05 July 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Savoy-Aosta Tiara

Prince Amedeo of Belgium and Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein

Today in Rome, the world of European royalty is gaining a brand-new member. Prince Amedeo of Belgium, the nephew of the king, will marry his longtime girlfriend, Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein. But Amedeo isn't just the son of a Belgian princess; his father, Prince Lorenz, is also the Archduke of Austria-Este, making him a member of the Italian branch of the Habsburg dynasty. And Amedeo's royal ancestry goes even further than that, because Lorenz's mother, Princess Margherita, was born a princess from the House of Savoy.

Princess Astrid at the state banquet for the President of Hungary in 2008

Today, we're looking at the Savoy tiara that Amedeo's mother, Princess Astrid, wears regularly at white-tie events. If I were a betting woman, and you all know that I am, I'd wager that if Lili chooses to wear a tiara on her wedding day, this might be the one: the diamond floral Savoy-Aosta tiara.

Prince Lorenz and Princess Astrid at a state dinner for the Grand Duke of Luxembourg in 2007

The tiara’s history traces back to a French princess, Anne of OrlĂ©ans. She married her first cousin, Prince Amedeo of Savoy, in 1927. The first images of Anne wearing the tiara show her using it 1920s style, wearing it low across her forehead as a bandeau. The tiara is an all-diamond piece, likely set in platinum; it features floral and scroll motifs in its design.

Princess Astrid at a state dinner in Belgium in 2006

Amedeo became Duke of Aosta on his father’s death in 1931. He commanded the Italian forces in East Africa during World War II, and he died as a prisoner of war in Kenya in 1942. Because he and Anne had only daughters, the Aosta title passed to his younger brother. But the tiara stayed with the women of the family. Anne loaned the tiara to another Italian princess, Maria Beatrice of Savoy, for the wedding of Infante Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark in 1962. Anne’s elder daughter, Princess Margherita, also borrowed the tiara for a significant royal wedding: the nuptials of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium in 1960.

Princess Astrid at the 2010 royal wedding in Sweden

Margherita would eventually inherit the tiara from her mother — and she would also find herself further connected with the Belgian royals. In 1953, she married Archduke Robert, one of the sons of last rulers of Austria-Hungary, Emperor Karl I and Empress Zita. In turn, Robert and Margherita’s son, Lorenz, married Princess Astrid of Belgium in 1984. Astrid is the only daughter of King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium, and as such, she regularly attends white-tie events. But we’ve talked at length about the relative tiara poverty of the Belgian royals, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Astrid turned to her husband’s family to find a suitable sparkler.

Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz at the 2012 royal wedding in Luxembourg

Although the tiara could still technically belong to Archduchess Margherita, it seems to have been all but given to Princess Astrid. She wears the piece exclusively today, at events ranging from state visits to royal weddings. (It’s often erroneously said that Astrid’s sister-in-law, Archduchess Katharina, wore the Savoy-Aosta Tiara at her wedding, but that’s not the case. Katharina, who is the sister of Princess Sophie of Prussia, wore the Isenburg family's floral tiara, which has a similar profile but a different design.) It only seems fair, really, that a tiara belonging to the Savoys would end up in Belgium, as other Belgian tiaras ended up with the Italian royals. Perhaps tiara turnabout is fair play?