The 2019 Diplomatic Reception

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Last night the Queen hosted this year’s diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace, an annual to-do that convenes thousands of representatives from over 100 countries. Members of the Royal Family always attend, and given that the event is white tie, we are always gifted tiaras, family orders, and all the other royal trappings.

This is technically a private reception, and as such, historically, we have had to make do with arrival shots of family members going through the BP gates. Last year, however, photos taken from the party were shared, a shift the Palace has doubled down on this year. It’s a subtle change, but I think an important one – opportunities to allow access in a controlled way are almost always a smart move in the long run, in my opinion.

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Much like how Kensington Palace has done a better job of showcasing the Cambridges’ behind-the-scenes work over the last two years, this provides insight on a royal mainstay without undermining the event’s objective. It not only shows the family working, but it highlights one of the monarch’s primary functions: international diplomacy, even if the soft sort.

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And not for nothing, those who enjoy royal watching usually look forward to these white tie/tiara moments, so it’s a solid gesture of goodwill.

Our first glimpse of the Duchess of Cambridge came when she and the Duke arrived at BP last night, but interestingly, the window on Kate’s side of the car was purposefully obscure. Granted, William’s wasn’t, so we still got pretty good arrival shots, but it was a pointed indication that better images were expected later on in the evening. I don’t recall them doing this last year, and frankly I do think it was a bit strange, but whatever.


While on the subject of Kate, she debuted a new navy velvet gown by Alexander McQueen, which I loved. This isn’t her first foray into all velvet, and it’s obviously not her first McQueen (duh), but it was a nice change of pace from the very Disney princess-esque gowns she usually wears to these sorts of events. Some of those have been lovely, yes, but this felt a tad more grown up.

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Kate was also able to display her Royal Victorian Order sash for the first time. Paired with her yellow Royal Family Order that she debuted last year, it was a good visual reminder of her growing prominence – and recognition – within the family.

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As for the tiara, no surprises here – Kate once again wore the Queen Mary Lover’s Knot tiara. The piece is a replication of the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, so while I know some people are itching for her to change it up, I have a feeling she purposefully sticks to this one in honor of her title. Given her level of attention to detail, I have a feeling there’s a sense that images of her wearing this particular tiara will always signal a particular time in her life – as a new royal, a more junior royal, and of course, the “Duchess of.”

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It was also a favorite piece of her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales and still closely associated with her, but while I’m sure Kate was aware of that when she first started wearing it, I don’t know that her continued use of it is necessarily a nod to that specifically.

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Much like last year, the photos shared focused on Kate, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Queen. Some of that is likely due to interest in the women’s fashion and jewelry, yes, but I also think it goes hand in hand with the RF’s desire to regularly highlight the line of succession and push forth Kate and Camilla as two future queen consorts. On that note, the Queen was absolutely dripping in emeralds, while Camilla was resplendent in a go-two white gown and pearls.

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Zooming out a bit, it’s been a relatively quiet December. This event usually takes place the first week of December, but was postponed this year because of the NATO reception. So, while we’ve seen two high-level Buckingham Palace events, we’ve seen slightly less run-of-the-mill engagements. I expect that we’ll see Kate once or twice next week before the Queen’s Christmas luncheon and the family’s decampment to Norfolk, but TBD. With the Sussexes staying under the radar in LA, I think the holidays will be a calmer affair this year. No wild speculation about where everyone is staying, or how friendly everyone is during the Christmas Day walkabout – the only question mark will likely be whether anyone spots the Duke of York, and fingers crossed he arrives and exits church privately given his forced retirement.

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A few more items for the good of the order: every year, Camilla hosts a Christmas luncheon for children at Clarence House, and it’s easily one of the best royal events of the year, and her most popular. Children, their families, and charity staff supporting them, help trim a tree, enjoy some holiday puddings, and this year, they met a real-life reindeer.

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Kate, meanwhile, has been working behind-the-scene, if not out and about on public engagements. On Tuesday, she and William attended a board meeting for The Royal Foundation, and yesterday, she attended a meeting for her Early Years initiative, both at Kensington Palace (I believe).

Last but not least, fingers crossed we get new Christmas cards from everyone next week. Charles and Camilla are pretty consistent, but it’s more of a wild card for the Cambridges and Sussexes. I’m more optimistic about the Cambridges – they’ve been pretty steady on this front the last couple of years, and it’s been a few months since we’ve seen the littles, particularly Prince Louis. As for the Sussexes, while this would be the first opportunity to include Baby Archie, it’s possible Harry and Meghan will maintain their current low profile since they’re not participating in royal Christmas this year. I’m inclined to say that would be the smart move, but they’re kind of damned if they do, damned if they don’t on this front, so we’ll see.

With that, Happy Thursday 🙂

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