01 June 2015

Tiara Timeline: The Cameo Tiara

The gorgeous bridal tiara of the Bernadottes had its start not in Sweden but at the imperial court of Napoléon. Here's the interesting history of the Swedish royal family's cameo parure!

Detail, Jacques-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon (1807) [source]

1804: In France, Napoléon Bonaparte is crowned emperor at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. At his side is his wife, Joséphine. Born in Martinique as the daughter of a wealthy Creole planter, Joséphine had previously been married to Alexandre de Beauharnais, a French aristocrat who was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. She is crowned empress by her husband at his coronation, and she needs a vast collection of jewelry to help her fit the part. Among these is a set of cameo jewels, apparently made for her during this period by her husband's court jeweler, Marie-Étienne Nitot. The set includes a grand tiara in gold set with pearls and large cameos depicting the story of Cupid and Psyche. It also includes a necklace, a bracelet, and a pair of earrings.

1810: Although Joséphine had two children, Eugène and Hortense, with Alexandre, she is not able to provide Napoléon with a much-needed biological heir to the French throne. He divorces her and marries Marie Louise of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. Joséphine relocates to the Château de Malmaison near Paris, taking her jewelry along with her.

Anne-Louis Girodet's portrait of Hortense de Beauharnais [source]
1812: Joséphine loans the cameos to her daughter, Hortense, who had briefly been Queen of Holland during the first decade of the nineteenth century. Hortense wears the cameos in a portrait painted by Anne-Louis Girodet. The painting is the first known representation of the cameos.

1814: Joséphine dies of pneumonia. Exactly what happens to the cameos after her death is a bit unclear. Historian Trond Norén Isaksen notes that the cameo parure was not included in the inventory of Joséphine's jewels made at the time of her death; however, writer Vincent Meylan argues that the cameos were indeed in Joséphine's possession upon her death, and that her son, Eugène, received them when he and his sister Hortense divided up their mother's estate. Eugène had married Princess Augusta of Bavaria in a dynastic wedding eight years earlier at the behest of Napoléon, and by 1814, he was living in Munich at the court of his father-in-law with Augusta and their children.

1817: To recognize Eugène's loyalty, his father-in-law, King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, bestows the title of Duke of Leuchtenberg on him.

Crown Princess Josefina of Sweden and Norway [source]

1823: Eugène and Augusta's eldest daughter, Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, marries Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden and Norway. The marriage is also a dynastic one, arranged by Oscar's father, King Carl XIV Johan. Though Oscar is a Swedish prince, his family's roots are just as French as Joséphine's are. His father was born Jean Bernadotte and served as a Marshal of the Empire under Napoléon before he was elected as Sweden's future king. Oscar's mother, Désirée Clary, had been engaged to Napoléon until he met Joséphine de Beauharnais; in Sweden, she is known as Queen Desideria. It seems very likely that Joséphine of Leuchtenberg receives her grandmother's cameo parure as a wedding gift from her father at this point, taking the set with her to Stockholm. She is also now known by the Swedish version of her name: Josefina.

Fredric Westin's Bernadottes of Sweden (1837) [source]

1837: The Swedish royal family, including King Carl XIV Johan, Queen Desideria, Crown Prince Oscar, Crown Princess Josefina, and their five children, Prince Carl, Prince Gustaf, Prince Oscar, Princess Eugenie, and Prince August, is painted by Fredric Westin. In the portrait, Josefina wears her grandmother's cameo tiara.

King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway by Erik Wahlbergson [source]

1844: King Carl XIV Johan dies, and Oscar and Josefina become King Oscar I and Queen Josefina of Sweden and Norway.

Queen Josefina of Sweden by Bertha Valerius [source]

1876: Josefina dies in Stockholm, and the cameo parure is inherited by her only daughter, Princess Eugenie. Fiercely independent and talented, Eugenie never marries, instead devoting her life to artistic pursuits and charitable causes.

Princess Eugenie of Sweden and Norway [source]

1889: Eugenie dies in Stockholm. She bequeaths the cameos to her nephew, Prince Eugen. Like his aunt, Eugen was a gifted artist; he also never married.

Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden wears the cameos, ca. 1910

1915: Because he has no spouse to wear the cameos, Eugen often lends them to another member of the Swedish royal family: Crown Princess Margareta, the wife of Eugen's nephew, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf. On one famous occasion, Margareta donned the tiara to wear at the wedding of her husband's cousin, Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg, but stopped into her children's nursery before leaving, giving them a living history lesson by showing them a tiara that had been worn by Empress Joséphine of France.

1932: Prince Eugen gives the cameo parure to another Swedish royal bride, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as a wedding present. Sibylla marries Prince Gustaf Adolf, the eldest son of Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf and the late Crown Princess Margareta.

1933: Sibylla lends the cameos to her sister-in-law, Princess Ingrid of Sweden (later Queen Ingrid of Denmark). Ingrid wears the set as a part of a costume, dressing as Queen Josefina for a masquerade ball.

1947: Sibylla's husband, Prince Gustaf Adolf, dies in a place crash in Denmark. According to Trond Norén Isaksen, Sibylla's hair goes white shortly afterward, and she stops wearing the cameo tiara because she dislikes the way it looks against her hair.

1961: Princess Birgitta, Sibylla's second daughter, becomes the first in a long string of Bernadotte brides to wear the tiara on her wedding day. She dons the cameos to marry Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern during her first religious wedding ceremony in Stockholm; for her second religious religious wedding, in the groom's home country of Germany, she wears a Hohenzollern family bridal crown.

1964: Sibylla's third daughter, Princess Désirée, wears the cameo tiara at her wedding to Baron Nils-August Silfverschiöld at Stockholm Cathedral.

1972: Princess Sibylla dies of cancer in Stockholm. She leaves the cameo parure to her son, Prince Carl Gustaf. After the death of his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, the following year, Carl Gustaf becomes King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

1976: King Carl XVI Gustaf marries Silvia Sommerlath. She wears the cameo tiara at their wedding at Stockholm Cathedral that June. Although much of the Swedish royal jewelry collection is a part of the Bernadotte Family Foundation, the cameo parure is the personal property of the king, and Silvia is the only person who wears it over the next three decades.

1996: Queen Silvia wears the cameos at the annual Nobel Prize ceremony in December.

2007: Queen Silvia wears the cameos during a Swedish state visit to Austria.

2010: Crown Princess Victoria, eldest daughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, wears the cameo tiara, earrings, and bracelet at her wedding to Daniel Westling in Stockholm Cathedral.

2014: Empress Joséphine's cameos return to France, two centuries after her death. Queen Silvia wears the cameo set, minus the tiara, during a state visit to France; unlike most countries, France does not hold gala-style state banquets, so Silvia substitutes a brooch from the set as a hair ornament as the evening's dress code does not call for tiaras.