Every detail of the outfit Kate Middleton wore this week to the state dinner held for Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands means something, and just about everything she wore has history attached to it. Kate carefully chose her ensemble, which included Princess Diana’s favorite tiara, a stunning pale blue Alexander McQueen gown, and a necklace owned by Queen Alexandra in the 19th century.
But the most important detail of Kate’s wardrobe was pinned near her left shoulder: a small cameo of Queen Elizabeth on top of a yellow ribbon. This is a Royal Family Order, and it’s an incredibly important honor. By receiving it, Kate did something that no one has done in over 100 years, according to Harper’s Bazaar.
The Royal Family Order is awarded by the queen, or king as the case may be, to members of the royal family at the monarch’s discretion. The order is commonly a small portrait of the monarch attached to a yellow ribbon, exactly like the one Kate was wearing at the state dinner.
At important state functions like this banquet, it’s very common to wear royal orders and other honors such as this one. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, also wore her Royal Family Order, as well as her Royal Victorian Order.
Like the Royal Family Order, the Royal Victorian Order is given personally to someone by England’s ruling king or queen for “services to the Sovereign.” The Royal Victorian Order is a bold blue sash.
Kate does not have the Royal Victorian Order yet, but it’s likely she will have one at some point. Royal wives commonly receive this order.
What’s not so common is Kate’s Royal Family Order. The state dinner was only the second known occasion during which Kate has worn the important honor. Reportedly, she also wore the badge at a Buckingham Palace event in December, 2017. There were no photographs of that event made public, however, so this week is the first time Kate has been seen publicly wearing her badge.
Kate is only the second granddaughter-in-law to receive the Royal Family Order from a living monarch, according to royal expert and historian Marlene Koenig. This puts Kate in extremely rare company indeed. The other granddaughter-in-law to have this honor was Princess Mary of Teck, who married the grandson of Queen Victoria. She received her order shortly after her 1893 wedding.
Kate’s Royal Family Order also has another important distinction: it’s not made with ivory. Traditionally used for the Royal Family Order badge, ivory is a pet project for Prince William. He has been active against the ivory trade, so the change was probably done specifically just for Kate’s order.
Also present at the Tuesday banquet were Prince Charles and Camilla, Kate’s husband, Prince William, and about 150 special guests, according to Hello! Magazine. This included Princess Mabel, Willem-Alexander’s sister-in-law.
The guests feasted on various vegetable and meat pies, and enjoyed 280 slices of chocolate orange torte.