16 December 2019

The Savoy-Aosta Tiara: An Updated Look

Astrid wears the tiara for the pre-wedding gala in Luxembourg, 2012 (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Tiaras are special because they're beautiful works of art, but some of them are doubly interesting because of their royal pasts. Every now and then, one of today's princesses wears a tiara that came from a royal house of the past. Today's tiara, the Savoy-Aosta Tiara, is one of those -- it started off with a branch of the former reigning family of Italy, and now it graces the head of a Belgian princess.

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Although we mostly associate it with Italy, the tiara’s history traces back to a French princess, Anne of OrlĂ©ans. She married her first cousin, Prince Amedeo of Savoy, in 1927. The tiara is an all-diamond piece, likely set in platinum; it features floral and scroll motifs in its design.

Anne wears the tiara, ca. 1920s (Wikimedia Commons)

The first images of Anne wearing the tiara show her using it 1920s style, wearing it low across her forehead as a bandeau. Amedeo became Duke of Aosta on his father’s death in 1931. He commanded the Italian forces in East Africa during World War II, and he died as a prisoner of war in Kenya in 1942. Because he and Anne had only daughters, the Aosta title passed to his younger brother, but the tiara stayed with the women of the family.

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Anne wore the tiara during the celebrations for the wedding of her eldest daughter, Princess Margherita, and Archduke Robert of Austria-Este (one of the sons of last rulers of Austria-Hungary, Emperor Karl I and Empress Zita) in 1953. Margherita later borrowed the tiara for another royal wedding: the nuptials of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium in 1960. Margherita would eventually inherit the tiara from her mother — and she would also find herself further connected with the Belgian royals. Robert and Margherita’s son, Lorenz, married Princess Astrid of Belgium in 1984.

Astrid wears the tiara during the Hungarian state visit to Belgium, 2008 (Mark Renders/Getty Images)

Astrid is the only sister of King Philippe of the Belgians, and as such, she regularly attends white-tie events. But we’ve talked at length about the relative tiara poverty of the Belgian royals, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Astrid turned to her husband’s family to find a suitable sparkler. She has borrowed her mother's art deco bandeau, but this is the only other tiara she's worn in public.

Anna Therese of Arco-Zinneberg wears the tiara on her wedding day, October 2018 (Photo generously provided by Gabi; do not reproduce)

For years, Astrid has been the primary wearer of the tiara, and there was much speculation about whether or not Margherita had given it outright to her daughter-in-law. But in 2018, we got a much clearer picture of the tiara's status, thanks to a family wedding. Anna Therese of Arco-Zinneberg, one of Margherita's granddaughters, wore the tiara on her wedding day in Bavaria in October 2018. On that occasion, royal jewelry historian Vincent Meylan confirmed that Prince Lorenz had loaned the tiara to his niece for the day -- which means that Margherita has indeed passed the tiara along to the next generation of the family, and we'll surely be seeing Astrid wearing it for years to come.