Kate Middleton's Dazzling State Banquet Regalia Explained

With the appearance of Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, at the state banquet held for President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to Britain on Tuesday, came an opportunity to see the royal dressed in full ceremonial regalia for the first time in three years—following the COVID pandemic.

The banquet was also the first of its kind to take place during the reign of King Charles III, who acceded to the throne upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96 in September.

For the landmark event, the jewelry vaults of the British royals were opened and the likes of Kate, Queen Camilla and Sophie, Countess of Wessex (the wife of the late-monarch's youngest son, Prince Edward) dusted off heirloom tiaras, glittering accessories and an assortment of official ceremonial regalia.

Here, Newsweek answers a reader's question as to what the different elements of the royals' outfits signify and what entitles their wearers to showcase them.

Kate Middleton State Banquet Regalia
Kate Middleton photographed during the state banquet reception for President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa at Buckingham Palace, November 22, 2022. Clockwise from top left: Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II, Star of the Royal Victorian Order, and a diamond brooch holding in place her Sash of the Royal Victorian Order. CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Victoria Jones - Pool / Getty Images

Royal Family Order

One of the most prominent royal ceremonial symbols that was worn by Kate on Tuesday was the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.

The order comprises an oval portrait of the late queen surrounded by diamonds pinned to a yellow silk ribbon.

The order is the personal gift of the sovereign to female members of the royal family only. However, this does not mean that all female members are given the order.

Queen Elizabeth presented the gift to nearly all senior female family members including Princess Anne and her working royal cousins: Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess of Gloucester.

Kate Middleton Royal Family Order
From left, Kate Middleton wearing the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on November 22, 2022, and during the annual diplomatic reception on December 11, 2019. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Though Princess Diana was given the order after her marriage in 1981, the Queen did not gift it to Prince Andrew's wife Sarah Ferguson. Nor are Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, or Meghan Markle, believed to have been given it either.

The justification for giving or not giving the order is not revealed to the public, nor is the presentation of the order itself. We only know a member of the family has received it when they appear at events wearing the badge.

Kate did not receive her order immediately after marrying Prince William in 2011 and was first seen wearing it in December 2017. Whereas before the orders had been made using ivory, Kate's was the first to use glass—fitting with William's drive to end the illegal trade in ivory.

Royal Family Orders have been in existence since the reign of King George IV and each successive monarch has created their own. Since George V in 1910, the orders have taken the same aesthetic form with each sovereign changing the color of their ribbon.

George V's ribbon was blue, George VI's pink, and Elizabeth II's yellow.

It is as yet unknown if King Charles will keep the tradition by creating his own order.

Star of the Royal Victorian Order

In 2019, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen had appointed the then-Duchess of Cambridge to be a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).

This is one of the highest personal honors that the monarch can bestow and was awarded for the duchess' "services to the Sovereign."

The order was founded by Queen Victoria in 1896 and has five classes, the Knight/Dame Grand Cross being the highest.

Part of the order's insignia is an eight-pointed star with the cypher of Queen Victoria on an enamel cross at its center.

The star is worn pinned to the left hip, as Kate displayed hers on Tuesday evening.

Kate Middleton Star of Royal Victorian Order
Kate Middleton, left, at Buckingham Palace on November 22, 2022. She also wore the Star of the Royal Victorian Order during an official visit to Jamaica on March 23, 2022, right. CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Samir Hussein - Pool/WireImage

Royal Victorian Order Sash

Another element of the insignia associated with the Royal Victorian Order is the sash worn across the right shoulder to the left hip.

The sash is blue with borders of red and white on each side.

Attached to the sash is the small white enameled cross of the order bearing the cypher of its founder, Queen Victoria.

Kate Middleton Sash Royal Victorian Order
Kate Middleton photographed at Buckingham Palace, and a closeup image of the princess' sash and insignia of the Royal Victorian Order, November 22, 2022. VICTORIA JONES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Heirloom Jewels

Together with the official ceremonial elements of her outfit, Kate accessorized with key pieces of heritage royal jewelry denoting her status as a future queen.

The most prominent jewel worn was the pearl and diamond tiara, known as the Queen Mary Lover's Knot tiara. This was created in 1913 for Queen Mary and was inherited by her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

The queen gave the tiara to Princess Diana on long-term loan as a wedding present in 1981. It became closely associated with the royal as she used it with a number of her most famous outfits.

The tiara was returned to the queen in 1996, as part of Charles and Diana's divorce agreement, and it was not seen in public again until Kate wore it in 2015.

Since then it has become the royal's principal tiara, worn most regularly throughout her marriage.

Kate Middleton State Visit Jewelry
Kate wearing Queen Mary's Lover's Knot tiara, earrings formerly belonging to Princess Diana, and a new brooch during the Buckingham Palace state banquet on November 22, 2022. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

In addition to the tiara, Kate wore a pair of Princess Diana's pearl and diamond earrings to the state dinner, as well as a pearl and diamond bracelet belonging to the late Queen.

Also, used to hold in place the sash of the Royal Victorian Order, the princess wore a new Art Deco diamond brooch, first debuted at the Remembrance Sunday service in November.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email royals@newsweek.com. We'd love to hear from you.