Queen Elizabeth II Had A Major Wardrobe Malfunction On Her Wedding Day

The British Royal Family is, by its very nature, all about appearances. As the public-facing symbol of the thousand-year history of the United Kingdom's governance, even if they have no real political power (per the monarchy's website), they must adhere to strict rules governing how they look, dress, and act when the cameras are facing them. As such, their look is carefully managed, with great lengths being undertaken to avoid giving any appearance of fallibility.

Nevertheless, during one of the biggest events in modern British Royal Family history — Princess Elizabeth's 1947 wedding to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, which was sent out to 200 million people via BBC radio, according to the monarchy's website — the young princess, who would later become Queen, suffered a wardrobe malfunction. Fortunately, Elizabeth had an army of attendees at her disposal should things go wrong, and soon enough the day was saved. As Vogue notes, there was a period of about two hours when it looked as if things weren't going to go according to plan, but Elizabeth, now known for being able to think on her feet and handle setbacks, made it through the ceremony without once giving a hint that she'd narrowly avoided disaster.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

For centuries some brides in certain English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom and the U.S., have incorporated things from an old rhyme into their wedding-day attire: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," according to Reader's Digest. For Princess Elizabeth, the "something borrowed" was a bit of jewelry belonging to her mother, Elizabeth (who would later be given the title the Queen Mother when her daughter ascended the throne). In fact, that bit of jewelry originally belonged to Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, having commissioned it in 1919, according to Vogue.

This was no ordinary piece of jewelry, however. It was the Fringe Tiara — which could double as a necklace — and consisted of diamonds set in gold and silver.

Unfortunately, a couple of hours before the ceremony, Elizabeth was trying to put it on when it malfunctioned. "The catch, which I didn't know existed, it suddenly went. And I didn't know it was a necklace, you see ... I thought I'd broken it... I was rather alarmed," she later said, via Hello! Magazine, in her typical Elizabethan way.

A Royal Jeweler Saves The Day

With a couple of hours to go before the wedding, the Princess was distraught that the tiara she'd been planning to wear was malfunctioning, according to Vogue. In the grand scheme of things, such a thing would be considered a minor inconvenience at worst, but brides can be highly-strung — especially on the day itself — and in this particular case, the stakes were extremely high. Elizabeth's mother, for her part, tried to reassure her stressed-out daughter that there were other tiaras, but Elizabeth wanted THE tiara.

Fortunately, there was a contingency plan already in place, with the jeweler having been placed on standby in the case of a jewel-related emergency. Sure enough, the tiara was taken across town, through the streets of London under police escort, according to Hello! Magazine, and back to the jeweler's shop so it could be repaired. Another police escort across London later, and the repaired tiara was on the princess' head.

Photographs taken from the day of the big event show the princess looking "calm and serene," as Vogue describes her, not betraying the fact that earlier in the day she'd dodged a catastrophe.

The Malfunctioning Tiara Is Still Around

Think of Princess/Queen Elizabeth's Fringe Tiara as something that kind of belongs to her and kind of doesn't. It's hers in the sense that she's the daughter of the woman who had it made, but it's also a priceless artifact that belongs to the monarchy itself, and by extension, the country.

The tiara's days of adorning the heads of women from the House of Windsor on their wedding day didn't end with Princess Elizabeth's marriage in 1947. Two and a half decades later, in 1973, Elizabeth, now Queen, took a page out of her mother's book and loaned it (if indeed it was hers to loan) to her own daughter, Princess Anne (pictured above), when she wed Captain Mark Phillips, as Hello! Magazine reports. No word on whether or not the accessory malfunctioned again on that particular day.

As of April 2022, the Queen still had the tiara — perhaps it's more accurate to say that was in a secure facility somewhere in England, ready to be retrieved should Her Majesty ask for it. However, she "rarely wears it," as Hello! Magazine reported.