31 March 2018

Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and the Empire Tiara


Our month-long look at the jewels of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg wraps up today with an overview of her use of the grand duchy's most imposing diadem: the Empire Tiara.

Michel Porro/Getty Images

The enormous, all-diamond tiara has been with the family for generations. (Our lengthier post on its history can be read over here.) Maria Teresa has been grand duchess since her husband took the throne in 2000, but she did not attempt to wear the Empire Tiara in public until after the death of her mother-in-law and predecessor, Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte.

I believe that Maria Teresa's first public appearance in the tiara came in April 2006, during a state visit to the Netherlands. (The two royal families are actually two branches of the same royal house; the Orange-Nassaus reign in the Netherlands, and the Nassau-Weilburgs now reign in Luxembourg. From 1815 until 1890, the Dutch sovereign also reigned over Luxembourg, but the two countries had differing succession rules, and Queen Wilhelmina was not allowed to ascend to the Luxembourgish throne. Instead, the job fell to Adolphe, Duke of Nassau, the current grand duke's great-great-grandfather.)

Maria Teresa wore the tiara for a state banquet at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. On this occasion, she paired the towering diadem with two diamond rivieres, pearl drop earrings, a pearl and diamond bracelet, and one of the Nassau Rose Brooches.

Mark Renders/Getty Images

Maria Teresa brought out the tiara again for another important state visit in March 2007, this time to Belgium. The Luxembourgish and Belgian royal families are closely related: Grand Duke Henri's late mother, Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte, was born a Belgian princess. The choice of the diadem for this visit was surely a nod to those close family bonds. Maria Teresa wore the tiara for a state banquet at Laeken Castle near Brussels.

Appropriately, Maria Teresa also wore a jewel that once belonged to Josephine-Charlotte's mother, Queen Astrid of Belgium: the diamond and emerald choker necklace, which can also be worn as a bracelet or a bandeau. She also wore diamond and emerald earrings and the grand diamond epaulette brooch, which was once a shoulder decoration for an elaborate dress military uniform. For me, this outing of the tiara might be her best, simply because of her more elaborate hairstyle choice.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Maria Teresa chose a sleeker hairstyle for one of her most recent outings in the tiara, which came in Stockholm at the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden in June 2010. This was one of the largest and most glittering royal weddings in a generation, and the tiara was one of many heirloom diadems dusted off for the occasion.

For this appearance, Maria stuck with a theme: diamonds and pearls. Along with the tiara, she wore pearl drop earrings, a single (but substantial) diamond riviere, and Princess Ingeborg's Pearl Fleur-de-Lis Brooch. The choice of that brooch for a Swedish royal wedding was surely a deliberate one: after all, Princess Ingeborg, great-grandmother of Grand Duke Henri, was a Danish princess who married into the royal family of Sweden.

Three major appearances, three different styles. But what about the future? We haven't seen Maria Teresa wear the Empire Tiara in years. Many see this tiara as more of an art object, suitable for display in a museum, than as a piece of jewelry suited for modern wear. What do you think: do you want to see Maria Teresa wear this one again soon? (The recently announced Dutch-Luxembourgish state visit, scheduled for May 23-25, would certainly be an appropriate opportunity!)