Pearls of approval: the Duchess of Sussex’s new earrings were a gift from the Queen
The Duchess of Sussex and the Queen appeared to be getting along famously on the Duchess’ first royal engagement without her husband. They were pictured talking and laughing as they watched a ceremony to mark the opening of the new Mersey Gateway bridge in Cheshire. The Queen’s fondness for her grandson’s new wife was also evident in the pearl and diamond earrings the Duchess wore, which Buckingham Palace later revealed were a gift from the royal collection. The earrings had been incorrectly attributed to Birks, the Canadian jewellery brand that the Duchess has worn on numerous occasions. She wore Birks opal stud earrings when her engagement to Prince Harry was announced, and has been pictured in the brand’s delicate diamond-studded pieces several times. Her mother Doria Ragland also wore Birks to the royal wedding.
But the pearl earrings the Duchess wore in Cheshire carry much greater significance. As the Duchess’ first gift from the Queen, they have been taken as a symbol of her acceptance into the royal family. Although it is not known when the Queen gave them to her, it is fitting that the Duchess chose to wear them for their first joint engagement. The understated earrings were a timeless choice of accessory and perfectly complemented the Duchess’ demure Givenchy dress. The Queen herself also wore a larger pair of pearl earrings, while the style is also a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, who often wears her classic pearl drops. The late Princess Diana was also famed for her love of pearls. This is not the first time the former actress has worn pieces from the royal collection. On her wedding day in May, she wore the Queen Mary diamond bandeau tiara, which she borrowed from the Queen. Made in 1932 to accommodate a diamond brooch that Queen Mary (the Queen’s grandmother) had been given as a wedding gift in 1893, the tiara was subsequently returned to the Queen’s collection. The Duchess did receive a permanent addition to her jewellery collection on her wedding day in the form of the large Asprey aquamarine cocktail ring that belonged to Princess Diana. Prince Harry gave it to his bride as a wedding gift, and she wore it as a “something blue” addition to her Stella McCartney gown as the couple made their way to their evening reception.
Duchess of Sussex brings out Queen’s inner-child: Body language expert analyses their first joint trip
The Duchess of Sussex showed her nerves on her first joint engagement with the Queen, but there was genuine warmth between the monarch and Meghan, a body language expert said. Judi James said the head of state and the former Suits star giggled together like teenagers at one point as they enjoyed their day out in Cheshire. The Queen and Duchess travelled to Cheshire on the Royal train, leaving Euston at 11pm on Wednesday and spending the night in a discreet siding en route before pulling into Runcorn station at 10.35am for the Duchess’ first trip to the north of England. Greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, the Duchess lingered behind the Queen, appearing slightly nervous as she watched for instructions about where to go. After a moment of confusion at their waiting car, as both politely waited for the other to get in, the Duchess asked her grandmother-in-law “what is your preference?” before being told: “You go first.”
The Queen wore a green outfit by Stewart Parvin, choosing a colour some onlookers interpreted as a gesture of support on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Their first engagement was a ceremony marking the opening of the new £1.86 billion Mersey Gateway bridge. It saw the pair deep in conversation, laughing and gesturing as they watched a seven-minute-long dance performance by children and enjoyed one another’s company. Ms James said: “The Queen doesn’t indulge in worries and she didn’t spend a lot of time checking on Meghan, but instead let her get on with it. “But when she did glance at her, it was with a beaming smile and approval.” She added: “The Queen was the happiest I’ve seen her in a long time. They looked like naughty teenagers giggling together at one point.” Next on their itinerary was Storyhouse, a cultural hub in the centre of town. The Queen and Duchess led crowds in a minute’s silence to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster, solemnly bowing their heads. They then watched more performances, learned about “digital buddies” who were teaching their elders to use technology more efficiently, and took to the streets to meet thousands of well-wishers. Ms James described the monarch as having young body language for a woman of 92. “She looked positively girlish. When she smiles you can see the young princess coming out. She’s got a beautiful childlike smile and her little hands were formed into fists at one point. Perhaps Meghan did bring a little bit more of that out in her. “We saw displays which showed the pair genuinely having fun.” The Duchess of Sussex had her guard up in the morning, showing signs of anxiousness – not least when there as confusion over who was meant to get in the royal Bentley first. “Meghan was still being very careful. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankles and was clearly seeking approval,” said Ms James. The newlywed Duchess, who married the Duke of Sussex in a star-studded ceremony in Windsor last month, was nervous, repeatedly touching her hair. Ms James suggested: “Meghan did so many self-checking gestures of anxiety which is interesting in such a confident woman. “She walked up the aisle on her own without batting an eyelid.” The duchess’s outfit – a beige Givenchy dress with caped shoulders – may have not been the ideal choice, Ms James said. “I think her outfit did her no favours. The caped shoulders restricted her arms and she lost some of her more natural movements.” But the Duchess soon eased into the day, and was a natural with the crowds who had gathered to catch a glimpse of her and her grandmother-in-law. The rapport between the pair was obvious, with the Duchess leaning in and talking to the Queen, producing what appeared to be fits of laughter from the 92-year-old. Ms James said the Queen was similarly beaming with smiles when she carried out her first joint engagement with the Duchess of Cambridge. They wrapped up their tour with lunch as guests of Cheshire West and Chester Council.