Princess Diana Gave Her Engagement Ring to Harry, But He Let Kate Middleton Have It

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Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

From Oprah Magazine

Princess Diana may have been "The People's Princess," but her jewelry box was nothing short of royal. There were her signature pearl chokers, her sparkly tiaras, her blingy headbands, and, most iconic of them all, her stunning engagement ring.

On February 24, 1981, the then 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales, stepped out to officially announce their engagement. And while the world was captivated by the young royals (Charles was, at the time, considered one of the most eligible bachelors), it was also the first peek at Diana's gorgeous engagement ring, a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded with 14 solitaire diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold. (The only thing more stunning than the ring itself? It's price. At the time, it cost Prince Charles just $60,000, though, it's now worth more than $500,000.)

Nearly two decades later, when Prince William revealed he used Princess Diana's engagement ring to propose to his then girlfriend Kate Middleton, the sapphire sparkler once again stole the show, leading to memorable headlines ("Sealed with Diana's Ring," "Proposal with a Familiar Ring," and "With This Ring..Di Thee Wed") and thousands of replicas. “Obviously, she’s not going to be around to share in any of the fun and excitement of it all, so this is my way of keeping her sort of close to it all," William said when the couple announced their engagement.

Here, everything you need to know about Princess Diana's engagement ring, from its fascinating history to the secrets that have emerged over time.

Diana chose her own engagement ring.

On February 6, 1981, Charles popped the question during a private dinner at Buckingham Palace. “He said ‘Will you marry me?’ and I laughed," Diana told journalist Andrew Morton while being interviewed for her biography Diana: Her True Story. "I remember thinking, this is a joke, and I said ‘Yeah, OK,’ and laughed. He was deadly serious." Perhaps that was in part because he proposed without an engagement ring. Instead, he let Diana pick her own ring from a selection of designs by Garrard, the then crown jeweler.

From those, Diana picked the sapphire-and-diamond cluster Marguerite ring, which was inspired by a sapphire-and-diamond brooch Prince Albert had asked Garrard to create as a present for his future wife, Queen Victoria, in 1840. "She found she loved it so much that she decided to wear it on her wedding day as her something blue on the front of her dress," Garrard's current creative director, Sara Prentice, told Vogue. (In the decades since, Queen Elizabeth II has been spotted wearing the blingy brooch on several occasions, including to William's christening.) While no one knows for sure, some believe Diana chose the blue bauble because it reminded her of her mother's engagement ring, while others insist she picked it because it had the biggest stone.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

Diana's iconic engagement ring caused controversy within the royal family.

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

From refusing to use the word "obey" in her wedding vows to sending her sons to public school, Diana was not known for doing things the traditional way—and her ring was no exception. While most royals wore one-of-a-kind, custom-made engagements rings, Diana's ring had been featured in the jeweler's catalogue, so anyone could have bought it (as long as they had $60,000 to spend on a replica). According to Vogue, this didn't sit well with some members of the royal family, who were unhappy that Diana had picked a design accessible to the public.

Regardless of the critics, Diana loved her sapphire sparkler—so much so that she even wore it after she and Charles announced their separation. After the divorce was finalized in 1996, though, Diana started wearing an enormous, emerald-cut aquamarine ring in its place (which Meghan Markle also wore to her wedding reception in May 2018).

Prince William used the ring to propose to Kate Middleton.

Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images

In October 2010, William popped the question to his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton while on vacation in Mount Kenya. "The African continent holds a very special place in my heart, it is the place my father took my brother and me shortly after our mother died," William said at an event earlier this year. "And when deciding where best to propose to Catherine, I could think of no more fitting place than Kenya to get down on one knee." But he wasn't always sure that moment would be so magical: "I had been carrying [the ring] around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before [the proposal]," William revealed in the couple's first interview after becoming engaged. "I literally would not let it go, everywhere I went I was keeping hold of it because I knew this thing, if it disappeared, I would be in a lot of trouble."

A few weeks later, on November 16, 2010, the pair announced the big news—and Kate showed off the 12-carat sapphire ring. "It's my mother's engagement ring and it's very special to me, as Kate is very special to me now as well. It was only right the two were put together," William told ITV . "It was my way of making sure mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement and the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together."

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

...But it originally belonged to Prince Harry.

In 1997, after Diana passed away, it was reported that she had stipulated in her will that her sons would inherit nearly all of her jewelry “so that their wives may, in due course, have it or use it.” As a result, Prince William inherited a Cartier watch owned by his mother, while Harry received her engagement ring, according to her former butler Paul Burrell. "[Harry said] 'I remember when I held mummy's hand when I was a small boy and that ring always hurt me because it was so big,'" Burrell recalled in the 2017 Amazon documentary The Diana Story. "So I went to the safe and gave Harry Diana’s engagement ring."

More than a decade later, though, Harry reportedly offered the ring to William, so he could use it to propose to Kate. "Harry said to him: 'Wouldn’t it be fitting if she had mummy’s ring?'" Burrell recalled. "'Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England.'"

It's believed that Kate altered the ring—slightly.

Shortly after Kate and William became engaged, it was reported that Kate had made slight modifications to the iconic blue stone. According to CBS, when Kate received the engagement ring, it was a little too big for her ring finger, so she had tiny platinum beads attached to the inside of the band, ensuring a snug fit.

Since then, she's rarely been seen without the sweet, sparkly reminder.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

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