06 April 2014

Sunday Sparkler: Queen Alexandrine's Fringe Tiara

Countess Sussie of Rosenborg wears the fringe tiara [1]
If you delve deep enough into any royal tiara collection, you're sure to bump into a fringe tiara eventually. Nearly every royal family has at least one of the sparklers, in part because so many of them are descended from the Russian grand duchesses who popularized them in the nineteenth century. We’re used to seeing one Danish princess, Benedikte, wearing a flashy fringe tiara on a regular basis. But that’s not the fringe tiara that actually comes from the Danish royal collection; Benedikte wears the fringe tiara of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg family. The Danish royal fringe tiara is today's sparkler: Queen Alexandrine's Fringe Tiara.

Anastasia Mikhailovna [2]
This tiara, like so many others of its kind, began its life in Russia. Tsar Alexander II gave it to his niece, Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna, when she married Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1879. We've discussed before how popular these diamond fringe tiaras were in the imperial court of Russia. They were made to resemble Russian kokoshnik headdresses, and nearly every grand duchess received one in her wedding trousseau. Anastasia's fringe tiara is a bit unusual; rather than being set in precise geometric spikes, the individual fringes of the tiara are actually a bit curved along the edges, with round diamonds arranged in a row and pear-shaped diamonds at the tip of each fringe. The tiara appears to be fuller in the photographs of Anastasia than it does on later wearers; this might suggest that the piece was altered at some point, but it might also be a case where the tiara was worn with a fabric kokoshnik behind it to make it look more solid.

Anastasia, who you can see wearing the fringe tiara in the image on the left, was quite the scandalous grand duchess — she gambled in Monaco, had an illegitimate son with her private secretary, and was even (probably falsely) accused of killing her husband. The press today would love her. But in between all of that, Anastasia also managed to give birth to a future queen. Her daughter, Alexandrine, married King Christian X of Denmark in 1898; she would be the next owner of the fringe tiara. According to Alexandrine's granddaughter, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, she wasn't that fond of wearing the elaborate royal jewels that she inherited from her Russian mother: "She was a very modest, really shy person. but for great occasions she would put on the jewelry that you would expect her to. But I remember that she did not wear a lot of jewelry."

Alexandrine of Denmark [3]
When Alexandrine did wear grand jewels, however, this tiara was one that she would frequently wear. In the earlier years of her marriage, she wore the tiara low across her forehead, in the style that was fashionable at the time; later in her life, she wore the tiara atop her head. She later bequeathed the fringe tiara to her second son, Prince Knud. (Knud was set to succeed his brother Frederik as king of Denmark until a change to the constitution allowed his niece — the current Queen Margrethe II — to inherit the throne.) Today, Knud’s descendants still own the tiara, and his daughter-in-law, Countess Sussie of Rosenborg (pictured at the top of the post), often wears it to major Danish royal events. And the tiara also has another slightly peculiar legacy: a brand of Danish sardines features a portrait of Queen Alexandrine wearing the tiara on each tin. If you have to eat sardines, I think you should definitely choose a brand topped with a tiara! [4]

1. Cropped still from a YouTube video; source here.
2. Cropped still from a YouTube video; source here.
3. Cropped still from a YouTube video; source here.
4. A version of this post originally appeared at A Tiara a Day in April 2013.