02 December 2017

The Aosta Knots and Stars Tiara

Princess Claude wears the tiara (Wikimedia Commons)

When the heraldic emblem of your noble/royal family is a fancy knot, it should almost be required that you possess at least one tiara that features knots made of diamonds, don’t you think? The stars on this sparkler, which belongs to the Duke of Aosta (or Savoy, depending who you ask), are just the icing on the tiara cake.

Princess Helene wears the tiara with her emerald necklace, now worn by Princess Astrid of Belgium (Wikimedia Commons)

Quick backstory: the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, had several sons. The eldest, Umberto, succeeded his father as king. The second, Amedeo, was given the dukedom of Aosta. Amedeo was also briefly king of Spain — good lord, nineteenth-century royalty is a complex animal — but mainly he was associated with his Aosta title. Today, the pretender to the Italian throne, Vittorio Emanuele, is the descendant of Umberto, while the current Duke of Aosta is the descendant of Amedeo.

Essentially the Aostas are the junior branch of the Savoys, although the current Duke of Aosta (also, confusingly, named Amedeo) disputes this because of Vittorio Emanuele’s past bad behavior. This has led to some notorious incidents — even a famous fistfight between Vittorio Emanuele and Amedeo at the wedding of King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain (during which Queen Anne-Marie of Greece caught Amedeo, saving him from falling down a flight of stairs. Who knew royalty was such a contact sport?).

Princess Helene wears the tiara (Wikimedia Commons)

So while the senior Savoys have their own tiaras, including the large Musy pearl piece and the tourmaline tiara, the Aostas have a separate jewel collection. The first owner of this Aosta tiara was Elena, the wife of Amedeo’s son, Emanuele Filiberto. Like other Italian royal sparklers, this tiara was commissioned from Musy. The base of the tiara features a series of Savoy knots, while the piece is topped by five diamond stars. Originally the stars were much more complex, featuring radiating diamonds, but at some point they were remodeled into more solid stars without the extra diamonds. (The knotted base was also altered slightly.) Above, Princess Helene, Duchess of Aosta wears the original version of the tiara.

Princess Claude wears the tiara (Wikimedia Commons)

The Aosta family has retained possession of this tiara, even after the Italian monarchy was abolished. It has graced the heads of both wives of the current duke: his former spouse, Princess Claude of OrlĂ©ans, and his current wife, Silvia Paternò di Spedalotto. The former Italian royals may have their fair share of drama, but you’ve got to admit that their tiaras, especially this one, are pretty impressive.