10 September 2016

The Danish Floral Aigrette

The Danish Floral Aigrette (Photo: KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Image)

It's a little hard to classify this piece of jewelry, because it's so many things at once: a tiara, a set of hair ornaments, a corsage ornament. Today, we're discussing the diamond floral aigrette that belongs to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Queen Margrethe wears the tiara (Photo: KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Image)

The complicated, all-diamond tiara apparently dates to the middle of the nineteenth century. It’s said that it perhaps once belonged to Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, whose elder daughter, Alexandrine, was the queen consort of King Christian X of Denmark. To my knowledge, this provenance has never been confirmed.

Tiara detail (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The tiara breaks down into three sections. It’s a large piece, able to be worn as a nearly closed circlet. The various sections can be taken apart and worn separately. The central flower element of the middle section is mounted en tremblant, so it shimmers and moves slightly as the wearer moves.

Tiara detail (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

By the middle of the twentieth century, we know for sure that the tiara was not in royal hands. It was owned by a famous Danish-American tenor, Lauritz Melchior, who was famous for singing Wagnerian opera. His wife was photographed in the aigrette in the early 1960s. But in 1963, the Melchiors decided to part with the tiara, putting it up for auction.

Queen Margrethe wears the tiara (Photo: KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Images)

The buyer was King Frederik IX of Denmark, the grandson of Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna. The tiara’s connection with the grand duchess is ultimately speculation, but it would make sense for Frederik to purchase a tiara at auction if it had once belonged to one of his ancestors. After all, Frederik and Ingrid had several diamond tiaras at their disposal already, so I think that the links to Anastasia are highly possible and that the purchase may have been a sentimental one.

Frederik’s wife, Queen Ingrid, wore the tiara for the first time at Margrethe's wedding to Count Henri Laborde de Monpezat in 1967. She continued to wear it regularly at occasions afterward, and she also lent it to her daughter.

Queen Margrethe wears one of the sections in the back of her hair (Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Queen Margrethe has been incredibly inventive in the ways that she wears the piece, donning parts of it as a brooch and arranging the sections in various ways in her hair. She remarked in De Kongelige Juveler, which we recently discussed here, that she enjoys the versatility of the tiara. She noted, "I like wearing it slightly differently from time to time, and I think my hairdresser enjoys doing it like that, too."

Queen Margrethe wears the tiara (Photo: NILS MEILVANG/AFP/Getty Images)

Margrethe inherited the piece from her mother in 2000, and since then, she’s continued to wear it frequently, often pairing it with an important diamond necklace from the Danish crown jewel collection. She even chose the aigrette for one of the most important Danish royal occasions of the twenty-first century: the wedding of her elder son, Crown Prince Frederik, to Mary Donaldson in 2004.

Note: This is an updated version of an older post, with new text/images.