13 August 2016

The Dutch Laurel Wreath Tiara

The Dutch Laurel Wreath Tiara (Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

In ancient Greece, victorious athletes (and poets -- hence "poet laureate"!) were crowned with wreaths of laurel leaves. Laurel wreaths have been Western cultural symbols of victory for centuries since, so it shouldn't be surprising that the wealthy and powerful have often commissioned their own diamond versions of laurel wreaths. The style is still so associated with ancient Greece that, in French, these tiaras are often called bandeaux √† la grecque. Today, we're looking at the diamond laurel wreath tiara that belongs to the Dutch royal family.

The laurel wreath tiara is one of the oldest pieces in the Dutch collection, but there are two competing theories about its arrival in the family’s vaults. One posits that the tiara originally belonged to Princess Louise of Orange-Nassau, the sister of King Willem I of the Netherlands. Princess Louise died in the early nineteenth century, which would be just about right for the presumed creation date of the tiara. (Laurel wreaths were especially in vogue during the Empire period in France, an aesthetic that looked back to ancient Greece and Rome.)

Princess Christina wears the tiara (Photo: Michel Porro/Getty Images)

The other theory suggests that the tiara was made in the early nineteenth century but purchased by the Dutch royals much later. According to this narrative of the tiara's history, it was acquired in the 1950s by Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard and given to Princess Beatrix to celebrate her eighteenth birthday. Whether it was newly purchased or dug out of the depths of the family’s collection, Beatrix did indeed receive the tiara as a birthday gift, and she wore it regularly as a young princess. She also shared the tiara with two of her sisters, Princess Margriet and Princess Christina. Above, Christina wears the tiara to the dinner held the night before Beatrix's abdication.

Princess Carolina wears the tiara (Photo: CLAUDIO GIOVANNINI/AFP/GettyImages)

In recent years, however, the focus has been on the Dutch brides who have worn the tiara. Laurentien Brinkhorst wore the diadem at her wedding to Beatrix’s son, Prince Constantijn, in 2001. And Princess Irene's daughter, Princess Maria Carolina of Bourbon-Parma, wore it at her 2012 wedding to Albert Brenninkmeijer.

Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post, with new text and images.