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Tiaras and crowns: A look at the headpieces of the British royalty

A look at when and why royals have donned tiaras.
/ Source: TODAY

Children dressing up as princesses know that an outfit isn’t complete without the crowning glory: a tiara adorned with as much bling as possible.

That’s why people took notice when the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out earlier this week wearing a diamond-studded diadem for a state dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Image: State Visit Of The President Of The People's Republic Of China
Duchess Kate and Queen Elizabeth during a Buckingham Palace dinner welcoming the Chinese presidentWPA Pool / Getty Images

It was only the third time Duchess Kate has been seen with a tiara, and she owned the look with the best of the royals, including Queen Elizabeth, sitting just inches away wearing a sparkly sapphire headpiece of her own.

For the record, tiaras shouldn’t be confused with crowns.

“Anyone can wear a tiara, assuming it's the right occasion. Crowns, however, connote state power,” pointed out royals expert Arianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University.

Princess Diana, Duchess Kate wearing tiaras
Princess Of Wales In Hong Kong Wearing A Pearl And Diamond Tiara Which Was A Wedding Gift From The Queen. Britain's Prince William's wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, smiles as they travel in the 1902 State Landau carriage along the Processional Route to Buckingham Palace, in London, on April 29, 2011.Getty Images

In keeping with royal tradition, Duchess Kate has worn a tiara to one additional white-tie event, as well as on her wedding day. Her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, also was known to don tiaras for formal events.

Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, breaks out the Imperial State Crown for diplomatic or state occasions, such as the opening of Parliament.

Here’s a look at just a few occasions when British royalty have dressed their part:

State dinners

Duchess Kate donned the Lotus Flower Tiara, sometimes referred to as the Papyrus Tiara, for Tuesday's state dinner at Buckingham Palace welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

A loaner from Queen Elizabeth, the headpiece dates back to the Queen Mother and also has belonged to Elizabeth’s only sibling, Princess Margaret.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and the Queen Mother in Lotus Flower tiaras
Duchess Kate, and the Queen Mother, wearing the Lotus Flower, or Papyrus, Tiara.Reuters, Getty Images

Duchess Kate wore the same tiara once before, when she headed to a diplomatic reception at the palace in 2013.

Duchess Kate, as she headed to Buckingham Palace reception in 2013.
Duchess Kate, as she headed to Buckingham Palace reception in 2013.Jesal Tanna / Splash News

At the same state dinner Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth wore her own majestic headpiece, a sapphire tiara she commissioned to match a necklace and earrings given to her as a wedding present from her father, King George VI.

Among the many other occasions the queen has worn the entire Sapphire Suite was during a D-Day invasion anniversary banquet, where she sat next to former President Bill Clinton.

Queen Elizabeth wearing the sapphire tiara
Queen Elizabeth, wearing the King George VI Victorian Sapphire Suite, sits alongside then-President Bill Clinton at the Guildhall in June 1994 prior to attending a banquet for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The suite is made up of a tiara, earrings and necklace and although it has been altered through the years, it was originally a gift from the Queen’s father, King George VI in 1947. Peng Liyuan (L), the wife of President of China Xi Jinping, accompanies Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) as they arrive for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the People's Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of the Queen. They will stay at Buckingham Palace and undertake engagements in London and Manchester. The last state visit paid by a Chinese President to the UK was Hu Jintao in 2005.Getty Images

Legislation and Coronations

When Americans think of the British Crown Jewels, the Imperial State Crown usually comes to mind. It’s what Queen Elizabeth wears when, as head of state, she formally opens Parliament with an annual address.

Adrian Dennis / AP

The crown is the same one she wore during her coronation on June 2, 1953, more than a year after she ascended to the throne.

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth with Prince PhillipGetty Images


It’s become expected to see a royal bride wear a tiara and the former Kate Middleton did not veer from tradition during her 2011 wedding to Prince William. The duchess wore the Cartier Halo tiara, borrowed from Queen Elizabeth, to anchor her wedding veil.

Kate Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day
WPA Pool

The headpiece, made in 1936, was commissioned by the future King George VI for his wife, Queen Elizabeth’s mother, shortly before he became monarch.

Princess Diana had the option of borrowing from the queen for her bridal headpiece, but she instead chose to go with a family heirloom.

Princess Diana in her wedding gown
Lichfield / Getty Images

The Spencer Family Tiara became a favorite of Diana's, who went on to wear it at many state occassions throughout her life.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana, wearing the Spencer Family Tiara, at a banquet given by the president of India in 1992.Princess Diana Archive via Getty Images