28 September 2014

Sunday Sparkler: The Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Turquoise Tiara

When you hear of princess and princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, one very famous member of the family, Prince Albert, may be the first who springs to mind. But although the consort of Queen Victoria may be the most recognized member of the family, there are members of the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha today in Bulgaria, in Belgium, in Sweden, and in their native Germany. Today, let’s have a look at the family’s heirloom turquoise and diamond tiara.

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany

The current members of the German branch of the SCGs are descended from Albert and Victoria’s fourth son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Leopold’s descendants ended up with the SCG dukedom that had belonged to Prince Albert’s brother, Ernst. Albert’s eldest son, Edward VII, renounced his rights to the title; his second son, the Duke of Edinburgh, inherited the title but then died without a surviving male heir; his third son, the Duke of Connaught, also renounced his rights; and Leopold died long before he could have inherited the title.

The Duchess of Albany with Alice and Charles Edward

Since Leopold couldn’t inherit himself, his son, Charles Edward, became the last duke in 1900. (As a German member of the extended royal family, he was deprived of his British titles after World War I, and that turned out to be an especially good move on the part of George V, because Charles Edward later became a Nazi.)

Victoria Adelheid wears her turquoises (source)

In 1905, the duke acquired a wife: Victoria Adelheid of Schleswig-Holstein. This turquoise and diamond button tiara originally belonged to her; it is a part of a parure that also included a necklace, a brooch, and a rather impressive pair of large, dangling earrings. Ursula has speculated that the set might have been one of Victoria Adelheid’s wedding gifts, perhaps a present from her parents or her new husband. The maker of the parure is apparently unknown.

Victoria Adelheid (far right) wears the tiara during Princess Sibylla's wedding festivities (source)

At the end of World War I, the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family lost their dukedom. Their royal connections, however, were far from over, and they managed to keep their jewels (not just the turquoises — they’ve also held on to the lovely Albany diamond necklace). In 1932, Victoria Adelheid wore the turquoise set at the wedding of her daughter, Princess Sibylla, to Prince Gustaf Adolf, the heir to the Swedish throne. The current king of Sweden is the son of Princess Sibylla, and his close family links to the SCGs mean that they pop up from time to time at major royal events.

In 2010, the turquoise tiara showed up at the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. The wearer was the American-born Hereditary Princess Kelly, the wife of Hereditary Prince Hubertus. Kelly also wore the tiara at the wedding of Princess Madeleine in 2013 (pictured above).

And Hubertus and Kelly also recently welcomed a member of the next generation of tiara-wearing SCG princesses: their daughter, Katharina, whose royal godparents included Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Konstantin of Bulgaria, Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, Hereditary Prince Ernst August of Hanover, and Countess Katharina of Faber-Castell.