Story time: The Queen and Imelda

September 13, 2022

Once upon a time, there was a regal woman from an archipelago dubbed Pearl of the Orient Seas. She was powerful in her own right, besides being the lady of that land’s ruler. Her name was Imelda Marcos, and she was also referred to, with much reverence by her subjects, as Madam.

She was considered her husband’s not-so-secret weapon for diplomacy, disarming world leaders with her effortless charm and elan.

On 20 October 1973 to be precise, Madam received an invitation to grace the Sydney Opera House. From the West, a feisty queen named Elizabeth II was to inaugurate the unusually shaped building.

About a million people were reported to have showed up — mainly to watch the Queen open the landmark hulking structure designed by the architect Jørn Utzon.

Now, Madam, who had been a favorite muse of local artists, was being portrayed as a member of the Maharlika class, or the ancient native royalty (though its existence during pre-colonial times remains unproven). She had also been the subject of a painting depicting the folk legend Maganda (The Beautiful), along with her husband Ferdinand E. Marcos as Malakas (The Strong), emerging from a slit-open bamboo.

Whatever urban myth was spun about Madam, she seemed to take nonchalantly. It was the people who spoke, after all. A perpetual advocate of beauty, a commitment she said she held for the people, Madam was once quoted as saying, “I’ve always maintained that the only things to uphold are the good, the true and the beautiful. We have to reject what’s ugly.“

Photographs courtesy of twitter/Your Daily dose
Social media site Your Daily Dose points out the tale of the tiara and non-tiara wearing Madam versus the beret-wearing Queen. (Marks by Your Daily Dose.)

And so in Sydney, her legendary elegance was seen with awe. Madam was really a standout in representing her motherland, dressed in native formal costume and — that which kept many stunned — a tiara to frame her thick raven-colored bouffant.

But, as social media page Your Daily Dose recently asked on Twitter, why was Madam “asked to remove her tiara by the Queen in the inauguration of the Sydney Opera House?”

“From pics of Imelda at the event there seems to be a tiara on the head but later taken off, while the Queen was not wearing one,” noted Your Daily Dose.

Was Madam asked to remove her tiara following royal protocol?

Photograph courtesy of twitter/Your Daily dose
The myth about the tiara of Madam Imelda Marcos.

It was the queen who opened the opera house because she was the head of state of Australia, which was represented by the Governor General. (That post is now taken by King Charles III as the new monarch of Australia and also New Zealand.)

While Madam looked strikingy elegant in her tiara and Filipiniana gown, the Queen, on the other hand, was wearing her usual mono-colored dress, a string of pearls, lady gloves, and something unembellished or pompous — a beret — for headwear.

Did Madam get away with her preferred OOTD? What did the British royal family think of that “tiara” incident? Well, in polite passive fashion, Imelda was nonetheless photographed enjoying social time with then Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne.

In a parallel universe, however, on Netflix, in the third episode of the fourth season of The Crown, her name popped out from the mouth of Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter), who mocked the way she spoke English and mentioned her collection of shoes, or as misheard by the Princess, “shells.”

The episode got mixed reviews, including harsh criticisms, for mocking Madam, and supposedly the pride of Filipinos.

In any case, the Queen had always been known to be a very opinionated woman, just as she was also known to have a good sense of humor. But on whether she had a hand (pun intended) in having Madam remove her tiara on that historic day — it’s a mystery that Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on 8 September, has now taken to her grave.


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