01 December 2015

The Braganza Tiara

On this day in 1822, Emperor Pedro I of the Portuguese House of Braganza was crowned in Brazil. Four years later, Pedro's empress, Maria Leopoldina of Austria, died in Rio de Janeiro. By 1829, Pedro was married again. This time, his wife was Princess Amélie of Leuchtenberg, a granddaughter of both King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and Empress Joséphine of France.

As Brazil's empress, Amélie's jewelry box included a stunning set of diamonds. Among these was a wedding gift from her new husband: an enormous diamond diadem composed of flowers and leaves. The tiara was new, but the diamonds weren't. They'd actually belonged to Pedro's first wife, Maria Leopoldina, and had been acquired by Pedro from their children. The tiara itself was reportedly made in France, but Amélie herself apparently stated that the diamonds were sourced from Brazil.

Amélie wasn't Brazil's empress for long. In 1831, her husband abdicated, and the two of them settled first in Paris and then in Lisbon, where Pedro died. Amélie kept her diamonds throughout all of this upheaval, and when she died in 1873, the tiara and its accompanying necklace, earrings, and brooch were left to her closest living family member: her sister, Queen Josefina of Sweden and Norway.

Historian Trond Norén Isaksen tracks the tiara's journey from Portugal to Sweden, noting that the diamonds were "shipped to Kristiansand in Norway onboard the Norwegian naval corvette “Balder” and from there to Stockholm." Josefina died only three years later, before she ever got the chance to pose for a portrait in the new Brazilian parure. Her daughter-in-law, Queen Sofia, was the tiara's next wearer, and it has been worn by all subsequent Swedish queens, including Queen Victoria, Queen Louise, and the tiara's current wearer, Queen Silvia.

The Braganza Tiara is especially perfect for Silvia, not only because it’s a tiara befitting a queen but also because Silvia’s mother, Alice de Toledo, was born in Brazil. Silvia wore the tiara for one of her first portraits as queen, and in 2010, she chose the tiara for one of the most important Swedish royal events of the 21st century: the wedding of her daughter, Crown Princess Victoria.