02 February 2014

A Tale of Two Fringes

Princess Charlotte of Monaco wears her tiara russe [1]
We interrupt your usual weekend jewel schedule with a special post inspired by this weekend's wedding in Switzerland -- stand by tomorrow for your usual chance to play jewel detective!

Yesterday, royal watchers (including yours truly) were shocked to see Tatiana Santo Domingo, the wife of Andrea Casiraghi, arrive at her religious wedding ceremony in Gstaad wearing a diamond fringe tiara. The Grimaldi family, including those members who have an HSH preceding their names, aren't especially big on jewelry, particularly tiaras. The current Princess of Monaco, Charlene, didn't wear a tiara at her own wedding ceremony, and she's only worn one small aigrette in public (at her wedding reception). And while Princess Caroline does wear tiaras and other jewels, to my knowledge, Princess Stephanie has never worn a tiara in public at all.

So when Tatiana, Princess Caroline's daughter-in-law, appeared in a diamond fringe, most of us were understandably excited. Attention immediately went to the jewel vaults of Monaco, and the tiara pictured above -- Princess Charlotte's diamond fringe tiara -- was pegged as a potential candidate for Tatiana's tiara.

The diamond fringe tiara belonged to Princess Charlotte of Monaco, the grandmother of the current sovereign prince. She received it from her father, Prince Louis II, as a wedding present in 1920. The piece, which has been attributed to Cartier, may have been inherited by Louis from his mother, Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton [2]. Mary Victoria was the daughter of a Scottish peer, the Duke of Hamilton, and her mother was a German princess, Marie Amelie of Baden [3]. The fringe tiara is apparently referred to by the Grimaldis as a tiara russe -- this makes sense given the fringe tiara's design roots in the kokoshnik-mad imperial court of the Romanovs. Ultimately, the provenance of the piece has never been made entirely clear, though I wouldn't at all be surprised if it is a nineteenth-century piece.

Princess Caroline's
fringe necklace [6]
Charlotte was only photographed in the tiara once (to my knowledge). In the years since her death, many (including me) have identified a diamond fringe necklace worn by her granddaughter, Princess Caroline, as Charlotte's tiara russe removed from its frame. But closer inspection of the two fringes suggests that they cannot be the same piece. Charlotte's tiara has many more spikes than Caroline's necklace (by my count, the necklace has 25 large spikes; Charlotte's tiara has many more). The necklace also has very distinctive spoon-shaped small spikes, while the tiara has simpler, tapered small spikes [4]. You can see the small spikes of the necklace circled in the image on the right.

So if the fringe necklace worn by Caroline isn't her grandmother's tiara russe, where did it come from? This is a question that still needs to be answered. The necklace has been included in exhibitions of Princess Grace's clothing and jewels, and in the context of those exhibitions, it has apparently been labeled as one of Grace's pieces of jewelry. But I've never been able to find photographic evidence of Grace wearing the fringe necklace [5]. Was the fringe necklace owned by Princess Charlotte? Did Princess Grace ever own or wear the piece? Is it not an heirloom at all -- is it possibly a newer piece that Princess Caroline owns outright? Did she perhaps either purchase it or receive it as a gift at some point? Does Albert own the necklace now, with some sort of loan agreement with Caroline? We don't really have answers to these questions at this point.

Ultimately, though, it seems we have at least two diamond fringes associated with the Grimaldi family on our hands. Charlotte's tiara russe is one of the two fringes; it may or may not be the same tiara that Tatiana wore on Saturday. If it is the same piece, it's undergone a makeover. The frame of the tiara would have to have been altered significantly to allow the piece to be worn atop Tatiana's head, rather than in the bandeau style worn by Princess Charlotte. Such changes may also have affected the shape of the tiara, possibly accounting for the slight difference in angle. The other fringe is the necklace worn by Princess Caroline. We can say for certain that the tiara russe and the diamond fringe necklace, so long considered to be the same piece of jewelry, are actually two separate pieces. 

We also know that the tiara worn by Tatiana is most certainly not her mother-in-law's necklace set on a frame. Tatiana's tiara also lacks the spoon-shaped smaller spikes that the necklace has. So is Tatiana's bridal tiara the same piece as Princess Charlotte's tiara russe, worn again after almost a century hidden away? Maybe -- but it's also possible that Tatiana's tiara isn't Charlotte's tiara russe at all. There's certainly enough money flowing through the various branches of the Grimaldi, Casiraghi, and Santo Domingo families to acquire a new tiara for Tatiana. Until we get firm confirmation from reliable sources about the provenance of any of these three items, let the speculation continue!

1. Cropped and enlarged version of a photograph available via Wikipedia; source here.
2. See this post for a connection between the fringe tiara and the Hamiltons.
3. Marie Amelie was from a rather jewel-rich family; her mother was Stephanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte.
4. Note that Ursula's page on the tiara russe includes an image of Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara, owned by the British royal family (and worn by Elizabeth II on her wedding day), among the photographs of Charlotte wearing her fringe tiara. The two are not the same piece.
5. It should be noted, however, that the Cartier Pearl Drop Tiara, when exhibited, is generally also said to have been Grace's. That tiara was Princess Charlotte's, and today it is worn by Princess Caroline (though it reportedly belongs to her brother). Again, there's never been any evidence that Grace ever wore that piece in public either, so categorizing the fringe necklace as one of Grace's jewels may be a part of a larger trend of mislabeling items.
6. Cropped, enlarged, and altered low-quality version of photograph; original here. The excerpted portion of the image is being incorporated for the purpose of commentary, and as such, I believe its inclusion here adheres to the guidelines of fair use.