21 January 2014

Jewel History: Royal Wedding Gifts (1878)

King Alfonso XII of Spain and Mercedes d'Orléans[1]
"Royal Wedding Gifts"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 21 Jan 1878)

The King of Spain [2] has presented to his young bride, the Infanta Mercedes [3], an elegant casket manufactured in Paris. It is of lapis lazuli mounted on four lions' paws for feet; is 10 inches high and 20 long. The sides are ornamented with a profusion of wreaths of roses in gold and of all colors, and of marvelous workmanship. The key itself is a masterpiece of jewelry, and has the form of a full-blown rose with a bud. The interior is set with diamond studs. This box is destined to preserve the letters of the young couple before their marriage, but in the mean time it will contain a gift of a splendid necklace of eight rows of Indian pearls from the royal bridegroom.

The presents offered by the French government to the King of Spain, on the occasion of his marriage, have just been sent off. They consist of two Sèvres vases, 48 inches in height, and a centre-piece of the same manufacture. The ground-work is of light blue, and the sides are ornamented with paintings in oval. Some Gobelins tapestry [4] is comprised in the gifts, intended to adorn the oratory of the Queen, the subjects being "The Last Supper," by Leonardo da Vinci, and "The Assumption," by Murillo.

Note: Mercedes did not have long to enjoy her wedding gifts. She died of typhoid fever on 26 June 1878, only a few months after her wedding (and only two days after her eighteenth birthday). Alfonso subsequently married Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria; he named their eldest daughter Mercedes in honor of his late first wife.

1. Detail of German picture postcard of Alfonso XII and Mercedes d'Orléans , published in 1878 to celebrate their wedding; source here.
2. King Alfonso XII of Spain (1857-1885), who succeeded after his mother, Queen Isabella II, abdicated and a military coup restored the Spanish monarchy.
3. Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans (1860-1878) was the daughter of Antoine, Duke of Montpensier (the youngest son of King Louis-Philippe of the France) and Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain. She and her husband were first cousins; their mothers were sisters.
4. The Gobelins Manufactory still produces a small number of tapestries for the French government.