01 April 2017

Queen Marie's Diamond Loop Tiara

Among the grand tiara-wearing royals of the twentieth-century, few are more dramatic and intriguing than Queen Marie of Romania. Today, we're looking at one of her most beloved -- and lamented -- sparklers, her diamond loop tiara.

The provenance of this tiara has proven tough to untangle, but we know a few things about the piece for sure. For one, we know that it is very close in design to the loop tiara owned by Grand Duke and Grand Duchess Vladimir, which was created around 1890, although this tiara has small diamond “tails” inside the loops rather than drop pearls. It's also close in design to the small Russian looped bandeau that belonged to Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. The similarities lead me to wonder whether this loop tiara may also be a Russian creation.

We also know that the tiara was acquired around the time of Marie’s 1893 wedding to Ferdinand of Romania, though to my knowledge, a tiara of this exact description isn’t listed among her wedding gifts. She wore it in several photographs taken in the early years of her marriage. In the photo above, she poses beside her sister, Princess Victoria Melita (also known as "Ducky"); this would have been taken around the time of Ducky's 1894 wedding to Grand Duke Ernst of Hesse. (Ducky is wearing the grandest Hesse family diadem, the Strawberry Leaf Tiara, in the portrait.)

Marie also wore her loop tiara at the wedding of another sister, Princess Alexandra, in 1896. The photo above depicts Marie in the tiara, standing among the other wedding guests, all close family members.

(Just for fun, here's another portion of the same image. Eagle-eyed royal jewel lovers will note something very significant: Grand Duchess Vladimir, wearing her famous loop tiara, stands beside the future Queen Mary -- who would one day purchase the Vladimir Tiara for herself!)

Anyway, though: back to Marie's loop tiara. We know for certain that Marie loved the theatrical aspects of royalty, and she chose this tiara to wear in a series of dramatic portraits taken during her tenure as Romania's crown princess. The photographs were taken in the Silver Room at Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest.

We also know that Marie's tiara was included in an exhibition in Coburg in 1903, which consisted of jewels owned by Marie, her mother, and her three sisters. (Marie is pictured above wearing the tiara beside her sister, Sandra.) So, ultimately, we’ve got a diamond loop tiara that looks like it might have been either made in Russia (or inspired by a Russian piece) and was probably constructed sometime between 1890 and 1893, ten years before it went on display in Germany.

Marie continued to wear the diamond loop tiara even after becoming Romania's queen. She had put aside a number of tiaras worn during her youth (including her turquoise tiara), but this tiara remained a favorite.

We also know, sadly, know one more thing: that this tiara was sent to Moscow with the rest of Marie’s jewels for safekeeping during the war. The jewels were confiscated by the Bolsheviks and have never been returned. When she sent them to Russia, Marie had every reason to believe that her jewels, including this tiara, would eventually be coming home to her. Instead, this loop tiara has apparently disappeared into the mists of history, while the Vladimir tiara sits regularly atop the head of the British monarch. Ah, the tiara ironies…