Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have proven that they’re boundary-breakers – but they also have a deep respect for tradition. And one tradition we can expect to shape Meghan’s wedding-day look is the custom of borrowing from the vast collection of royal jewels.
As a designer and history buff, I’m fascinated by the royal jewels – the opulence, the ancestry, the sparkle. My obsession manifested the first time I saw the crown jewels at 17 years old and visiting the Tower of London, where they were on display. I boarded the moving walkway that looped around the exhibition, and as soon as I laid eyes on the Sovereign’s Scepter and Imperial State Crown, which holds the legendary Cullinan diamond (cut from the largest gem-grade diamond ever found), I was awestruck. I must have looped around a dozen more times; the security guards kept eyeing me.
Meghan is a bit of a style renegade when compared with other royals. But there are a few things we can predict about the jewelry she’ll wear on her wedding day this weekend.
You can bet on Meghan sourcing her “something borrowed” from the royal jewelry collection. That will likely include a tiara, a longtime wedding-day tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation in the monarchy.
Kate Middleton’s Cartier wedding-day tiara was embellished with nearly 1,000 diamonds and has been in the royal family since King George VI purchased it as an anniversary gift for his wife in 1936. There’s the non-royal Spencer Tiara, which Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, wore to her wedding – wouldn’t that be a nice way to honor her? And the most recognizable of all tiaras is the fringe tiara popularized by Queen Elizabeth II (and Netflix’s The Crown), who wore it on her wedding day and still puts it on occasionally today. Most people aren’t aware of that tiara’s extensive history; it originally belonged to Queen Mary, who gifted it to her daughter-in-law, Princess Elizabeth the Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother) in 1936. The Queen Mother later lent it to both her daughter, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), and Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Anne (now Anne, Princess Royal), for their wedding days.
There’s no official protocol for what type of tiara is to be worn on a princess’s wedding day, so it’s possible – likely, if you ask me – that Meghan will put a fashionable spin on an old classic. Plenty of royals have added flair to their wedding-day tiaras. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore a Strathmore Rose Tiara, an unconventional flower crown that rests on the forehead. Queen Mary of Teck added a dangling pendant to her headdress.
Another wedding tradition the royals uphold derives from that old English rhyme, “Something olde, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The royal family has incorporated these elements into their weddings for generations, some brides placing extra emphasis on “something blue.”
The significance of the sapphire in the royal family dates back to Queen Victoria, who wore a large, oblong sapphire brooch Prince Albert gave her as her “something blue” on her wedding day in 1840. The brooch, known today as Prince Albert’s Sapphire or simply the Albert, has become a royal-family heirloom, worn by numerous succeeding royals including Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, and Queen Elizabeth II, who still wears it frequently. The brooch is even rumored to have inspired the design for Princess Diana’s iconic sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring, which now belongs to Kate Middleton.
There has been little speculation about how Meghan Markle will incorporate “something blue” or “something borrowed” into her wedding, but Queen Victoria’s brooch, which both Princess Diana and Kate wore on their wedding days, checks both boxes and reflects Meghan’s understated yet elegant style. Princess Diana’s pearl-and-sapphire choker would be another great selection.
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will undoubtedly respect their family traditions, as a unique, modern-day couple, they will likely do so in their own way.
Like many modern-day royals, Meghan seems to be keen to invent new ways to carry out age-old traditions, creating her own along the way – and that extends to the jewels she’ll be wearing down the aisle. Meghan’s engagement ring is a testament to the couple’s reverence for tradition combined with their contemporary taste. Harry designed a custom ring for Meghan, but ensured it featured two diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal collection and a 3-carat center stone sourced from Botswana. The conflict-free diamond from Botswana highlights Harry’s strong ties to the country and its community as a Patron of Rhino Conservation Botswana while also honoring his mother’s commitment to social responsibility and progress.
Regardless of what the couple chooses to do, there’s one thing we can be sure of: there will be lots of sparkle.