08 June 2014

Sunday Sparkler: The Connaught Diamond Tiara

Delicate, antique, and sentimental: the diamond drop tiara of the Swedish royal family has to be one of the most lovely tiaras in a royal collection today. The tiara came to Sweden in 1905 with the country’s new princess, Margaret of Connaught, and has been worn by women in each generation since.

Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, ca. 1909 [source]

We’ve already talked about the tiara that Margaret received as a wedding present from the Khedive of Egypt; this was the tiara that she received from her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn. (Margaret’s father was a son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; her uncle was King Edward VII of the UK.) The Connaughts bought the tiara in 1904 from E. Wolff & Co. In the portrait above, painted  by Axel Jungstedt around five years after her marriage, Margaret is depicted wearing two tiaras: the Connaught tiara on her head, and the Khedive tiara as an ornament on the bodice of her dress.

Princess Margaret didn’t wear a tiara at her wedding, but the Connaught tiara has adorned the heads of other Bernadotte brides and princesses. Princess Christina wore the tiara in 1974 when she married Tord Magnuson (the couple is pictured above with the bride's younger brother, King Carl XVI Gustaf). Although many Bernadotte brides wear the family's Cameo Tiara, Princess Christina almost certainly wore the Connaught as a tribute to her mother, Princess Sibylla, who had died a year and a half earlier.

Within the family, the tiara is most frequently linked to Princess Sibylla. The tiara became so associated with her that it is sometimes simply called “Sibylla’s tiara.” She regularly wore the Connaught tiara at events like the annual Nobel ceremony and the opening of the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament. She's pictured above in full traditional Swedish court dress with the tiara on her way to the Riksdag in 1957.

Today, the tiara is owned by King Carl XVI Gustaf, who inherited it from Princess Sibylla. It is apparently a personally owned piece, not a part of the family’s jewel foundation. Shortly after he inherited the throne, the tiara became a touching link between Carl Gustaf's late mother and his new wife. Then still Silvia Sommerlath, she donned the late Princess Sibylla's tiara (pictured above) for the performance at the Royal Opera House on the night before her wedding in 1976.

For years, Queen Silvia was the primary wearer of the tiara, but that distinction is perhaps slowly being ceded to Princess Madeleine, who famously wore the tiara at Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding in 2010. (This was a last minute switcharoo, apparently — the press releases from the day had Madeleine’s tiara wrong, and as you can see in the photo above, the base of the tiara was still wrapped in dark material to match her mother’s hair.) Some thought Madeleine might choose this one for her own wedding, but she ended up wearing her mother's modern fringe tiara instead.

Madeleine also wears the diamond drops suspended from the tiara’s loops independently as pendants on a necklace (as she did above at the wedding of Princess Martha Louise of Norway in 2002) and as drop earrings. Many have suggested that her use of the tiara and its elements may mean that she will eventually inherit the sparkler. If that's true, perhaps we'll see this tiara one day on the head of the little princess being christened in Sweden today, Madeleine's daughter, Princess Leonore?