There are British royal tiaras, and then there are, well, British royal tiaras. We've looked at lots of sparklers from the Windsor royal vaults, but today, we're going to marvel at a tiara from another British family with royal roots: the Mountbattens. Descended from Queen Victoria's daughter Alice -- and brought to prominence in Britain again when Alice's great-grandson, Prince Philip, married the future Elizabeth II in 1947 -- the Mountbatten clan has owned several tiaras over the past century, including today's diamond star tiara.
|Princess Alice of Battenberg, 1903 (source)|
|The Hesse sisters: Alix, Victoria, Ella, and Irene, ca. 1906 (source)|
And that brings us to the point where today’s tiara enters the story. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (Princess Victoria's aunt/godmother) decided that her niece needed a replacement sparkler after her other jewels had been lost. She gave this star tiara to Victoria, complete with diamond and pearl stars that looked just like the original jewels given to her by Queen Victoria in 1884. The new tiara was the most important jewel that Princess Victoria had left after the war. When her younger son, Lord Louis Mountbatten, married Edwina Ashley in 1922, Victoria gave him the new star tiara to present to his bride as a wedding gift.
Group photo from the wedding of Patricia Mountbatten (later Countess Mounbatten of Burma), 1946
Alterations were made to the piece in the 1930s, but the second version of the star tiara has stayed with the family in the decades since. Edwina was photographed in the tiara by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1937. And several Mountbatten ladies have worn the sparkler as a wedding tiara, including Patricia Mountbatten (pictured above, whose wedding in 1946 is best remembered as the moment when the public figured out that Philip Mountbatten and Princess Elizabeth were an item) and her daughter-in-law, Penelope (pictured below).
Today, Penny and her daughter Alexandra are the two Mountbatten women who wear the tiara. Penny donned it in 1996 for the fiftieth birthday celebrations of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Why would British aristocrats be invited to a Swedish king's birthday celebrations? Because Princess Victoria’s other daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten, was queen of Sweden in the middle of the twentieth century, that's why!
Penny's daughter, Alexandra Knatchbull, reportedly wore the star tiara during the wedding celebrations for Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg in 2012. So, even though they auctioned off Edwina’s fabulous diamond tiara a decade ago, the family has managed to keep this tiara in their collection. But there’s been drama in recent years -- including Penny’s husband, Lord Brabourne, leaving her and the family estate for another woman. Here’s hoping that the current generations of the Mountbattens will be able to hang on to this version of their star tiara for a while longer!