22 March 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Stuart Tiara

Today, we're open-mouthed staring at one of the sparkliest Dutch tiaras of them all: the Stuart tiara. This whopper of a diadem includes one of the rarest and most historic diamonds in any royal collection, the Stuart (or Holland) Diamond. That single diamond alone weighs almost forty carats!

The Stuart Diamond’s first recorded owner was a member of the House of Stuart (hence the name): Queen Mary II of England, wife and co-regnant of King William III (who was born William of Orange; he helped to overthrow his father-in-law, James II, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688). Mary and William purchased the diamond themselves after they married, and it was originally set in a brooch [2].

The diamond went back to the Netherlands after first Mary and then William died. It actually returned to England, however, when a subsequent Prince of Orange went into exile. Queen Charlotte encouraged his wife, Princess Wilhelmina, to have some of the family’s jewels made over, and the Stuart was remodeled as a pendant necklace. Although the family was able to return triumphantly to the Netherlands by 1815, the stone came back to England one more time when it was displayed in London at the famous Great Exhibition of 1851.

The Stuart Diamond wasn’t placed in a tiara until 1897, when Schürmann designed this tiara [3]. It was ordered by Queen Emma specifically for the investiture of her daughter, Queen Wilhelmina. The queen who sported the tiara most often, however, was Queen Juliana. She’s also the last person to have been photographed wearing the tiara. In the picture above, Juliana wears the tiara at Windsor Castle during a 1972 state visit to the United Kingdom.

Neither Princess Beatrix nor Queen Máxima has worn the tiara in public. Some have suggested that alterations have been made to the rather enormous tiara to make it more wearable for a modern woman, but those rumors have apparently not been substantiated. Who knows? Perhaps Máxima, who is known for being adventurous with her jewels, will take this one out of the vaults at last [4].

1. Detail of a 1962 portrait of Queen Juliana; source here.
2. For more on the Stuart/Holland diamond, see here.
3. John's website has much more on the creation of the Stuart Tiara and the House diamond parure.
4. A version of this post originally appeared at A Tiara a Day in May 2013.