15 December 2018

The Prussian Tiara

Queen Letizia (then Princess of Asturias) wears the Prussian Tiara, October 2009 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Today's tiara may look small, but its history unites numerous royal families from different nations and includes a pair of major royal wedding outings! Here's the fascinating history of the Prussian Tiara.

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

The tiara is sleek and balanced, a small diamond and platinum kokoshnik featuring a quartet of design elements. A band of laurel leaves crowns the top of the tiara, resting on a set of gem-set columns and a meander base. In the center of the tiara, a pear-shaped double diamond cluster pendant is suspended from a single round stone. The pendant gives the tiara a little bit of kinetic energy, as it moves when the wearer moves.

Princess Viktoria Luise, Duchess of Brunswick wears the tiara (Wikimedia Commons)

The petite sparkler was made by the German court jeweler, Koch, for the only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Princess Viktoria Luise. The occasion: her wedding to Prince Ernst August of Hanover in May 1913. The marriage united two German royal houses that had long been enemies, and the tiara was only one of numerous jewels that Viktoria Luise received to celebrate the nuptials. (Ernst August, for his part, received a major wedding gift, too: he was allowed to inherit an old family possession, the Duchy of Brunswick.)

Queen Friederike of the Hellenes wears the tiara in a portrait, ca. 1930s (Wikimedia Commons)

Ernst August and Viktoria Luise also had one daughter, Princess Friederike. In 1936, during the Berlin Olympics, she met her future spouse, Prince Paul of Greece and Denmark, who would later become King Paul of the Hellenes. (The two had significant family ties: they were first cousins once removed on their German royal maternal lines, and second cousins on their Danish royal paternal lines.) The pair married in January 1938, and Viktoria Luise gives her daughter the Prussian Tiara as a wedding gift. The neoclassical design motifs of the tiara, especially the laurel leaves and the meander base, are perfect for a future Greek queen consort.

Queen Sofia of Spain (then Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark) wears the tiara for her wedding to King Juan Carlos of Spain (then Infante Juan Carlos) in Athens, May 1962 (AFP/Getty Images)

The tiara passed to a third generation in May 1962, when Paul and Friederike's elder daughter, Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, wed Infante Juan Carlos, the exiled grandson of the last King and Queen of Spain. Sophia, who changed the spelling of her name to the Spanish Sofia after her marriage, wore the tiara on her wedding day in Athens. The sparkler, which she also wore before on various occasions before her royal wedding, remained in Sofia's collection as the couple settled in Spain, where Juan Carlos eventually inherited the throne and founded the country's present constitutional monarchy.

Infanta Elena wears the tiara for the Japanese state banquet in Madrid, October 1994 (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)

Since then, the tiara has been worn by several members of the Spanish royal family, including Juan Carlos and Sofia's daughters, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina.

Queen Letizia of Spain (then Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano) wears the tiara for her wedding to King Felipe (then Prince of Asturias) in Madrid, May 2004 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

In May 2004, Queen Sofia loaned it to her new daughter-in-law, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. Following in her mother-in-law's footsteps, Letizia wore the tiara for her wedding to Juan Carlos and Sofia's only son, the Prince of Asturias, who later became King Felipe VI.

Letizia wears the tiara for the Czech state banquet in Madrid, September 2004 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Letizia wore the tiara often after her royal wedding, leading some to think that it may have been gifted to her by her mother-in-law. For various state banquets in Madrid, she styled the tiara with different jewelry looks. Here, for a dinner honoring the President of the Czech Republic, she echoed her wedding ensemble by pairing the tiara with her diamond wedding earrings.

Letizia wears the tiara with diamond jewels for the Hungarian state banquet in Madrid, January 2005 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

In 2005, she tried a more elaborate jewelry look, wearing the tiara with a large, intricate suite of diamond jewels. (These have not been a favorite of hers -- I'd imagine they may have been a wedding present, as they do not seem to her taste.)

Infanta Cristina wears the tiara for the Russian state banquet in Madrid, February 2006 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

But the tiara does not seem to have been given outright to Letizia, as it was still shared by other members of the family. In 2006, Infanta Cristina wore the tiara for the Russian state dinner in Madrid.

Queen Sofia wears the tiara during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Thailand, June 2006 (Pool/Getty Images)

And the following year, Queen Sofia made a rare public appearance in the tiara, choosing it for one of two grand gala events during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the late King of Thailand.

Letizia wears the tiara for the Argentine state banquet in Madrid, February 2009 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Still, Letizia remained the primary wearer of the tiara, generally choosing either the Prussian Tiara or the Spanish Floral Tiara for gala events. Here, for a dinner honoring the President of Argentina in 2009, Letizia paired the tiara with diamonds and emeralds.

Letizia wears the tiara for the French state banquet in Madrid, April 2009 (Rogelio Pinate-Pool/Getty Images)

Indeed, Letizia wore the tiara a total of five times in 2009, which seems like it must be some sort of record! One of her most publicized appearances that year came during the French state dinner -- mostly because the French first lady at the time was the glamorous Carla Bruni. On that occasion, Letizia also snuck along part of another tiara. The diamond fleur-de-lis brooch on her sash is the center element of her diamond and pearl tiara, which has been the subject of significant debate.

Letizia wears the tiara for the Chilean state banquet in Madrid, March 2011 (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

If my records are correct, Letizia's most recent appearance in the Prussian Tiara came almost a decade ago. She wore the tiara with an elaborate updo for a state dinner in honor of the President of Chile in March 2011. Since then, she's selected other tiaras from the family's collection for gala events. Perhaps the petite Prussian is being reserved for another eventual wearer: the current Princess of Asturias, Felipe and Letizia's elder daughter, Leonor. She would become the fifth generation in the line of royal wearers of this classic tiara, which would indeed be an excellent starter tiara for a young future monarch.