Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Duchess Dazzles in Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara for Diplomatic Reception!

We love nothing more than a tiara appearance here at 'Duchess Kate Blog', so naturally many of us were very much hoping the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would attend tonight's Diplomatic Reception. Thankfully, we were not disappointed...

A glittering Duchess and the very smartly-dressed Duke arrived at Buckingham Palace in a chaffeur-driven car.

Hosted by Her Majesty the Queen, the white-tie reception is one of the most glamorous events on the royal calendar with the royals donning their most formal attire - gowns, jewels and Royal family orders are worn.

There was quite the royal presence tonight with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Cambridges in attendance.

Below we see Charles and Camilla arriving. 

In a break with tradition (and perhaps due to the persistent pleading of royal fans) Buckingham Palace released a photo from inside the reception with the six senior royals. It's a lovely opportunity to see the monarch, two heirs and their spouses together at such a formal event - the present and future of the Royal family. Reporters described the decision to release the photo as "remarkable".

The Mail Online offered a brief rundown of everyone's attire. The breeches worn by the male members above have garnered a giggle or two :)

  • The Queen - Her Majesty wore the Belgian Sapphire Tiara and the George VI Sapphire Suite with an Angela Kelly dress, Garter sash and Royal Family Order.
  • The Duchess of Cornwall - The Duchess is wearing the late Queen Mother's Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, also known as the Greville Tiara, Royal Family Order and a white beaded Burce Oldfield gown.
  • The Duke of Edinburgh - White Tie, and as a Knight of the Garter he wore the Order of the Garter, with Garter sash, with knee breeches.
  • The Prince of Wales - HRH wore the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the Most Honourable Order of the Bath and his diplomatic medals.
  • Prince William - White Tie, and as a Knight of the Garter he wore the Order of the Garter, with Garter sash, with knee breeches.

There are over 170 foreign missions accredited to the court of St James's in London (St James's Palace is still the senior palace and official residence of the sovereign). Each year Her Majesty throws a reception in their honour, and members of the Royal family in attendance make a point of meeting with each one. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed to the palace ballroom. At 36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m high, the ballroom is the largest multi-purpose room in Buckingham Palace. It was opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. It is used by the Queen for state banquets. Below, a look inside the ballroom at the 2015 state banquet William and Kate attended.

More from Rebecca English:

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

Tonight marks the third time the Cambridges have attended the reception. For their first outing in 2013 Kate wore a bespoke McQueen gown and the late Queen Mother's Papyrus/Lotus Flower tiara. It was a very memorable event as it marked the first white-tie reception the couple had attended and Kate's first tiara appearance since her wedding.

Last year, Kate surprised us all when she elected to wear the iconic Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara for the reception.

Photos from the reception were not released, but thanks to the fabulous Our Queen at Ninety documentary we got a proper look at the tiara on Kate, and her very princessy icy-blue McQueen gown.

Kate's dazzling red gown and sparkling jewels need no introduction.

The Duchess wore the red sparkling cap-sleeve Jenny Packham she debuted for the Chinese state banquet last year. For that event, Kate wore it with the Papyrus Tiara and the Queen's Chandelier earrings. It's such a beautiful, flowing gown, it's lovely to see it have another wear at the prestigious diplomatic reception.

Tonight, Kate selected the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara once again.

The tiara, which is steeped in royal history and is so closely associated with William's mother, looks beautiful on Kate. It's a stunning piece and one I expect we'll see the Duchess wearing throughout her life. The tiara features elements of the Gothic Revival style. The circle of the Cambridge Lover's Knot is made up of a lower semi-circular band, set with a row of brilliant cut diamonds. Where two adjacent arches meet, a pillar-like structure is formed that rises up and ends in a round diamond, forming a diamond spike. There are nineteen diamond spikes of this nature and the size gradually decreases from the centre towards both ends.

Order of Splendor

A quick recap on the history of the piece: the sparkler was commissioned from Garrard in 1913/1914 by Queen Mary, Queen Consort of King George V, using jewels she already had in her possession. Mary wanted to have a tiara created based on the design of her maternal godmother Princess Augusta of Hesse, the Duchess of Cambridge's  'Lovers Knot Tiara', whence comes the name. The original was a striking piece, and back then, lovers knot bows were very popular, so there were several similar ones made.

After Mary died in 1953, the tiara passed to Queen Elizabeth II who wore it on a number of occasions in the early 1950's, but the Queen decided to put it into storage.

In 1981, the day before Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, Her Majesty gave her soon-to-be daughter-in-law a red leather box, and inside lay the tiara. According to various media outlets young Diana exclaimed, "I have Brenda's rocks", referring to a nickname the British press had given the Queen. The Cambridge Lovers Knot became her go-to piece, however, the princess found it quite heavy and headache-inducing - reportedly the reason she wore her family's Spencer Tiara instead. Following Charles and Diana's divorced in 1996 the tiara was returned to the Queen, as Diana was only able to keep personal gifts, not official ones, and as the tiara is part of the Queen's Collection it is classed as official. It remained in the royal vaults until last year when Kate wore it.


Most recently, the tiara has been remade for Netflix's excellent drama The Crown. Below we see Princess Margaret, played by Vanessa Kirby, wearing the Cambridge Lovers Knot. It's a fictitious addition to one of the later episodes of the series as Margaret never really wore the piece.

Kate teamed the tiara with Her Majesty's Diamond Pendant earrings, which she first wore for the Place2Be Awards last month. Her Majesty's Jewel Vault reports: "This pair of diamond pendant earrings includes a pendant of separate stones hanging within a diamond frame. These appeared at the 2012 State Opening of Parliament, but have no publicly known provenance as of yet." I anticipate we may see Kate wearing these with some frequency moving forward.

The Duchess wore The Queen's Wedding Gift Bracelet (also worn at the 2015 State Banquet). Prince Philip gave the piece to the Queen as a wedding present. It is encrusted with diamonds from a tiara which belonged to Philip's mother. Kate also carried a red clutch.

An unforgettably regal look for the Duchess. Kate looked poised and confident - every inch the future queen. What do you think of Kate's look tonight? 


In other news - William, Kate and Harry carried out two private engagements for the Royal Foundation yesterday. The trio attended a board meeting at 5 St Mary Abbots Place, and later in the evening a reception at Buckingham Palace. With thanks to Cepe for sharing the news!

Court Circular

The Irish Guards Band shared a photo of their Woodland Quintet who performed at last night's reception (with thanks to Scarfie). BP is looking very festive!

This morning, the Duchess received Julie Beatti from her patronage the Art Room.

Court Ciruclar


Finally, Emily Nash, royal reporter for Hello! revealed Pippa Middleton and James Matthews wedding will take place on Saturday, 20 May 2017 at St Mark's Church with the reception taking place at the Middleton family home in Bucklebury. There was much talk on possible locations for the nuptials and I think Pippa's choice of hosting for what promises to be the wedding of the year speaks volumes about her wishes for the big day. I imagine it will be a lovely day for family and friends to celebrate. 

You can read Hello!'s article here.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Duchess' December: Meeting with the Scouts, Royal Festivities & Christmas Plans!

December is here and the festive season is officially upon us! I always greatly look forward to writing our annual pre-Christmas post as it often signals the beginning of the season for me. I love everything about Christmas, especially preparing for the festivities and the wonderfully dependable traditions surrounding the event. I had intended this post to be completed over the weekend, but got rather carried away decorating. A friend told me there was quite the debate at her house when her five-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son both decided they would take on the very important task of putting the angel on the tree. With neither willing to concede it was decided both would be lifted up at the same time and do it together. :)

Have you got into the spirit yet and begun preparations? As you can see, Kensington Palace is very much prepared with beautifully lit trees.

I mentioned my love of tradition, and it's always lovely to see the same gatherings and events annually within the Royal family. Before we discuss that let's begin with a look at the Duchess' plans for December that we know of - beginning with an engagement announced earlier today. On Wednesday, 14 December, Kate will attend a special Cub Scout Pack meeting with Cubs from the King's Lynn District to celebrate 100 years of Cubs. King's Lynn is a twenty-minute drive from the Cambridges' country home Anmer Hall.

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

Kensington Palace noted: "Her Royal Highness will join the pack as they take part in games and activities themed around looking after yourself and others physically and emotionally. Activities will include a parachute game to encourage teamwork and cooperation, first aid training and ‘Cub cake’ icing. They will then join together to renew their Cub Scout promise and celebrate the Cubs' 100th anniversary with the lighting of 100 candles and a rendition of 'Happy Birthday'." Cub Scouting was co-founded by Robert Baden-Powell and Vera Barclay on 16th December 1916. The anniversary year, called Cubs100, started with a special camp for Cub Scouts from across the UK at London Zoo. During William and Kate's time in Anglesey, North Wales, the Duchess was a volunteer with the Scouts and has carried out several engagements with the group.

On Monday, 19 December, William, Kate and Harry will will join an annual general meeting and Heads Together Christmas party hosted by youth support service The Mix, to celebrate the volunteers and counsellors who support people through tough times in their lives. The Duchess will join a live online chat about counselling with volunteers and young people from around the UK. Meanwhile, William and Harry will each join a group breakout session where counsellors and volunteers will share knowledge and get training on dealing with a range of issues, with a focus on supporting people who are suicidal and helping young people coping with homelessness. They will then join a celebration Christmas Party reception where they will mingle with volunteers who support people through tough times in their lives. During the party, the royals will kick off The Mix Annual Awards by presenting the Volunteer of the Year Award. Guests will include Heads Together charity partners - a very nice engagement before Christmas.

In terms of other engagements Kate may have in December, I expect there are more to be announced. There is a possibility the Cambridges will attend the annual Diplomatic Reception this year. The glittering white-tie gala is an incredibly important night on the royal calendar with Her Majesty throwing the event in honour of over 170 foreign missions accredited to the court of St James. Thus far, William and Kate have attended in 2013 and 2015. The reception generally takes place on a Tuesday in early December, which would make tomorrow a potential date for the private event.

Last year the Duke and Duchess released a lovely family photo for Christmas. The photo showed the Duke and Duchess with their smiling children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and was taken among the autumn leaves at Kensington Palace in late October 2015. The Palace said the photograph was commissioned for their own use, but that the couple decided to make it public because they liked it so much. Will we see another relaxed family snap this year?

Kensington Palace Twitter Feed

A definite on the calendar is Her Majesty's Christmas luncheon, which takes place on Tuesday, 20 December. It's a lovely gathering for the Royal family and a nice opportunity to spend time with those who will not be joining them for Christmas. We can expect to see the usual arrival/departure photos and a glimpse of George and Charlotte in the car, too. The Duchess usually opts for a festive red dress.

Afterwards, the Queen and Prince Philip will depart for Sandringham where they will host 25 to 30 relatives over the festive period. The Queen is said to love a full house and following another successful year for the family there is much to celebrate. Zara Tindall, the Queen's grandduaghter, announced she is expecting her second child earlier this week.  A look at the guestlist from 2011.

Mail Online

Majestic Sandringham is a country house on 20,000 acres of land. It has been the private home of four generations of sovereigns since 1862. It has played host to Her Majesty's festivities since the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992, and she remains there from mid-December to February each year. It's a real retreat for the royals, affording them privacy and plenty of space to pursue their love of the outdoors.

Christmas at Sandringham is a family-filled day with the formality one would expect. A detailed round-up of the Christmas Eve itinerary:

On Christmas Eve, more than twenty-five royals will join the Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham. Timed arrivals are very much observed; most junior royals first, most senior royals last - and all are expected to be prompt. Guests will be ushered to their rooms, furnished in the post-war Spartan style, and including two bar electric fires and blankets. By early afternoon, everyone will be in attendance.
At 4 pm, following a change of clothes, the family gathers in the White Drawing Room for Earl Grey tea, cakes, home-made scones and a chat. At this point, the Queen encourages the younger royals to add decorations and finishing touches to the tree - a Norfolk spruce taken from the estate. In fact, the Queen adores Christmas trees and has one in each room. The Master of the Household then gives each member a timetable and room plan, so they know where to be and when, during their stay. The Queen will then give the go ahead for gifts to be presented and opened. They are not opened on Christmas Day, as the Queen adheres to strict observance of the religious festival. Trestle tables are laid out in the nearby Red Drawing Room, with sections marked off showing each family member's gifts, laid out in order of precedence.
Afterwards they will all move through to the hall for Martinis and cider. Then it's back to their rooms for baths and another change of clothes. After a gong at 8 p.m. guests emerge for dinner. Men will be dressed in black tie, while the women will be draped in full-length gowns and dazzling jewels. Pre-drinks will be served before the royals enjoy a candlelit three-course meal which will most likely consist of lamb or locally sourced game. Once dinner is finished, the women move to another room for coffee, whilst the men enjoy liqueurs. That concludes Christmas eve, at which point the royals will be off for a good night's sleep before the day ahead.

How will the Cambridges spend Christmas Day this year? Like many couples they try to strike a balance, tending to alternate with both families. For Kate's first Christmas as a royal in 2011, they enjoyed the day with the Royal family. There's always a fantastic turnout at St Mary's church and it was an excellent opportunity for the new Duchess to meet locals after the service.

The following year, in 2012, William and Kate opted to celebrate with the Middletons at their home in Bucklebury. Kate was expecting Prince George and had recently been hospitalised with Hyperemesis gravidarum. Still feeling quite poorly, it was reported Kate wanted to spend her last Christmas before motherhood with her family.

New parents William and Kate held hands as they made their way to church in 2013. They spent the day with the Royal family at Sandringham. Kate looked impeccably stylish in a black watch plaid McQueen coat and her favourite Aquatalia boots.

2014 was a particularly speical one for the couple as they hosted Christmas at their newly refurbished and redecorated country home, Anmer Hall. The couple found the perfect way to celebrate with both families - reportedly enjoying a sumptuous dinner and opening gifts at Sandringham on Chritmas Eve before spending Christmas Day with the Middletons at Anmer.

Last year, the Cambridges joined the Royal family once again for Princess Charlotte's first christmas. A royal source told the Express "they wanted to give staff the day off. The royals are like any other family and face the same dilemmas with in-laws. As William and Kate spent the day with the Middletons last year it was only fair that they switched plans this year. They will be able to relax and some of their staff will be able to take time off and see their own families. Last year crowds waiting outside St Mary Magdalene church on Christmas morning were disappointed not to see Prince George and Kate told onlookers: 'I’m sorry we didn’t bring him but you would have heard him in church.'"

As the Cambridges have very much stuck to their tradition of alternating, one would expect they plan to spend the day with the Middletons this year - likely hosting it once again at Anmer Hall. It's a very special time for the family with planning underway for Pippa Middleton's pending nuptials to James Matthews next year. Will we see George and Charlotte join their parents for the walk to church? Last year, Rebecca English was told that "wouldn't be the case until they are much older". No doubt the little Prince and Princess will be busy enjoying whatever presents Santa left in their stockings :)

Should they elect to celebrate at Anmer, following church the group will enjoy a traditional christmas lunch with all the trimmings, perhaps an afternoon stroll, and then a relaxing evening filled with games and television specials.

Anmer is likely a hub of activity at the moment, as in many homes, with preparations for Christmas in full swing. In her book Celebrate, Pippa Middleton recalled fond childhood memories: "When I was a child, my December weekends were spent making cards, decorating the tree, hanging the wreath and preparing brandy butter and peppermint creams. Bowls brimming with walnuts, shiny wrapped chocolates and piles of clementines would appear around the house. There was always a distnctive smell, too; pine and cinnamon and heady scent of mulled wine and pomanders that merged into one festive bouquet. No matter how much we may adapt other customs, come December, we tend to repeat our own familiar customs year on year."

Privately, William and Kate will have several celebratory events planned, including a staff luncheon with more than twenty guests. The couple have a close-knit team of aides surrounding them and it's a nice opportunity to enjoy the festive period. In previous years, the chosen location has been South Kensington eatery Bumpkin. As you can see below, the restaurant has embraced the season already.

...And so much so they created a heated winter garden at their Chelsea venue.

In 2014, Kate took George for a festive surprise in Thursford, near Anmer Hall. The Christmas spectacular is the largest Christmas show in the country and a wonderful family day out. Set in the magical surroundings of mechanical organs and fairground carousels, with a cast of a hundred and thirty professional singers, dancers and musicians – many of whom are West End performers. The three-hour performance delivers an extravaganza of non-stop singing, dancing, music, humour and variety. It’s a fast moving celebration of the festive season featuring an eclectic mix of both seasonal and year-round favourites, with famous and much-loved chart toppers being sung alongside traditional carols. There are opportunities to meet Santa and his elves, too.

Have you ever wanted to see William and Kate in matching Christmas jumpers? Madame Tussauds in London has done just that as part of a 'Christmas jumper fundraiser' for Save the Children UK. A very nice seasonal touch in aid of a wonderful cause. Even the Queen's Corgi's are getting in on the act :)

Before we conclude, I thought I'd share a quick and easy recipe for a classic favourite Christmas drink from Pippa's Celebrate. Mulled Wine is very popular in Britian, but for those in other parts of the world, do you serve it for Christmas? The beverage, of European origins, is usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Pippa wrote:

Peel 4 oranges and set aside the peel. Juice the oranges into a bowl, then stud the orange peel with 20 cloves. Pour two bottles of fruity red wine, such as Merlot, into a saucepan with a pinch of ground ginger and 4 cinnamon sticks, then add the orange peel and orange juice. Measure out 140g soft brown sugar and add a little at a time - the amount of sugar you need depends on how sweet you like your mulled wine, so taste as you go. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves (do not allow to boil) and serve warm. Serves 8.

And with all that festive talk, I'm off to ask my other half to jazz up the blog with a few sparkly touches! :)