10 December 2016

The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara

The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara [Photo: Christie's]

After this week's diplomatic reception, you probably saw lots of press noting that the Duchess of Cambridge wore the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara at the event. Except ... she didn't! The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara is a totally separate piece from the sparkler that Kate wore on Thursday. Gather 'round, magpies, and let me tell you the story of the real Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara.

Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge is depicted wearing the tiara in an 1830 engraving from La Belle AssemblĂ©e

The year is 1818, and the unmarried sons of King George III of the United Kingdom are scrambling to find royal wives and produce royal heirs. George's seventh son, the Duke of Cambridge, chooses a German bride: Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. Among her wedding gifts is a diamond and pearl tiara with lover's knot motifs. The tiara was reportedly a present from Augusta's family. Above, the Duchess of Cambridge wears the tiara in an illustration published in La Belle Assemblée, a British women's magazine, in 1830.

Princess Augusta, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wears the tiara in the above detail of The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal

Although Augusta had other tiaras, she wore the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara for some of the most important royal events of her lifetime, including the 1838 coronation of her niece, Queen Victoria. In 1843, however, she passed the tiara along to the next generation. It was her wedding present to her elder daughter, Princess Augusta, who married Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The younger Augusta is depicted wearing the tiara in the painting above, which documents the 1858 wedding of the Princess Royal.

Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wears the tiara

The younger Augusta was the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz from 1860 until her husband's death in 1904. She wore the tiara in a series of portraits later in her life. In 1899, she handed the tiara over to her granddaughter, Duchess Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; it was a present to mark Jutta's marriage to Crown Prince Danilo of Montenegro. (We featured a Jewel History article on the wedding here.)

Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wears the tiara

To my knowledge, Jutta was never photographed in the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara. The piece definitely caught the eye of one of her cousins, however. Mary of Teck, who became Queen of the United Kingdom in 1910, admired the tiara greatly. In 1913, she had her own copy of the piece made; that copy is the Lover's Knot Tiara that has been worn by numerous British royal women, including Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and the Duchess of Cambridge. (You can read more about Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara over here.)

Jutta of Montenegro

Montenegro's monarchy was officially abolished in 1918, when the country was merged with Serbia to form Yugoslavia. Jutta spent the rest of her life in exile. Precisely what she did with her Lover's Knot Tiara is unclear; she had no children to inherit the piece, and some think she may have privately sold it during her lifetime. She died in 1946, and the tiara popped up next in public in May 1981, when it was sold at Christie's in Geneva.

At that 1981 auction, the tiara was purchased by nobility: Georg and Marie Gabrielle von Waldburg zu Zeil. Marie Gabrielle is pictured wearing the tiara above. Although Georg died last year, the family still owns the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara today, and it is now worn by their daughter-in-law, Mathilde. The tiara was also recently featured on the cover of Vincent Meylan's new book about the Christie's archives. (You can read my review of the book here!)