Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Jewel Box: The Delhi Durbar Tiara

We're starting our 'Jewel Box series' with a particularly magnificent tiara: the Delhi Durbar Tiara.

The Royal Collection


The Delhi Durbar was a massive celebration at Coronation Park in Delhi, India to mark the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India. The event was held three times in all in 1877, 1903 and 1911. The 1911 Durbar was the only one attended by the sovereign, George V.

King George V and Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar

For such a momentous occasion Queen Mary was going to need some serious jewels. However it was determined the crown jewels could not leave the United Kingdom so a new crown was ordered for George V and a new tiara for Mary. Garrard created an incredibly grand piece of jewellery, the Delhi Durbar Tiara. It was presented to the Queen by the Maharanee of Patiala on behalf of the ladies of India to mark the first visit by a British Queen-Empress. At Mary's behest, it was designed to match her other emerald jewellery created for the Delhi Durbar.

The Royal Collection / Official Delhi Durbar Portrait

The tiara takes the form of a tall circlet of lyres and S-scrolls, linked by festoons of rose and brilliant-cut diamonds. The upper boarder was originally set with ten of the Cambridge emeralds acquired by Queen Mary in 1910. The emeralds were previously owned by Mary's grandmother the Duchess of Cambridge, and they were originally bequeathed to Mary's brother who left them to his mistress. Upon hearing this, Mary demanded them back (and one simply does not say no to the Queen!)

The Royal Collection / Official Delhi Durbar Portrait

The emeralds were removed in 1922 for use elsewhere. The year following the Delhi Durbar the tiara was altered to take either or both of the two Lesser Stars of Africa - Cullinan III and IV; the drop-shaped stone was held at the top of the tiara and the cushion-shaped stone hung in the oval aperture below. Below we see Queen Mary wearing the tiara with the Cullinan III and IV diamonds.

The Royal Collection

Queen Mary lent the tiara to her daughter-in-law Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) in 1946. She wore it for the 1947 royal tour to South Africa and it remained with her until her death in 2002 (although it is not believed she wore it publicly after the tour), when it was inherited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is interesting to note The Queen has never worn it publicly.


The tiara re-emerged in 2005 when The Queen lent it to The Duchess of Cornwall for a banquet during a visit by the Norwegian Royal Family. Camilla hasn't worn it since, although it's entirely possible she will in the future. It would certainly make an excellent choice for a future Diplomatic Reception.

The British Monarchy /
It is undoubtedly a sizeable tiara but visually splendid. What do you think of the Delhi Durbar Tiara and its wearers over the years? Who wore it best?

9 comments:

  1. Would love to see Camilla wear the Tiara in it's original version.

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  2. Oooooh!! Queen mary must be one of the few women who can wear jewels enough to bury a normal person and look like she just threw them on.

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    1. Love your summary of Queen Mary, she usually looks so formidable in those old photos, but she must have been quite girly at heart given the focus she had on her magnificent jewels :)

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  3. Wow, imagine having a spare travel tiara made up for your visit to the sub-continent. It's magnificent, and at its best with the two Cullinan stones, they seem to have been discarded since. Had no idea this was the one Camilla wears, it really suits her and she looks sensational. Tiaras can sometimes look great in their illustration studio shot but rather different on the wearer. Others might be swamped by it -- and I love how very imperial Queen Mary naturally looks -- but I think this one has Camilla's name on it!

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  4. Bertie - I agree, this looks fantastic on Camilla and what a fantastic pic of her and Prince Charles. Its a beautiful tiara.

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  5. Caroline in MontanaThursday, 02 July, 2020

    Looks so great on Camilla, not just anyone could pull this tiara off! love the "Jewel Box" series and look forward to more. So glad you have revived this blog i can not tell you how much! Thanks Charlotte.

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  6. Dear Charlotte I am just loving this blog all of my royal interests tied into 1 blog Thank you! This tiara is just beautiful and I think Camilla is the perfect choice to wear it into the future as Queen Consort. Hope we get to see it again with the Cullinan diamonds insitu. Sue in WA

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  7. As others have said before me, the Delhi Durbar is a small crown more than a tiara, and was meant to be seeing it was made for a celebration of George V`s accession in India. Because of its size, it is very difficult to wear to more mundane events. I used to think it looked a little empty on top after the emeralds had been removed for use as drops in the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, but the Duchess of Cornwall’s big hair balances that out excellently, and I am so glad the Delhi Durbar Tiara got an outing. I wonder if we will ever see the Duchess of Cornwall in the big and bold, but not particularly beautiful Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara; if anyone can make that look good, it’s her.

    Maggie - short for magpie

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  8. Love the close up of Queen Mary with the emeralds.

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