addition to Kate’s collection. For Tuesday’s banquet it was pinned at her shoulder to keep her sash in place. It is believed to have been acquired in January 2022 – around the time of her 40th birthday – from antique jewellery specialists Bentley & Skinner, which holds a Royal Warrant.

The diamond and platinum brooch is thought to have been made in the 1920s and contains an estimated 4.5 carats of diamonds. The design is typical of the art-deco era.

The four-row pearl bracelet

Kate’s four-row pearl bracelet previously belonged to the late Queen and is part of a set which includes a Japanese pearl choker. She wore the necklace for Her Late Majesty’s funeral in September, to the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in 2021, and to celebrate the Queen and Prince Philip’s 70th wedding anniversary in 2017.

The set is thought to have been commissioned by the late Queen in the 1970s after the pearls were gifted to her by the Japanese government on a State visit.

Catherine, Princess of Wales and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa share a toast during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
Catherine, Princess of Wales and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa share a toast during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace

The sash and star of the Royal Victorian Order

The blue sash with a red-white-red striped edge is worn by members of the Royal Victoria Order, along with the white and gold ‘Maltese Cross’. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch, and was awarded to Kate on her eighth wedding anniversary in 2019 by the Late Queen.

Kate wears two versions of the cross, the more elaborate version of which indicates that she holds the highest grade membership and the title Dame Grand Cross. The Queen Consort and Countess of Wessex have also received the same honour.

The blue sash with a red-white-red striped edge is worn by members of the Royal Victoria Order, along with the white and gold ‘Maltese Cross’ - REUTERS
The blue sash with a red-white-red striped edge is worn by members of the Royal Victoria Order, along with the white and gold ‘Maltese Cross’ - REUTERS

The Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II

The medallion on yellow silk pinned near the left shoulder of her gown, is the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II and conveys Kate’s senior status. It features a miniature portrait of the Queen in her youth surrounded by diamonds and topped with a Tudor crown. It is only given to female members of the Royal Family and was also worn by the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Diana.