Kate Middleton’s decision to wear a new and extravagant Art Deco diamond brooch during the state visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to Britain earlier this month conflicts with King Charles’ goal of a “slimmed down” monarchy, Newsweek’s The Royal Report podcast has heard.
Chief Royal Correspondent Jack Royston and royal commentator Kristen Meinzer discussed Kate’s first state banquet attendance in her new capacity as Princess of Wales against the backlash she has faced for wearing the brooch, which is valued at almost half the average Briton’s annual salary.
Social media outrage was sparked as Britain struggles through a cost-of-living crisis, rising energy costs and surging inflation.
The princess has worn the brooch twice, first on Remembrance Sunday on November 13, and again on November 22 for the state banquet at Buckingham Palace. A listing for the diamond piece on London jewelers Bentley & Skinner’s website showed the price as being £14,500 ($17,229).
“The oblong piece of Art Deco art is a Bentley & Skinner piece and is made from over 100 diamonds set in platinum and totals approximately 4.5 carats,” Royston told Meinzer, adding:
“It is not a million miles away from being the cost of the cheapest electric vehicle on the market.”
To contextualise, Meinzer pointed out that “according to the British Office for National Statistics, the current median income for a full time worker in the U.K. is £31,285, so…if you work for six months and don’t pay for anything else including food, electric, heat and housing, you can probably buy that brooch. Not quite, maybe seven months.”
Users took to social media to vent their frustration at the princess for wearing the new brooch, while the royal family members have vaults of heritage pieces at their disposal.
“Instead of buying a £14,000 brooch while pretending to portray herself as ‘one of the people,’ she could have donated that to a homeless veterans charity,” wrote one Twitter user.
Graham Smith, CEO of Republic, previously told Newsweek that it was “no surprise” to see the royals entertaining extravagantly during the cost-of-living crisis and “perhaps they could reflect on that before going out flaunting jewels that cost as much as a lot of people’s annual salary.”
“Part of me is torn about this,” said Royston of Kate’s wearing the brooch.
“You might remember that there was a big furore when Prince Harry and Meghan got engaged over the cost of Meghan’s engagement dress—or the value of it—because obviously royals never pay full whack…and we should also say it’s possible that Kate’s brooch was a birthday present, because it kind of disappeared off the market in January and that’s the month of her birthday, so it could have been a gift for her.”
“I couldn’t get out of my head about this is just this idea that Charles has put so much effort into this concept of slimming down the monarchy,” he added.
“I remember doing a lot of TV in America after the queen died, and people were kind of asking ‘what will slimming down look like? Will they be selling residences? Will they be selling big pieces of jewelry?’…that is not what Charles means when he talks about slimming down the monarchy, it’s not about selling stuff at all.
“If you’re in a situation where the queen died in September and we’re two months on now—more than two months—and there’s still no titles for Archie and Lilibet,” he added.
“If you’re going to slim down the monarchy in that way then what is the point in turning out dripping with new expensive bling?”
In conclusion he said: “If you’re going to slim down, you have to slim down…If you are going to make that decision then it has to be consistent across everything you do, otherwise you’re just taking the titles of children.”
The topic of titles for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s children has been widely reported since King Charles acceded to the throne in September. According to the George V protocol established in 1917, only the children and grandchildren (of the male line) of the monarch can be styled as Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom.
As they were great-grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II at the time of their birth Archie and Lilibet were ineligible for royal titles, however, when Charles became king they became the grandchildren of the monarch.
Despite this there has been no change to the children’s titles, which has caused speculation that the king doesn’t intend to extend their birthright titles to his U.S.-based grandchildren.
On how Kate approached dressing for the state banquet, both Royston and Meinzer praised the princess’ white “Elsbeth” Jenny Packham evening gown, with Meinzer adding that she could have “done better” when it came to her jewels.
“It’s bad optics,” she said.
“I just think it would have been lovely optics actually if maybe Kate wore a piece of jewelry when she met the South African president that the queen wore at some point with one of the South African leaders.”
“I just think that there are other things she could have done through the messaging of her jewelry which historically has been a huge deal for the royals, to use that jewelry to send messages…I think she could have done better here.”
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