25 August 2014

Princess Andrew's Meander Tiara

For our final foray into Princess Anne's jewelry box this month, I've saved one of the best for last! Of the tiaras owned by Princess Anne, the diamond meander bandeau that belonged to her paternal grandmother, Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, has to be one of the most glamorous of all.

Most of the tiaras in the British royal collection arrived in Windsor hands through members of Queen Elizabeth II’s family, especially Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and the Queen Mum. But today’s Mountbatten-Windsors trace half of their royal heritage to Greece, and this piece, the meander tiara that belonged to Prince Philip’s mother, is a part of that legacy.

The term “meander” is another word for the Greek key design that makes up the band of this tiara. No one seems to know precisely when Princess Andrew (pictured above), who was born Princess Alice of Battenberg, acquired the tiara, but it would make sense that she received a Greek key tiara after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903.

The tiara is made of diamonds, and the Greek key design is punctuated by a central laurel wreath element and two honeysuckle elements. The design suggests an early twentieth century creation, and indeed, Geoffrey Munn argues that the tiara was made around the turn of the century in France, perhaps by Cartier.

Alice owned the tiara until 1947, when she gave it to her new daughter-in-law, Princess Elizabeth, as a wedding gift. Had Elizabeth not become queen only a few years later, this tiara might have been a perfect piece for a princess. But history had a different plan. Elizabeth quickly graduated to grander pieces suitable for a sovereign, and she was never photographed wearing this tiara.

Instead, the tiara was handed over to Princess Anne, who still owns the piece today. It was officially given to her by her mother in 1972, just before her engagement and wedding to Mark Phillips, though she had already borrowed the tiara and worn it in public in previous years.

Anne has worn the sparkler on a regular basis at state functions and in official portraits, but the piece’s most prominent outing in recent years was at the wedding of Anne’s daughter, Zara Phillips. Zara paired her great-grandmother’s tiara with a veil for her Scottish wedding, paying tribute to her lesser-known royal heritage.