15 November 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Duchess of Braganza's Bandeau

Isabel wears the bandeau, 2004

Members of reigning royal houses aren’t the only people these days who need tiaras. With invitations to weddings, investitures, and other white-tie events showing up in the mailboxes of various pretenders to various thrones, members of former reigning houses need to have a diadem at their disposal as well. Today’s tiara is just such a sparkler: the diamond bandeau tiara worn by the current Duchess of Braganza, the wife of the pretender to the throne of Portugal.

Isabel wears the bandeau, 2011

The word pretender sometimes makes the position of these deposed royals sound more sinister than it actually is. The current Duke of Braganza, Dom Duarte Pio, doesn’t swan about Lisbon, pretending to be the king of Portugal. But if the monarchy were to be restored, he'd be the best candidate, and in Portugal, he actually has a degree of status that is recognized by the government. The president came to his wedding, which was royal in all but name; he also performs some official duties on behalf of the government. The Duke and his wife are also frequently invited to events by currently reigning houses.

Isabel wears the tiara, 2011

This tiara that the current duchess often wears to these events was first worn by the duke’s mother, Maria Francisca. She was actually a member of the Brazilian branch of the Portuguese royal family, and her marriage to Duarte Pio’s father reuinted the two lines. She married in 1942, and the design of the tiara suggests that it may also date to the middle of the twentieth century. It’s a small diamond bandeau that features floral elements interspersed with twisted diamond bands. Today, Isabel wears the piece both as a small enclosed circlet and as an open bandeau, the same way that her mother-in-law wore the tiara. It’s a small piece, considerably smaller than the heirloom tiara that Isabel wore to her wedding, but I’ll wager that this one is easier both to wear and to travel with.

Isabel wears the bandeau, 2011

Recently, Isabel gave an interview in which she hinted that family jewels like this one, which the Braganzas own personally, might be passed down to their daughter. That would mean the further dispersal of the collection -- something that will no doubt dismay Portuguese monarchists, but unfortunately something that isn't uncommon when a royal family is no longer reigning.