22 May 2014

Bridal Jewels: The Princess of Asturias

Ten years ago today, the biggest royal wedding to be held in Spain in nearly a century took place in Madrid, when Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a Spanish journalist and television news anchor, married the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe. Because the wedding was a daytime affair, the guests weren't dripping in jewels as they had been in Denmark a few days before (when the Danish crown prince was married -- see here and here for a recap of that wedding!).

Instead, the jewelry focus was mainly on the bride, who wore an heirloom tiara from her new husband's family for the occasion. (Want more on the wacky hats worn by the guests? Head over to The Royal Roundup to see a classic Mad Hattery! post on the majestic millinery in all its glory!)

The tiara worn by Letizia on her big day was borrowed from her new mother-in-law, Queen Sofia of Spain. It's generally called the "Prussian Tiara." How, you may be asking yourself, did the Spanish royals get a hold of a tiara with the word “Prussian” in its name? The answer to that question lies in the heritage of the current queen of Spain. Sofia was born a princess of Greece and Denmark; her mother, Friederike, was a Hanoverian princess. And her mother was the Prussian link: Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, the daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiserin Augusta Victoria of Germany.

Victoria Louise received the diamond and platinum tiara, which features both meander and laurel-leaf elements, as well as a central pear-shaped diamond mounted en tremblant, as a wedding present from her father in 1913. It was made for the princess by Koch, a jeweler that often did work for the German imperial family. (We’ve seen several examples of Koch tiaras on the blog this year — see here and here for two of them.) Victoria Louise wore the tiara on her wedding day; her new husband was Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick. She's also wearing the tiara in the wedding souvenir postcard pictured above.

The next owner of the tiara was Ernst August and Victoria Louise’s daughter, Friederike. When she traveled to Greece to marry the country’s crown prince (later King Paul) in 1938, she was given the diamond tiara to take along. Friederike and Paul’s elder daughter, Sophia, wore the sparkler to some of her first white-tie events. When she married the future king of Spain — and changed the spelling of her name to Sofia — she wore the Prussian tiara with her veil. (You can see her wearing it in the picture above, in the midst of her wedding ceremony in Athens.)

Both of Sofia’s daughters, Elena and Cristina, have worn their great-grandmother’s tiara, but the piece did not grace another royal bride’s head until 2004. Letizia wore the petite diamond sparkler with her veil on her wedding day. It was a neat homage to her new family, paying tribute to the wedding of her parents-in-law and to her husband's regal heritage. It was also a good choice because (unlike her extremely tall husband) Letizia is a small woman, and a larger bridal tiara might have overwhelmed her.

Since the wedding, Letizia has been the primary wearer of the tiara. She's not been given the tiara outright -- it still resides in her mother-in-law's collection, but Sofia is quite generous in lending jewels to her daughters and daughter-in-law for major occasions, like weddings and banquets. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this is one of the first tiaras that we see one day on Letizia’s daughters, the future Queen Leonor and her younger sister, Infanta Sofia, continuing the family tradition for yet another generation [1].

1. A version of this post originally appeared at A Tiara a Day in September 2013.