21 June 2018

Princess Thyra's Sapphire Tiara

Princess Elisabeth of Denmark attends a celebratory dinner at Christiansborg Palace in honor of the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, 11 May 2004 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the Danish court shared the sad news that Princess Elisabeth, Queen Margrethe II's cousin, had died at the age of 83 following a long illness. To pay tribute to the late princess, today we're enjoying a look at the tiara she wore most often: Princess Thyra's Sapphire Tiara.




Thyra wears the tiara, ca. 1920

The tiara was most recently worn by Elisabeth, but it originally belonged to another Danish princess: Princess Thyra, one of the daughters of King Frederik VIII of Denmark. (If you're consulting your scorecard, that means that Thyra was the sister of King Christian X of Denmark, King Haakon VII of Norway, and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, among others.)


Thyra's diamond and sapphire tiara (Image licensed to The Court Jeweller; DO NOT REPRODUCE)

Thyra's tiara features five diamond elements studded with a central cabochon sapphire, set on a simple diamond base. According to Bjarne Steen Jensen, the tiara is made of both silver and gold, and the cabochon sapphires can be swapped out for turquoises. I've never been able to find a clear statement on the tiara's creation, but it has always reminded me of the ruby tiara owned by the current king of Sweden. I'd wager that the two were created at roughly the same time. Jensen argues that it was created either for Queen Lovisa of Denmark (Thyra's mother) or Thyra herself.


Princess Elisabeth a celebratory dinner at Christiansborg Palace in honor of the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, 11 May 2004 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Princess Thyra never married, and when she died, she left the tiara to her niece, Princess Caroline-Mathilde of Denmark. Caroline-Mathilde kept the tiara in the family when she chose to marry her first cousin, Prince Knud, the younger brother of King Frederik IX. Princess Elisabeth was the only daughter of Knud and Caroline-Mathilde; she received the tiara from her mother in the 1960s, and she wore it quite often at state functions, often with a sapphire pendant (pictured above) that also belonged to Thyra. Unlike her brothers, Elisabeth has never married (though she had a longtime partner, Claus Hermansen), and so retained her royal title; she also undertook some official duties in Denmark.


Princess Elisabeth attends a state banquet at Fredensborg in honor of Greek President Papoulias, 18 May 2009 (Image licensed to The Court Jeweller; DO NOT REPRODUCE)

A sidenote: had the law in Denmark not changed during the last century, Thyra's tiara might have found itself even closer to the Danish throne than it is today. Before changes were made to the Danish constitution in the middle of the last century, women were not able to inherit the throne of Denmark, which meant that Prince Knud (and his sons) were expected to succeed King Frederik IX (who had only daughters). But the law was changed, and Elisabeth's first cousin, Queen Margrethe II, was able to become queen.


Princess Elisabeth attends a gala dinner at Christiansborg Palace during Queen Margrethe II's Ruby Jubilee festivities, 15 January 2012 (Image licensed to The Court Jeweller; DO NOT REPRODUCE)

We don't know what yet what provisions Elisabeth made for her royal jewelry box, which included this tiara as well as numerous important jewels from the collection of her grandmother, Queen Alexandrine. I'm hopeful that she may have decided to leave the tiara to the main line of the royal family, as the Danish royal collection lacks a major sapphire and diamond tiara. It would be wonderful to see this piece of Danish history continue to be worn by members of the royal family.