Why Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring Infuriated Palace Officials

Think the sapphire and diamond ring was too ostentatious? Think again.

princess diana ringTim Graham/Getty Images

When Prince William presented Kate Middleton with his beloved mother’s engagement ring in 2010, royal watchers everywhere swooned. After all, Princess Diana’s ring—a 12-karat blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold, surrounded by 14 diamonds—was arguably the most famous engagement ring in the world. Incredibly, however, the ring wasn’t appreciated by everybody.

A ring fit for a Queen

As the future king, Prince Charles’s choice of partner was bound to be highly anticipated and celebrated. When he met Diana, people rejoiced, sure that Charles had finally found his happily-ever-after. A relationship as special as theirs deserved a similarly unique ring—and that’s why palace officials were reportedly unhappy. Previous royal rings, including Queen Victoria’s and Queen Elizabeth’s, had been custom-made. (Queen Elizabeth’s ring was particularly romantic, with Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, gifting him her wedding tiara so it could be used to create Elizabeth’s ring.) However, Diana’s ring, gorgeous though it might have been was—gasp!—available off-the-rack to anybody. Take a look at these rare photos of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding day you might not have seen before.

Chosen from a catalog

Although the ring was certainly expensive—valued at £47,000 or approximately $60,000—the ring that Prince Charles offered to Princess Diana from fancy jewelers Garrard had been featured in the Garrard catalog beforehand.

Founded in London in 1735, Garrard themselves had a royal pedigree, appointed as the official crown jeweler of the United Kingdom in 1843 by Queen Victoria, and serving every British monarch since. However, even though the ring itself had allegedly been royally-inspired by a sapphire-and-diamond cluster brooch given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria as a wedding present, palace officials were reportedly unhappy. Their take? The ring simply wasn’t exclusive enough for a future Queen. Find out the hidden message Diana had painted in her wedding shoes.

Diana’s legacy

After Princess Diana’s tragic passing in 1997, her sons Prince William and Prince Harry selected heirlooms that they wished to keep, with Harry inheriting the famous ring. (Diana’s favorite Cartier Tank Francaise watch went to William.) However, when Prince William knew he was ready to propose to Kate Middleton, Harry didn’t hesitate to offer their mother’s ring. William and Harry swapped items, and William got down on one-knee in Kenya, after carrying the ring around in a knapsack for three weeks beforehand. William was quoted as saying of the iconic ring, “It’s very special, as Kate is very special. It’s my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement.” Now, don’t miss these 20 iconic royal wedding photos throughout history.

Nadine Jolie Courtney
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a Virtuoso travel advisor and regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering travel, culture, and health. A former magazine editor based in Santa Monica, she also covers lifestyle and parenting, with regular outlets including The Healthy, Oprah Mag, Town & Country, Business Insider, and many other publications. Courtney is the author of four books, including ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL, a Kirkus Best Book of 2019. Follow her on Instagram @nadinejoliecourtney