13 September 2016

The Top Ten: Meander Tiaras

Princess Andrew's Meander Tiara (Photo: Chris Jackson PT/Getty Images)

The Top Ten: Meander Tiaras

When tiaras became popular in the early years of the nineteenth century, neoclassical designs that referenced ancient Greece and Rome were all the rage. It's no surprise, then, that many tiaras use one Greek design motif in particular: the meander, a horizontal pattern of interlocking spirals. The design is sometimes also called a "Greek key," and many think that it's meant to resemble the twists and turns of a labyrinth. Others think the meander is meant to symbolize unity -- which is appropriate, as no fewer than seven of the tiaras we're featuring today have been worn as bridal diadems.

There are still many meander tiaras in royal vaults today, and today, I'm counting down my top ten favorites. Let us know what your top ten list would be in the comments below! (And thanks to reader Alex for suggesting this post!)

Photo: Moroccan Government/Getty Images

10. Princess Lalla Salma's Meander Tiara: This large, exaggerated meander tiara was worn at a very important royal wedding in Morocco -- the first ever public royal wedding. (Previously, royal wives had been kept out of the public eye.) The wearer was Princess Lalla Salma, wife of King Mohammed VI. Not much is known about the provenance of the tiara itself, though I've seen speculation that it may have been made by a French jeweler.

Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

9. The Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara: Many of us (including me) will have seen this tiara in person; it was shown by the Spencer family as a part of the Diana: A Celebration traveling exhibit (although Diana never wore it herself in public). The tiara is a nineteenth-century piece that combines a meander base with another set of Greek-themed diamond pieces: honeysuckle (or anthemion) elements. (Read more about the tiara in our post here!)

Princess Beatrice wears her mother's meander fringe tiara, ca. 1911

8. Queen Victoria's Meander Fringe Tiara: Here's yet another tiara with a meander base -- Queen Victoria's small sunray fringe tiara. (The two sections were originally separate tiaras.) The piece was inherited by her youngest child, Princess Beatrice; unfortunately, its fate is unknown.

Photo: Rogelio Pinate-Pool/Getty Images

7. The Prussian Tiara: Worn by two queens as a bridal diadem, this small tiara features a meander design at its base. For me the combination of the meander with the vertical lines and the laurel wreath border is especially effective. Although it started out in Germany, it's worn today by the women of the Spanish royal family. (Read more on this tiara in our post here!)

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

6. The Marichalar Meander Tiara: The Spanish royals also have another meander tiara -- the laurel/meander combo owned by Infanta Elena, who wore it on her wedding day. It was a gift from her mother-in-law, but she's kept (and worn) the tiara even after her divorce.

5. The Queen Mother's Double Meander Tiara: This tiara is still something of a mystery. It's a nineteenth-century double-row meander that at one point also included aigrette features. It was owned at one point by the Queen Mother; it's also thought to be currently in the possession of Princess Anne. It's almost certainly the mystery tiara that Anne wore at a state banquet in 2005.

Photo: Grand-Ducal Court of Luxembourg via Getty Images

4. The Romanian Greek Key Tiara: Many (including me) prefer this enormous meander in its original form -- worn on a fabric kokoshnik backing by Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia. Today, it's owned by the Romanian royal family, and it's been worn as a bridal tiara by two successive generations. (Read more about this tiara in our post here!)

Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

3. The Nine Provinces Tiara: The base of the tiara worn by Belgium's queens is a stylized meander designed to look as if it's curling around the edges of the tiara itself. The meander portion can be worn alone as a bandeau (as Queen Mathilde often does), or as a necklace or bracelet. The entire tiara was worn by Queen Fabiola as a bridal diadem. (Read more about this tiara in our post here!)

Photo: Chris Jackson PT/Getty Images

2. Princess Andrew's Meander Tiara: This simple, classic meander tiara also features other Greek designs -- anthemions and a central laurel wreath. Fittingly, it belonged to Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark; today, it's owned by her granddaughter, Princess Anne. In 2011, it was worn by Zara Phillips at her wedding to Mike Tindall. (Read more about this tiara in our post here!)

1. The Prussian Meander Kokoshnik: My favorite meander tiara of all is the gorgeous kokoshnik from the former imperial family of Germany. It's been worn by numerous family brides. I love the geometry of this tiara: the meander borders, the sharp latticework, and the glittering central diamonds. Perfection! (Read more on this tiara in our post here!)