Prior to every royal wedding exists an age-old guessing game: which tiara will the bride wear? However, while most royal women will make their first tiara-wearing appearance at their weddings, the rules are a bit different for those born into the direct line of succession. Princess Charlotte, Prince William and Kate's only daughter, is likely to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and her great aunt, Princess Anne, and wear a tiara before her wedding day. But, when will that happen? And which tiara will she choose? T&C investigates all the sparkly possibilities for the littlest British princess.
Princess Charlotte will probably wear a tiara before her wedding.
While there is no rule preventing tiara-wearing before marriage, most women do not wear the bejeweled headpieces until their wedding days. As jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn previously explained to Town & Country, "The tiara has its roots in classical antiquity and was seen as an emblem of the loss of innocence to the crowning of love."
However, in the last few generations, these cultural guidelines have become more flexible for women born into the royal family. Charlotte's great aunt, Princess Anne, and great-great aunt, Princess Margaret, both wore tiaras prior to their wedding days, and it is likely that Charlotte will follow suit.
"There’s no rule book," said Marlene Koenig, an expert on British and European royalty. "Princess Anne certainly wore a tiara as a teenager; she wore a tiara for her 21st birthday picture, all before she got married."
The expectations were slightly different for Princess Eugenie, who did not publicly wear a tiara until her wedding to Jack Brooksbank, and for Princess Beatrice, who has yet to wear one. However, the major difference between Eugenie and Beatrice and Charlotte is that the York sisters are not working members of the royal family.
Lauren Kiehna, who runs the blog The Court Jeweller under the pen name Ella Kay, elaborates. "Both Princess Margaret and Princess Anne wore tiaras in an official capacity as working royals, attending events like the State Opening of Parliament, state banquets, and royal functions abroad," said Kiehna. "Because Beatrice and Eugenie are not working members of the family, they do not attend these events."
Charlotte could wear a tiara as young as age 17.
The exact age when Charlotte will first sport a royal topper is to be determined, but it could be as soon as her late teenage years. Koenig noted that Princess Anne wore a tiara for the first time at age 17, and Charlotte could keep with that tradition. The young princess might also host a gala for her 18th or 21st birthday, which could prompt a tiara moment. And even without a fancy party, it's possible that Charlotte could wear a tiara in a portrait commissioned for either of those momentous birthdays, or simply attending state events when she enters adulthood.
"Because the royal family is becoming increasingly small, Charlotte will likely begin representing her grandfather and father at royal events, including state banquets, when she's a young woman," said Kiehna. Such events would require formalwear which, traditionally, includes a tiara.
However, unlike Princess Anne, both of Charlotte's parents went to university, attending the University of St Andrews in Scotland. According to Kiehna, should Charlotte choose to attend university as well, she may wait until after graduation before wearing a tiara.
Part of this equation also depends on who is monarch when Charlotte is of age. "We're more likely to see her wearing tiaras as a younger woman if her father has already become King," said Kiehna.
There are a few possible options for Charlotte's first tiara.
The most likely contender for Charlotte's first tiara is, according to Kiehna, the famed Cartier Halo tiara. Both Princess Margaret and Princess Anne sported this tiara as young women and, most notably, Charlotte's mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore the piece for her wedding to Prince William. Given this tiara's significance, Charlotte may choose to borrow it for her first tiara-wearing appearance.
It's also possible that Charlotte would be given access to some of Princess Anne's tiaras. Anne's children and grandchildren are not working royals and do not have titles, so they most likely will not have the opportunity to wear the Princess Royal's tiaras with any frequency. It would make sense for some of the headpieces to be passed along to Charlotte.
What is unlikely, however, is that the royals would purchase a new tiara for Charlotte. The British royals tend to reuse family tiaras, and the tone of purchasing a new headpiece may not be appropriate today.
"Can you imagine the comments about the cost of a new tiara?" said Koenig. "There’s so many to choose from."
Charlotte's tiara appearances may be rarer than her relatives'.
The dynamic of the royal family is changing. Koenig noted that the Cambridges are far less formal than their predecessors—Kate herself has only worn a tiara eleven times during her ten years in the royal family. Things may change, though, when William becomes heir to the throne, but, for now, the pair is one of the most low-key royal couples we've seen.
“How royals dress and their attitude to ceremonies has been changing," said Koenig. Traditions, too, are evolving. Koenig predicts a possible decline in state dinners, as diplomats do most of the governmental work in today's world.
Overall, it's hard to guess what Charlotte's life will be like and what sort of royal involvement she'll desire.
"Charlotte may want a career or she may take on royal duties—we don’t know," Koenig said. "We don’t know what the royal family will be like in 15 years."
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