02 August 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Maltese Cross Tiara

We've been talking quite a lot recently about the Norwegian royal jewels with British connections. Today, we've got yet another example: the Maltese Cross Tiara. It belonged to Queen Alexandra, whose daughter, Princess Maud, became queen of Norway in 1905. Trond Norén Isaksen notes that Alexandra had the diamond circlet made as a lighter alternative to the George IV State Diadem, which is still worn today by Queen Elizabeth II.


Here’s Alexandra in the simpler diamond circlet (with Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown placed inside). The tiara takes its name from the Maltese crosses that are placed atop its bandeau base. As you can see in the photo of Alexandra, the circlet originally also had four fleur-de-lys elements situated between the Maltese crosses. It also was originally able to take the Cullinan VI stone, though that diamond was never permanently incorporated into the piece.

According to Hugh Roberts, Queen Maud inherited the Maltese circlet when Alexandra died in 1925. Isaksen says that Maud is the one who removed the fleur-de-lys elements, as she did not want the tiara to look too much like the original British version. She wore the piece frequently, and brought it back to Britain with her for the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Maud also had the tiara with her when she returned to the UK in the following autumn. We’ve been over this story before — she brought her jewels to Britain with her so that they could be cleaned, but she died unexpectedly, and then the jewels didn’t make it back to Norway until 1953. Because of this, Maud’s daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Märtha, never wore the circlet.

Instead, it was Maud’s granddaughter-in-law, Sonja, who would wear the tiara next. The current queen has altered the piece, reducing its circumference, and she most frequently wears it just as a bandeau, without any of the crosses.

Occasionally, however, she wears the piece with three of the four crosses placed at the very front of the circlet, in an attempt (I think) to make the piece look a bit more like a traditional tiara. Today, Queen Sonja is the only member of the family who wears the circlet, though there were two occasions in the early 1990s when she has loaned the bandeau, sans crosses, to her daughter, Princess Märtha Louise.