If anyone was going to show us the honourable draw between a Crown and a hat, it was the Queen. As debate continued over whether Her Majesty should use the Imperial State Crown for the State Opening of Parliament, Elizabeth II had a rather elegant compromise. For this Queen’s Speech, the Monarch wore an all diamond diadem that was originally created for a king.
To be fair, it’s a diadem that has more than its fair share of associations with the State Opening of Parliament. The Queen usually wears the King George IV State Diadem for the procession to and from the Palace of Westminster. However, this time she chose not to swap to the Imperial State Crown which was instead carried before her into the House of Lords on a red velvet cushion by a rather calm looking Marquis of Cholmondeley.
The diadem itself is much lighter than the State Crown but is still a highly symbolic piece of jewellery. It is also among the most familiar signs of Elizabeth II’s reign as she has been shown wearing it on the portraits used on stamps and coins in Britain and the Commonwealth.
George IV had the diadem made in 1820 as he finally ascended the throne after over fifty years as heir to the throne and ten as regent. The gold and silver frame is decorated with over 1,300 diamonds and its design was rather modern at the time. Around the central cross, the new king had the gemstones worked into the four symbols for England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland rather than traditional heraldic symbols.
It could be seen as a canny move by George who was constantly criticised for his excessive spending. This diadem, which was worn by the king on the way to his coronation in 1821, helped to underline his position at the heart of his new realm. However, following his death it passed into the jewellery collection marked ‘queens only’. Every consort since has worn it as have the two queens regnant, Victoria and Elizabeth II.
The Queen wore the George IV State Diadem to her first State Opening of Parliament in 1952. Then, the Imperial State Crown wasn’t an option as her own coronation hadn’t taken place. Now, 67 years later, the diadem is a seemingly obvious choice given the weight of the State Crown and the fact that the Queen is now 93 years old.
A recent poll on Royal Central showed that two thirds of our readers wanted the Queen to wear the Crown rather than a hat to the State Opening. With this symbolic choice, Elizabeth II has given us all the pomp of this ceremonial event with her very own touch.