29 June 2014

Sunday Sparkler: Queen Sofia's Tiara

Queen Silvia wears Sofia's tiara (10 Dec 2002)

This weekend, the Swedish royal family announced that they will soon have a new member: Sofia Hellqvist, who will become Princess Sofia, Duchess of Värmland when she marries Prince Carl Philip next summer. But she's not the first Bernadotte bride to be named Sofia. Today, we're looking at a tiara that belonged to the Bernadotte queen who shared her name: Queen Sofia's Tiara.

Sofia of Nassau (source)

You'll sometimes see this sparkler called "the Nine-Prong Tiara" -- because, as you can all see, there are nine diamond “prong” elements dotted across the top of the piece. The Swedish court, however, calls the piece “Queen Sofia’s tiara,” in reference to the tiara’s original owner, Sofia of Nassau, the consort of King Oscar II. The royal court states that the tiara was made for Sofia around 1860, perhaps when she became the Swedish crown princess. It was certainly in the royal collection by 1872; Trond Norén Isaksen notes that the tiara is listed on the jewel inventory made after the death of Sofia’s brother-in-law, King Carl XV. He also speculates that the tiara could have been made by remodeling a diamond comb that once belonged to the first Bernadotte king, Carl XIV Johan.

Louise Mountbatten (source)

Queen Sofia wore the diamond tiara throughout her lifetime, and it became a part of the Bernadotte jewel foundation before her death in 1913. The tiara has subsequently been worn by many other Bernadotte women, despite the reported difficulty of actually wearing the piece. Unlike many tiaras, this sparkler has a solid, inflexible base, meaning that it can be tough to perch properly on the wearer’s head. After Sofia’s death, her successor, Victoria of Baden, apparently decided not to attempt this tiara. Instead, the tiara was next photographed on her daughter-in-law, the future Queen Louise, formerly Lady Louise Mountbatten (which made her an aunt to the Duke of Edinburgh, among other royal connections).

Princess Birgitta (and Henri of Luxembourg) at Crown Princess Victoria's Wedding

Today, the tiara is worn mainly by Queen Silvia, although it has also been worn by other members of the family, including several of the king’s sisters and the late Princess Lilian. Princess Birgitta made a memorable appearance in the tiara at the wedding of her niece, Crown Princess Victoria, in 2010; she wore the piece low across her forehead, as Queen Louise had done, and she apparently struggled to keep it from slipping into her eyes.

Queen Silvia wears the tiara (10 Dec 2013)

We’ve yet to see either Crown Princess Victoria or Princess Madeleine don this particular sparkler. Perhaps they’re still brainstorming appropriate hairstyles to accompany this infamously difficult diadem? I speculated earlier this year that maybe Sofia Hellqvist would choose this tiara for her royal wedding, as she shares her name with its original owner. But as the soon-to-be Princess Sofia has enough on her plate in terms of carving out a royal role for herself, perhaps she'll choose a less-imposing bridal tiara?