The royal family chooses when to make fashion a part of the agenda and when to remove it from the conversation. The queen’s state funeral on September 19 was one such occasion that was about thoughtful clothing that served a purpose, rather than talking-point fashion. The Princess of Wales read the moment perfectly, picking a look that was the picture of discretion, accessorized with jewelry that spoke myriad words in its symbolism. It was smart, respectful, and resolutely not about her.
Blending into the sea of black, it was Kate Middleton’s job to play supporting act to William, the newly announced Prince of Wales, who is now first in line to the throne. But make no mistake, everything from the modest cut of Kate’s coat to the height of her heels (commanding without being frivolous) was considered. Even the princess’s signature blow-dry was swept back into a low side bun barely visible beneath her veiled headpiece. This was not a day for showiness or gloss.
The real sentiment came via her jewelry, picked for its reverence during a Westminster Abbey ceremony watched by millions. Kate nodded to the late monarch once again with pearls—the colorless gemstone traditionally worn by royals in mourning because of their quiet, natural elegance. She chose the queen’s Bahrain pearl drop earrings, crafted from a cache of seven pearls that the then Princess Elizabeth received from Hakim of Bahrain on her wedding day in 1947. The four-strand pearl and diamond choker that Kate previously wore to the queen and Prince Philip’s diamond wedding anniversary in 2017 and the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh in April 2021 delivered yet more history—the queen commissioned Garrard to create the unusual clasped charm using pearls gifted to her by the Japanese government in the ’70s. In 1982, she loaned it to Princess Diana to wear during a banquet feting Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at Hampton Court Palace.
So far this week, Kate Middleton has worn pearl and diamond earrings previously belonging to Princess Diana, a pearl necklace from the queen’s jewelry collection, and Her Majesty’s diamond and pearl leaf brooch—a striking piece featuring three large pearls at the centre of a diamond pavé leaf. Each token, singular in design but with a shared meaning, has been an apt way for Kate to pay tribute to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and her grandmother-in-law, as the princess prepares for a new chapter of her own life. As jewelry designer Melanie Georgacopoulo said in Vogue’s musing on the meaning of pearls, the stones “in part represent a departure that is the end of one thing but the beginning of something else.”
What a time to get it right on the world’s stage—as Kate has done during this entire period.
This article first appeared on British Vogue.