27 October 2014

Queen Ena's Turquoises

Queen Ena wears her turquoise tiara, necklace, and earrings (source)

Lots of the fantastic jewelry from the collection of our Magpie of the Month, Queen Ena, is well known, especially the pieces that various family members inherited and continue to wear today. But today, we're talking about her small cache of turquoise jewelry -- pieces that have managed to fall off the radar entirely in the years since Ena wore them.

Queen Ena wears her turquoise tiara, necklace, and earrings (source)

When Ena married the Spanish king in 1906, her uncle and aunt -- King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra -- were on the throne in Britain. The illustrated list of Ena's wedding gifts includes a present attributed to them: a turquoise necklace and earrings. (It's number ten on the list, which you can see here.) Above, Ena wears the turquoise necklace and earrings with a striking turquoise tiara. It's commonly called a turquoise "star tiara," because the top row of the piece features small stars above the central turquoise buttons.

Queen Ena wears her turquoise tiara and earrings (source)

Some have speculated that the turquoise star tiara was also a gift from Bertie and Alexandra, because Ena was often photographed wearing it with the necklace, the earrings, or both. But to my knowledge, the provenance of the tiara has never been specifically identified.

Illustration of Ena wearing the turquoises, ca. 1914 (source)

The turquoise buttons in each piece do appear to be of a similar size and design, so it's certainly possible. The king and queen had given another of their nieces -- Margaret of Connaught -- a tiara for her wedding the previous year, so it wouldn't surprise me if their gift to Ena was a complete turquoise parure.

Queen Ena painted in her turquoise jewels -- rendered here as diamonds (source)

The fate of the entire turquoise suite is also a bit of a mystery. Ena was painted in the suite -- you can see above, however, that the artist decided to paint the jewels as diamonds instead -- but its whereabouts today are not known. Queen Ena's life was a tumultuous one -- she lived through assassination attempts, war, exile, the deaths of three of her children, and the breakdown of her marriage -- and she did sell some of her jewels along the way. It's certainly possible that these turquoise jewels met that particular fate.

In fact, we know for certain that Ena sold another turquoise tiara from her collection. During their engagement, Alfonso gave Ena a turquoise and diamond tiara, made by Chaumet. It featured fleur-de-lys motifs, the symbol of the Borbon dynasty. Ena ended up replacing the turquoises in this tiara with diamonds -- perhaps a sign that she wasn't ultimately that fond of the gemstone? She was painted wearing the tiara by Tosti Russell in the late 1930s; you can see her posing with the painting in the photograph above, taken in 1938. But in the end, Ena decided to sell the Chaumet tiara. Perhaps her other turquoises went on the auction block as well?