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The George IV State Diadem: A Royal Treasure Rich in History

The George IV Diadem. Image from Royal Collection Trust

The George IV State Diadem is one of the most interesting and precious tiaras in the royal vault. Indeed, images of this head ornament has graced postage stamps and coins, featuring the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. 

In 1820, after the long wait, King George IV finally succeeded to the throne. He wanted a grand coronation like no other, so he commissioned Rundell & Bridge to make him diadem, which he would wear on his coronation procession to Westminster Abbey. The tiara cost £8,216 to make; £800 of which was paid to “hire” the diamonds. However, it seemed that the diamonds were never returned to the jewellers and an arrangement was made instead. 

King George IV. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Queen Victoria wearing the Diamond Diadem. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The crown consists of  1,333 diamonds weighing a total of 320 carats (64 g), including a four-carat yellow diamond in the front cross pattée set in gold and silver frame, which measures 7.5 centimetres (3.0 in) tall and 19 centimetres (7.5 in) in diameter. The crown’s upper string used to have 86 pearls and the lower 94. They were later altered for Queen Alexandra in 1902 and the pearls were changed to 81 and 88 in 1902.  

The diadem features floral symbols of the United Kingdom: four bouquets of roses (England), thistles (Scotland) and shamrocks (Ireland), the floral symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland respectively, alternating with four crosses pattée around the top of its base. At the time of the king’s coronation, the United Kingdom was only 10 years old. Wanting to showcase a sense of patriotism, the new king instructed that that the kingdoms floral symbols be featured rather than usual fleurs-de-lys.

Queen Alexandra wearing the Diamond Diadem, with her daughters Princess Louise (left) and Princess Victoria (right), c1905. Image from Wikimedia Commons

A portrait of King George V and Queen Mary, who is seen wearing the Diamond Diamond. Image from Wikimedia Commons

While the diadem was made for the king, it was subsequently worn by every queen and queen consort of the United Kingdom, beginning with Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV, onwards. The diadem was first altered during the reign of Queen Victoria, when she had it reset with the jewels from the royal collection. This blog notes that one interesting thing about the tiara is that while it is part of the Crown regalia, it is so popular that is also considered as "just another" tiara. It’s so symbolic and historic and takes such a crown-like form, it can be classified right up there with other Crown Jewels. Throughout the tiara’s history, the tiara was used by queens both for “regular” non-state occasions. The diadem was Queen Victoria’s favorite that she wore it even during her children’s christenings. In her will, though, she left the tiara to the Crown. Queen Alexandra  and Queen Mary were also fans of the diadem. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reportedly had the tiara altered (again) when King George VI succeeded to the throne.

A coronation souvenir featuring Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Diamond Diamond. Image from Flickr.

Queen Elizabeth II has started wearing the diadem after her accession in 1952. She wore during the procession to her coronation in 1953. Compared to her predecessors, the tiara is worn exclusively on state occasions: to and from each State Opening of Parliament and for official portraits. When not in use, the diadem is on display in the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace. You can also read more about the Queen’s tiaras here


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