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The pretty diamonds of a princess – and the best royal wedding tiara of all?

It’s grand, unforgettable and forever associated with one of the most famous princesses of the 20th century. The tiara chosen by Princess Margaret for her wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones in May 1960 has become iconic. In fact, it was such a successful pick, it begs the question – is Margaret’s the best royal wedding tiara of all?

The Poltimore Tiara, to give this sparkler its most well used name, ticks just about every box when it comes to bridal perfection. It’s stunning, it’s very sparkly and it has quite the story attached to it. For the first major royal bride of the Sixties didn’t wait for a prince to buy her these diamonds. This tiara was Margaret’s alone.

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The Queen’s sister bought the diadem at auction in 1959, no doubt with her royal wedding in mind. She paid £5,500 for the gem when it was auctioned by Christie’s. For the not inconsiderable price tag she got herself a tiara that could also be used as a necklace and brooches. But, perhaps more importantly, she got herself a symbol of royalty that was hers alone.

For Margaret had always been the back up act. The second child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, she had grown up close to the sister who became Monarch in 1952 but she was always aware that history had different paths for them. She took on a wide range of engagements to support Queen Elizabeth II but knew better than anyone that her royal role would constantly shift as a new generation came to the fore. Margaret was very good at being royal but she usually had to make do with being one step behind. Her wedding day, however, belonged just to her and she was ready for her close up with a tiara that could rival any in the royal collection.

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The diadem itself was already pretty historic by the time Margaret wore it as a bride. Created in 1870 by Garrard, it first belonged to Lady Poltimore, whose husband would go on to become Treasurer to Queen Victoria’s Household.It is made up of diamond scrolls and clusters that snake to a formidable height. It’s also a complete circlet, wrapping almost all the way around the wearer’s head – an unusual look for a 20th century tiara.

Its intricate design is also very regal and was used by Margaret to great effect in her wedding look. Her dress, by favourite royal couturier Norman Hartnell, was the model of simplicity featuring a jacket style bodice with a huge, full length skirt and no embellishments. The diamonds also lent the bride several well received inches – Margaret was quite short but the towering tiara ensured she was a majestic figure as she entered Westminster Abbey to say ‘I do’. This diadem was designed to impress.

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But then it had to. Margaret’s was the first royal wedding to be televised with millions tuning in around the world to see the princess say ‘I do’. It also had to have an air of romance for this was the marriage of a royal who had once given up love for the sake of her dynasty. Margaret’s famous declaration that she would renounce her relationship with the divorced Peter Townsend had won her huge sympathy. Everyone wanted a happy ending and that meant a princess looking like she’d just stepped out of a fairytale. But it also had to be theatrical. Margaret loved performing and was rather good at putting on a show herself. It’s no wonder she picked the picture perfect Poltimore for her tiara.

It was an instant hit and remains so to this day. The tiara itself became forever associated with Margaret and its royal life ended with her. Her children sold the Poltimore at auction, several years after losing their mother, and its whereabouts are now a mystery. However, it is part of one of the most famous royal weddings of the 20th century while the royal touch it added to an influential wedding look is undeniable. Which just leaves one questions – is this the best royal wedding tiara of them all?

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.