14 June 2014

Queen Alexandra's Wedding Gift Tiara

For many years, one of the biggest tiara mysteries surrounding the British royal family had to do with a showstopper tiara associated with one of the family’s matriarchs, Queen Alexandra. But in recent years, much more has been revealed about the piece, which Alexandra received as a wedding gift, and its eventual fate.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the tiara under its commonly-used name: the Rundell Tiara. For quite a long time, the tiara was presumably referred to as such because it was believed to have been made by Rundell & Bridge. But while that jewelry house did supply pieces to the British royals, this tiara was made by another familiar name: Garrard. While the tiara was an all-diamond affair, it was a part of a larger diamond and pearl parure made by the company in 1862. The set included the tiara, a necklace, a brooch, and a pair of earrings. Alexandra wore the necklace, earrings, and brooch on her wedding day (but not the tiara — she wore flowers in her hair instead, which you can see in the portrait above).

The parure was commissioned by the future Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, for his future bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The tiara was a versatile piece. Three rows of diamonds made up a solid base, upon which were mounted a series of interchangeable elements. Alexandra commonly wore the tiara with large diamond fleur-de-lys elements interspersed with intricate interlocking diamond “knots.” However, the tiara could also be worn without those bridge elements or with diamond stars worn in place of each of the fleur-de-lys.

Alexandra was the only member of the family ever photographed in her tiara. For some time, Windsor watchers hoped that the wedding gift tiara was simply gathering dust in the jewelry vaults and might someday make a reappearance in some form. But with the publication in 2012 of Hugh Roberts’s important book, The Queen’s Diamonds, the fate of the tiara has been made clear. Roberts reports that although Alexandra did not have a will when she died in 1925, she did indicate items of jewelry that she wished to leave to each of her daughters. The Garrard tiara was inherited by Princess Victoria, Alexandra’s second daughter. And unfortunately, Roberts also notes simply that the tiara was “disposed of” by Toria at some point.

But while hopes to see the wedding gift tiara reappear have ultimately been dashed, the other parts of Alexandra’s diamond and pearl parure remain securely today in the possession of Elizabeth II. The brooch, necklace, and earrings were all inherited by Queen Mary on Alexandra’s death. Mary gave the necklace to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, and the current queen inherited that piece from her mother in 2002. The brooch and the earrings passed directly from Mary to her granddaughter in 1953.