Leslie Field, author of the definitive book The Queen’s Jewels, predicts Kate, 33, will choose a relatively small tiara to ensure she doesn’t upstage the evening’s host, Queen Elizabeth.
Attention in diplomatic and royal circles will be focused mainly on Queen Elizabeth, 89, hosting the President of China, Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan. They arrive in the U.K. late Monday and will be formally welcomed by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on Tuesday.
But Kate and her husband, Prince William, will be among the royal hosts at the landmark dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Kate has only worn a tiara on a small number of occasions since her first landmark day: her April 2011 wedding and a 2013 reception. Field believes the Cartier Halo tiara (Kate’s bridal pick) or the Lotus Flower tiara are the likely choices.
“They are both quite small,” says Field. “They are youthful and delicate. Some tiaras can be quite heavy but these are comfortable, they are in the family’s possession. And they would be appropriate.”
An anniversary gift from the Queen Mother’s husband King George VI, the Halo headpiece was purchased from Cartier in 1936. Described as “a band of 16 graduated scrolls set with 739 brilliants and 149 baton diamonds,” it was given to the current Queen by her mother in 1944 as an 18th birthday gift. However, she was never seen in public wearing it, and she loaned it to her late sister Princess Margaret, her daughter Princess Anne and now Kate.
The Lotus Flower (or Papyrus tiara), worn at the white-tie reception for diplomats at the palace in December 2013, was made by E. Wolff and Co.. It first appeared in the 1920s as one of the Queen Mother’s glittering collection.
Said to be of an Egyptian style, “It is not overwhelmingly big or high, which is good because Catherine is tall. It’s very much in the 20s style and probably quite lightweight and comfortable to wear,” Field says.
She believes Kate, like the Queen, will wear a long, pale-hued evening gown so as to stand out from the men in dark dinner suits. It also means that the sashes that royal women wear don’t clash with their gowns.
William, 33, who helped smooth the way for the visit during his own visit to China in March, is attending his first state banquet too.
Charles, 66, will not be at the dinner, reserving his special diplomatic time for a meeting at his London residence Clarence House earlier in the day.
A state banquet is the showy centerpiece of the diplomatic visit that lasts until Friday, and it’s something the Queen is vastly experienced in. She has hosted more than 110 such banquets in her 63-year reign. Taking three days to lay the table to meticulous parameters (each person has a regimented 18 inches of space for their table setting), palace staff pride themselves on creating a magical evening.
While Kate is thought unlikely to veer from the norm, Field does point out that “there’s no law that says she has to wear a tiara. She could have her hair up and have decorate her head with jewels and hair ornaments pinned in. That would be fashionable,” says Field. “Or she could make use of other pieces of jewelry such as a bracelet as a hair ornament.”
But Kate has not been known for breaking the mold. “She is always anxious to do what is appropriate. In a way, Princess Diana was quite daring and did wear jewelry, such as two necklaces, on her forehead. She was more willing, more conscious of what photographers would go mad for and would do something unexpected and unusual. I don’t think Catherine and William do things like that.”
Want to keep up with the latest royals coverage? Click here to subscribe to the Royals Newsletter.