28 January 2014

Margaret of Connaught's Laurel Wreath Necklace

Crown Princess Margareta [1]
As the month draws to a close, so does our foray into the jewel collection of Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and ancestor of many of the current Scandinavian royals. Today, let's wrap up with a look at one of her wedding gifts: her laurel wreath necklace, worn today as a tiara.

Crown Princess Margareta [3]
The necklace, which was made by Boucheron, was given to Margaret by her new husband's grandmother, Queen Sofia of Sweden. The piece may have been a stock item in Boucheron's collection rather than a specific commission by the queen, as another nearly identical necklace by Boucheron was auctioned at Christie's in 2010 [2]. That necklace differs from Margaret's in only one aspect: Margaret's appears to have one additional diamond suspended from the center of the necklace, something that the auctioned necklace lacks. (This additional diamond drop is also visible when the piece is worn as a tiara.) Christie's notes that the auctioned necklace was made in the late nineteenth century, which could certainly also be true for Margaret's necklace -- she received hers in 1905. The auctioned necklace is also listed as a "necklace-tiara," which suggests that both pieces were intended to be convertible from the start.

But Margaret apparently never wore the piece as a tiara; she was only ever photographed wearing it as a necklace. The two photographs above show her wearing the necklace with full Swedish court dress, including her Irish lace veil and the diamond "forget-me-not" tiara she received from her parents as a wedding gift. The necklace was not worn in public as a tiara until more than half a century after Margaret's death, when her daughter-in-law, Princess Lilian, began wearing the piece to official functions.

Lilian obtained the right to wear the laurel wreath after she began a relationship with Margaret's third son, Prince Bertil. The laurel wreath necklace is one of the jewels that he inherited from his mother; another one of the pieces that he received was the scarab necklace that we recently discussed. Lilian and Bertil had something of a star-crossed love affair. They met and fell in love in England during the war, but Lilian was already married to someone else. Even though she and her husband amicably divorced, marriage to Bertil was still out of the question for more complicated reasons.

Marrying Lilian would have caused Bertil to lose his place in the Swedish succession; Bertil's grandfather, the king, would not have approved their "unequal" marriage. It wasn't uncommon for Swedish royal men to chose love over titles (two of Bertil's brothers did, in fact) [4], but Bertil needed to keep his place in line so that he could serve as regent for his nephew, Carl Gustaf, should he have become king before his eighteenth birthday. (Because Carl Gustaf's father had died in a plane crash, which led to him becoming the heir to the throne at the age of four, this was a real possibility.) So Bertil and Lilian waited to get married, choosing duty to the family over legal recognition of their relationship.

Crown Princess Victoria [6]
But although their relationship could not be legally sanctioned, Lilian was accepted as a member of the royal family. This tiara was actually one of the public symbols of that acceptance. She wore it in public for the first time in 1972 at the 90th birthday celebrations of Bertil's father, King Gustaf VI Adolf [5]. Even today, it's highly unusual for unmarried partners of royal men to wear tiaras to family occasions, and when it's done, it generally signals that they are considered a part of the royal fold, marriage certificate or not. (See also: Bertil and Lilian's great-nephew, Prince Gustav of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, and his partner, Carina Axelsson .)

After Carl XVI Gustaf became king, he granted permission for his Uncle Bertil to marry Lilian and keep his royal titles. They wed in Drottningholm Palace in 1976, and Lilian officially became a Swedish princess. She attended many official functions with the royal family over the years, including the Nobel ceremonies, and she often wore her mother-in-law's laurel wreath at those events. She became an important part of the royal family, even acting as a sort of surrogate grandmother for Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip, and Princess Madeleine.

The laurel wreath tiara became Lilian's personal property on the death of Prince Bertil in 1997. After suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Lilian died in March 2013. She made sure that this heirloom tiara stayed with the Bernadottes, bequeathing it to her great-niece, Crown Princess Victoria [7]. Victoria wore the tiara for the first time in public at her sister's wedding this summer (see the photograph at left) -- a lovely gesture that provided a reminder of Lilian at an event she would certainly have loved to have attended [8].

1. Digitally enhanced version of a photograph in the public domain; original image available here.
2. See this feature on Christie's website for a photograph of the nearly identical necklace/tiara; the page also has information on the piece's provenance.
3. Photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
4. Margaret's second son, Prince Sigvard, lost his royal title when he married Erica Patzek in 1934; her fourth son, Prince Carl Johan, lost his title after marrying Kerstin Wijkmark in 1946. Only July 2, 1951, both Sigvard and Carl Johan were given the title of "Count of Wisborg" by Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. Both men were therefore members of the unintroduced nobility of Sweden; see here for more.
5. See Sofia Svanholm's obituary of Princess Lilian.
6. Photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
7. Details of the inheritance of Lilian's jewels were made public last month. As expected, the laurel wreath tiara was listed as one of the possessions left to Crown Princess Victoria. But the will also notes that a "diadem of steel, white gold and diamonds" was also left to Victoria. Royal jewel lovers have been scratching their heads over this one, as it does not match a description of any tiaras we have seen in public before -- the steel tiaras worn by the Bernadottes are already in the family jewel foundation. Could we perhaps have another mystery tiara waiting in the wings?
8. A version of this post originally appeared at A Tiara a Day in December 2013.