21 February 2015

Saturday Sparkler: King Olav's Gift Tiara

It’s something of a Scandinavian tradition for royal princesses to receive tiaras as an eighteenth birthday present. Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine of Sweden each received one, as did each of the three daughters of King Frederik IX of Denmark (Margrethe, Benedikte, and Anne-Marie). Even a future Scandinavian queen, Princess Maud of Wales, received an eighteenth-birthday tiara from her grandmother, Queen Victoria. (Bonus points if you can ID each of these tiaras in the comments!) Today, let’s look at the birthday tiara received by one of Maud’s descendants, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway.

Märtha Louise is the only daughter of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, but when she turned eighteen in 1989, the monarch in Norway was her grandfather, King Olav V. He carried on the tradition started by his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, by giving a tiara to Märtha Louise as an eighteenth birthday present. Olav (who — trivia fact — was born Prince Alexander of Denmark on the Sandringham estate in England), was much beloved; he also served as one of Märtha Louise's godparents. He died about a year and a half after bestowing this sparkler on his granddaughter.

The tiara that Märtha Louise received is a strikingly modern one, with intertwined diamond elements forming a low bandeau, interspersed with small pearls and topped by a series of larger pearls. The base of the tiara is often covered by a braid that matches Märtha Louise’s hair color — a nice change from the usual velvet-wrapped tiara base.

Märtha Louise has worn the small tiara regularly since receiving it, although today she also sometimes swaps it out for other pieces from the royal jewel collection, including the family’s amethyst tiara and the smaller version of Queen Maud’s pearl tiara.