You may have spotted The Duchess of Cornwall in a beautiful diamond floral tiara in some royal events. This is the Cubitt Shand tiara.
The design is formed of flowers and sprays of leaves, which rises to a central point in a slightly asymmetrical style. The tiara actually doesn’t belong to the Royal Family but to the Duchess and her family, the Shands, hence its name.
It’s believed the tiara belonged to Sonia Keppel, Camilla’s grandmother, who was the daughter of Alice Keppel, known to be a mistress to King Edward VII. She was married to the Hon. Roland Cubitt and they had three children before divorcing.
In 1986, Sonia passed away and the tiara was inherited by Camilla’s mother, Rosalind, who was married to Major Bruce Shand. In 1994, Rosalind passed away after having long suffered from osteoporosis (this is partly where the Duchess’ interest in the disease comes from). She left the tiara to her eldest daughter, then-Camilla Parker Bowles.
The piece was lent to the young Camilla Shand for her wedding to Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, and more than thirty years later, the couple’s daughter, Laura Parker Bowles, wore it for her wedding to Harry Lopes in 2006.
After marring The Prince of Wales in 2005, the Duchess has only worn the tiara three times. The first time to the annual diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace in December 2005, although I cannot find any images of this occasion, The Court Jeweller lists this as an appearance.
She also chose it for the same event in 2014, and a year later The Duchess of Cornwall wore it for the second time, at a dinner at the Royal Academy of the Arts in June 2015.
We wonder if it is a bit more fragile than some of the pieces in the royal vaults? The Shand family, unlike the Royals, will have had less use out of it without white tie receptions and banquets to attend, and probably wouldn’t have monitored the condition of the tiara as well as those in royal hands. The Royal Family also benefit from access to the Crown Jewellers (Mark Appleby of Mappin & Webb took over in 2017), as well as other experts.
Another explanation for its lack of publicity is that The Duchess of Cornwall simply prefers the style of other pieces, like the Greville honeycomb tiara. I think I would too!
Although the Greville tiara undoubtedly flatters the Duchess very well, would be very interesting to see her wearing this smaller tiara again after five years, as the delicate design complements Camilla incredibly well even with the volume of her hairdo.