12 March 2016

Saturday Sparkler: Queen Maud's Turquoise Circlet

When the Norwegian royals gathered for a gala this week, the three senior royal ladies all wore tiaras. But although she is neither the first nor second royal lady in the land, the most historic tiara on display belonged to Princess Astrid: her turquoise circlet.

While this tiara is often identified with the first queen consort of modern independent Norway, Queen Maud, it actually goes back a generation further than that. Maud had her own diamond and turquoise tiara, which had been a wedding present; that piece could be worn in either all-diamond or diamond-and-turquoise versions. (That particular tiara was inherited by Princess Ragnhild, and following her death, it’s assumed to have returned to the royal vault.) But in 1925, Maud added a second diamond and turquoise tiara to her collection: this circlet, which she inherited from her mother, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom. She wore the tiara four years later for the pre-wedding concert held in honor of her son, Crown Prince Olav, and Princess Martha of Sweden.

You’ll often see this piece described as a circlet or a coronet, which simply means that it goes all the way around the head of the wearer, encircling it like a crown. It is made of turquoises and diamonds, and although the maker has not (to my knowledge) ever been positively identified, it was likely made in Britain. As Garrard made many of Alexandra’s tiaras, I’d wager that they may have had a hand in making this one, too. Ultimately, we don’t seem to know when it was made or who made it, only that it passed from a British queen to a Norwegian one.

The turquoise circlet is one of the Norwegian pieces that went through a thirty-year hibernation caused by a momentous war and the deaths of a queen and a crown princess. Queen Maud liked to travel back to her British homeland often to visit relatives, and during one of these visits in 1938, she died of a heart attack. She had brought her jewels with her on that particular trip, intending to have the pieces cleaned. They weren’t returned to Norway with the late queen’s body, and with the outbreak of World War II the following year, the jewels were stashed away in Windsor Castle for safekeeping. It wasn’t until 1953 that the jewels were reclaimed by Maud’s son and daughter-in-law, Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha, who brought them back to Norway following the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But then Märtha died unexpectedly in 1954, and Maud’s jewels were not brought out again until Olav’s son, the future King Harald V, married in 1968.

At that point, Harald and his sisters, Ragnhild and Astrid, divided up their grandmother’s jewelry. The turquoise circlet went to Princess Astrid, who has worn the diadem at many official occasions over the years. Astrid has stated that some pieces of heirloom jewelry in her possession will return to the main line of the Norwegian royal family when she passes, and I believe this particular tiara is one of the pieces earmarked to return to the royal vaults. As of today, though, Astrid remains a vital part of the royal family, and I expect we’ll see her continue to wear this tiara in public for years to come.