25 May 2016

Queen Sophie's Diamond Tiara

Queen Sophie's Diamond Tiara (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

For royal jewel lovers, there are few things better than the sudden, surprise reappearance of a jewel that has been hidden away from public view for decades. One of the biggest of these surprises was the reemergence of one of the most impressive diadems belonging to the former royal family of Greece: the diamond tiara of Queen Sophie of the Hellenes.

Sophie of Greece wears the tiara (Photo: Grand Ladies Site)

The first owner of this large, intricate diamond tiara was Queen Sophie, who was born Princess Sophie of Prussia. She was the daughter of Princess Vicky, the first child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; she was also the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It's never been revealed exactly how Sophie acquired the tiara, or who made the piece, but many have guessed that she received it from one of her many royal relatives (possibly her mother or her brother) as a wedding present. Sophie married Crown Prince Constantine, the future king of Greece, in 1889.

Sophie of Greece wears the tiara (Photo: Grand Ladies Site)

Sophie wore the tiara as a crown princess and as a queen. The piece is an intriguing combination of modern and traditional styles. Many of the stones are large, rectangular diamonds. But those stones are nestled within more traditional floral designs, which are reminiscent of the ruby tiara owned by the Bernadottes and the sapphire tiara of Princess Elisabeth of Denmark.

Helen wears the tiara (Photo: The Royal Forums)

Sophie's daughter, Princess Helen (who married the crown prince of Romania and gave birth to the country's last king), was also photographed in the tiara; the portrait was taken by Bassano in 1934, two years after Sophie's death. In 1938, the tiara was given to Sophie's daughter-in-law, Princess Friederike of Hanover, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick.

Friederike wore the tiara on her wedding day (along with the small nuptial crown of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom, which had been won by the Hanoverians in a legal dispute with Queen Victoria). Friederike was the last Greek queen to wear the tiara in public.

Queen Ingrid of Denmark wears the tiara (Photo: screencap from video)

Friederike did loan the piece once to another queen: Ingrid of Denmark (who also happened to be the mother of Friederike's daughter-in-law, Anne-Marie). Ingrid borrowed the tiara during the centenary celebrations of the Greek royal family, an event that started with a state visit from Denmark. Here's a video that shows Ingrid wearing the tiara; she appears at about the 4:40 mark. The image above is a (fuzzy) screencap from that video.

Queen Friederike wears the tiara (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Queen Friederike wore the tiara regularly during her time as Greece's queen; in the portrait above, she's actually wearing two tiaras (that's the family's emerald parure tiara, in necklace form, around her neck). After the Greek monarchy was deposed, though, the tiara vanished from public view for nearly half a century. Friederike still owned the tiara when the family went into exile; although she gave other tiaras to her daughter-in-law, Queen Anne-Marie, she kept this one in her own collection. Most jewel lovers assumed that the tiara had been sold either during the final years of Friederike's life or after her death in 1981. Even so, there were persistent rumors that the family still had the piece.

Marie-Chantal wears the tiara (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Those rumors were substantiated in spectacular fashion in 2012, when Marie-Chantal, the wife of Crown Prince Pavlos, appeared in Queen Sophie's tiara at a banquet in honor of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark's ruby jubilee. The enormous tiara nearly overpowered the diminutive princess, but no matter -- the fact that the Greeks still had the piece was the main story of the evening. Why it hadn't been worn for so long -- and why Queen Anne-Marie has never worn it -- still remains a mystery.

Pavlos and Marie-Chantal (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Some have speculated that Queen Friederike left the tiara directly to her grandson, Crown Prince Pavlos, just as Queen Ingrid of Denmark willed the ruby parure directly to Crown Prince Frederik. Others have wondered if the piece was inherited by someone else, possible Princess Irene, and was then subsequently acquired by the main branch of the family. Perhaps we'll never know. All I know is that I am amazed that this piece is still in royal hands and grateful that we get to see it sparkle again after so much time!

Note: this is an updated version of an earlier post with new text/images.