We just can’t resist anything royal related – especially when it’s sparkly, so we’re looking back at a history of royal engagement rings, including the story behind each one.
After all the excitement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement announcement, we started looking at wedding dress ideas for Meghan Markle right away. Then we started thinking about her engagement ring – and loved Ripe Insurance’s assessment of royal engagement rings throughout history, including hers, so we had to share it with you!
From gold bands studded with an array of colourful stones to sleek white gold bands adorned with dazzling diamonds, it’s fascinating to see how tastes and styles have evolved over the years. Starting with Queen Victoria’s striking, snake-inspired engagement ring, right up to Meghan’s lust worthy trio of diamonds, complete with a touching story behind them, browse back through a royal history of stunning engagement rings below.
Click here to see what designer Stephanie Allin predicts Meghan Markle might wear.
Queen Victoria was a remarkable woman and had quite the impact on how weddings take place today – she wore a white bridal gown, which was unusual at the time and was an early pioneer of ‘rocking the frock’ after her big day. She wore her wedding dress on numerous occasions, including for a portrait which was given to Prince Albert on their first anniversary, and she was buried with her wedding veil.
The queen actually proposed to her consort, Albert, although he did have her snake-themed engagement ring especially designed for her. The snake is an ancient Roman symbol for eternal love, and contained an emerald, which was Victoria’s birthstone. She was buried with the ring when she died.
She refused to have the promise to ‘obey’ removed from her wedding vows and served up a 300lbs wedding cake to her guests.
The couple got engaged at Windsor Castle on 15th October, 1839. The engagement ring was 18kt yellow gold and featured an emerald, rubies and diamonds.
Alexandra of Denmark married Victoria and Albert’s son, King Edward VII. The couple got engaged at the Royal Palace of Laeken on the 9th September 1862. Her striking engagement contained a hidden message.
It featured a rainbow of jewels, specially selected by her husband to spell out the initials of the pet name she called him. Acrostic jewellery was a popular trend in Victorian times, and her gold band featured beryl, two emeralds, ruby, topaz and jacinth, arranged to spell out ‘Bertie’, the named Alexandra affectionately referred to her husband by.
The Queen Mother, Elizabeth, was the wife of King George VI. There was a rumour that George proposed three times before Elizabeth said yes, although she later denied that this ever happened.
The proposal took place as the couple walked through the woods at Elizabeth’s father’s home in St Paul’s Walden Bury, on the 13th January 1923. Elizabeth accepted a platinum engagement ring, featuring an oval-shaped sapphire central stone, flanked by two diamond baguettes.
In the 1950s, the decade in which her husband died, Elizabeth replaced her striking sapphire engagement ring with a large pearl surrounded by diamonds.
Wallis Simpson’s engagement to King Edward VIII sent shockwaves through British society – Edward had to abdicate, surrendering his right to the throne in order to marry the twice-divorced American.
The couple got engaged at Wallis’s home in London on 27th October in 1936. The gold engagement ring came from Cartier and featured a 19.77 carat emerald, in a rectangular step-cut with a stylised leaf border and 14 brilliant-cut diamonds.
The ring was engraved with the message: ‘We are ours now 27 X 36’, which incorporates the date Edward proposed. They were together until Edward died in 1972, and after Wallis’s death in 1986, the ring sold at a Sotheby’s auction for £1,312,757.
The Queen and Prince Philip got engaged at Balmoral Castle on the 10th July 1947. Phillip had the ring made using diamonds from a tiara that belonged to his mother, Princess Andrew of Greece.
The platinum ring featured a 3ct square-cut diamond with diamond side stones, and was most recently valued at £100,000.
The official date of the engagement is July 1947 but the couple actually got engaged a year earlier – the King delayed announcing it as he was reluctant to give away his daughter at such a young age, and she was 21 when it was officially announced.
Princess Margaret got engaged to photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones at Windsor Castle on the 26th February 1960.
Her engagement ring was designed by Anthony – it was a ruby set in diamonds, designed to look like a rosebud to honour Margaret’s middle name, Rose.
When the couple got married, it was the first televised royal wedding in history, viewed by 20 million people. The couple had two children together, before divorcing in 1978.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip’s daughter Anne got engaged to Mark Phillips on 29th May 1973. Her engagement ring was designed and made by Garrard and featured a sapphire, flanked on either side by a 1ct diamond.
The couple’s wedding was watched by 500million viewers around the world. It was the second time in more than 200 years that a royal had married a ‘commoner’. The pair announced their separation in 1989 and were divorced in 1992.
Heir to the throne Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana Spencer at Windsor Castle on 24th February 1981. Unlike with most royal engagement rings, Diana’s ring was not custom-made but instead chosen by Diana from a selection presented to her by the royal jeweller, Garrard.
It was inspired by a sapphire and diamond brooch, presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1840 on the day before their wedding.
The ring was 18kt white gold and featured a 12ct sapphire centre stone, surrounded by 14 diamonds. At the time Diana received it, it was estimated to be worth £28,500 but it was most recently valued at £300,000.
Sarah Ferguson married the Queen’s younger son, Prince Andrew, after getting engaged at Scotland Floors Castle on 19th February 1986.
Prince Andrew proposed with a ruby engagement ring – it was an oval-cut, Burmese ruby surrounded by 10 diamonds (brilliant-cut) in a floral arrangement on an 18kt yellow gold band. The ring was originally valued at £25,000 and was said to contain a smaller centre stone than Diana’s engagement ring.
Prince Andrew chose to propose on his 26th birthday, and reportedly picked a ruby as it matched Sarah’s red hair. The couple split in 1996 but appear to remain close.
Serena Stanhope is married to David Armstrong-Jones, the son of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Following his father’s death in 2017, David became the Earl of Snowdon.
The couple got engaged at Les Jolies Eaux, Princess Margaret’s villa in Mustique, on the 8th October 1993. The engagement ring was a single (but significant) diamond on a delicate yellow gold band.
Prior to marrying David Armstrong-Jones, Serena worked in the PR department of Giorgio Armani. The couple have two children together – their daughter, Margarita, was a bridesmaid at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding.
Sophie Rhys Jones (also known as the Countess of Wessex) is married to Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward.
The couple got engaged in the Bahamas on the 6th January 1999. Edward proposed with a diamond and white gold engagement ring, which at the time was the most expensive royal engagement ring ever to be purchased.
The centre stone is a 2.05ct diamond on an 18kt white gold band. The diamond is flanked by two heart-shaped stones and has an estimated value of £105,000.
Sophie was the first royal bride to work full-time at her own profession – in public relations – and continued to do so until 2002.
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’ engagement was announced on the 10th February 2005. Charles proposed to Camilla with a family heirloom engagement ring. The art deco style ring features a distinctive emerald cut, 8ct diamond, which is flanked on either side by three diamond baguettes.
The estimated value of Camilla’s engagement ring is £100,000. It’s not known for sure where the ring comes from, but it is rumoured to have been a gift from George VI to the Queen Mother (the maternal grandparents of Prince Charles) to celebrate the birth of Elizabeth II, his mother.
Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne, proposed to Autumn Kelly whilst walking their dog near their home on the 28th of July 2007.
Autumn Kelly was a management consultant and Peter met her whilst working in Canada, where she is from. He presented her with a white gold band featuring a large diamond, framed by two smaller diamonds. The ring is estimated to be worth around £80,000.
He’d originally planned to propose with champagne during a hot air balloon ride but this had to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton whilst on holiday in Kenya and it was announced on the 16th November 2010.
He proposed with the ring that was given to his late mother, Princess Diana, as an engagement ring. It had belonged to his brother, Prince Harry, following his mother’s passing. They had both been allowed to choose a keepsake and Harry had picked the ring, whilst William had chosen her Cartier watch. They switched items to allow William to propose with the ring as he wanted to keep his mother ‘close to it all’.
It is now valued at £300,000. Should Prince William become king, Kate Middleton will be known as Queen Catherine and will be the first queen in British history to have a university education.
A month after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement was announced, the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips announced her engagement to rugby player Mike Tindall.
Mike proposed to Zara as they watched a film together at home, just a few days before Christmas. He designed the ring himself and it features a solitaire diamond in the middle of a split shank featuring a pavé of glittering diamonds, set into the platinum band.
The couple have a daughter, Mia Tindall, who is currently 17th in line to the throne.
Prince Harry proposed to American actress Meghan Markle whilst at home at their cottage in Kensington in early November – the official announcement was made to the public on the 27th November 2017. They were cooking a roast chicken together at the time of the proposal.
Prince Harry designed the ring himself, and had it made by Cleave & Co. He chose three diamonds – one large one sourced from Botswana where the couple holidayed together, and two smaller diamonds to flank it which came from his mother’s jewellery collection. Harry expressed a wish to ‘make sure she’s with us on this crazy journey’.
The estimated value of the ring varies from £150,000 to £400,000 – if the latter is correct it would make it the most expensive royal engagement ring ever.
Feeling a bit royal-ed out? Click here to see what makes up the average bride of today.