02 September 2014

Queen Elisabeth's Art Deco Bandeau

It's a new month, which means it's time for us to delve into the collection of a new royal lady! Our Magpie of the Month for September is Queen Paola of Belgium, who will celebrate her birthday next week. Paola began her life as an Italian aristocrat before marrying a Belgian prince and later becoming the country's queen consort. Today we're discussing the tiara that she owns herself: the diamond art deco bandeau that has been worn by generations of Belgian queens.

Astrid wears the tiara in Brussels, ca. 1935

The tiara was made for Queen Elisabeth of Belgium in the early twentieth century. It's relatively small, featuring rectangular diamond elements crossed by diamond laurel wreath. It’s also a convertible tiara — it can be worn as a necklace (a choker, more specifically) and as a bandeau. Elisabeth seemed to prefer some of her other tiaras to this simpler bandeau, and she eventually gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid. Sadly, Astrid didn’t have long to make use of the piece; she died at the age of only 29 in a car accident.

Paola wears the tiara, June 1965

The next wearer of the tiara was Princess Lilian, the second of wife of Astrid's husband, King Leopold III. Along with wearing the bandeau as a tiara (supplemented with extra diamonds, likely the large round diamonds from the Nine Provinces Tiara), Lilian sat for a portrait wearing the piece as a choker.

Paola wears the tiara, December 1960

But again, the tiara was passed along to another member of the royal family relatively quickly. Queen Paola, then Princess of Li├Ęge, began wearing the tiara in the 1960s, nestling the sparkler in her fashionable bouffant hairstyles.

Paola wears the tiara, May 2004

Paola is still the owner of the bandeau tiara today. Even after she became queen (and had access to a more significant tiara, the Nine Provinces), she continued to wear this tiara on a regular basis. She passed the Nine Provinces along to Queen Mathilde last year, but this tiara remains in her collection.

Mathilde wears the tiara, December 1999

The bandeau gained even more royal significance in 1999, when Paola loaned the tiara to her new daughter-in-law, Mathilde. She wore the bandeau on her wedding day — it’s still the only occasion when she’s sported this particular sparkler.

Earlier this summer, Paola loaned the tiara for yet another wedding. This time, the wearer was Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein, the Italian bride of Paola's grandson, Prince Amedeo. Eventually, I’d imagine that we might see this tiara eventually passed along to another royal Elisabeth -- the Duchess of Brabant, Paola's granddaughter (and the nation's future queen).