21 March 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg Fringe Tiara

Today's tiara, one of the flashiest fringes around, belongs to the princely family of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. The SWBs are prominent in today’s discussions about royalty mainly because the current princess, Benedikte, is the sister of both Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and the former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. She married Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in 1968, and she's the current wearer of the tiara.

The family’s fringe tiara is from two generations earlier. It was made for Prince Richard’s grandfather (also named Richard) by Koch in 1905. He gave the tiara to his new bride, Princess Madeleine of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg (so many place names, this family), who bequeathed the tiara to her grandson, Prince Richard, in 1976.

Princess Benedikte regularly trots out this tiara at major royal events; it is also one of the few tiaras that she has not shared with her daughters, Princess Alexandra and Princess Nathalie, or her de facto daughter-in-law, Carina Axelsson. Don’t feel too bad for them, though: Benedikte also inherited some fabulous tiaras from her mother, Queen Ingrid, and she's been generous in letting her family members wear those.

But there's also an interesting question about this tiara lurking in the background: when Gustav succeeds his father as the head of the family, will his partner be able to wear it? Carina and Gustav have not been able to marry, because his great-grandfather's will stipulates that, to inherit the title, he must marry a Protestant woman who is also both noble and, ugh, Aryan. (I shudder even typing that -- you can probably guess when the will was made.) They've tried to fight the will in court, but it's not been successful. Even so, I wouldn't be surprised if one day Carina wears the tiara, in part to demonstrate that Gustav considers her his princess, even if she can't actually be one.