1677: In November, a royal marriage takes place at St. James’s Palace between a pair of cousins who both have close claims to the English throne. The groom, William, is the Prince of Orange; he’s the son of the late Princess Royal, and therefore the nephew of King Charles II. The bride, Mary, is the king’s niece; she’s the daughter of the Duke of York. The marriage is a strategic alliance: Mary is second in line to the throne, while William is fourth. After the wedding, the couple leaves England, settling in The Hague.
At some point after their marriage, William and Mary purchase a large, uncut diamond. They have it cut in Amsterdam, and the resulting rose-cut diamond, which weighs nearly forty carats, is set in a brooch. It becomes known as the Stuart diamond.
1685: Charles II dies without a legitimate heir, and his brother, the Duke of York, becomes King James II. Mary is now the heir to the English throne. She and her father are often at odds over political policy and personal matters; James is also a Catholic, while William and Mary are protestant.
1688: James’s wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a son, who displaces Mary as heir. A group of anti-Catholic Englishmen ask William to come to England, deposing James and installing Mary as queen. William agrees, arriving in England, taking command of the military, and sending James into exile; the event will later be called the “Glorious Revolution.”
1689: Mary arrives in England, bringing the Stuart diamond with her, and Parliament proclaims that she and William are co-regnant monarchs of the country. They are crowned as King William III and Queen Mary II in Westminster Abbey.
1694: Mary dies of smallpox at the age of 32. William inherits all of her property, including the Stuart diamond.
1702: William dies of pneumonia. Because he and Mary had no children, the jewels that he inherited from her are returned to the Netherlands as property of the House of Orange. The new queen, Mary’s sister Anne, tries to reclaim the property, but she fails in her efforts, and the Stuart diamond remains in the Netherlands with the Oranges.
1782: Eighty years after William III’s death, the head of the House of Orange is Prince William V. Concerned that the family’s valuable jewelry collection should remain intact, he decrees that none of the family’s jewelry can be sold without the consent of all of the members of the royal house.
|Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange (source)
1795: In the wake of political turmoil following the French Revolution, William V and his family flee to exile in Britain. (Like William III, the British royals are his cousins — William’s mother, Anne, was a daughter of King George II of Great Britain.) The Stuart diamond arrives back on English shores with the family. While in England, William’s wife, Princess Wilhelmina, has Rundell and Bridge reset the Stuart diamond, which becomes a pendant on a necklace.
1815: After twenty years abroad, the Oranges are finally able to return to the Netherlands and claim the Dutch throne. William V’s son, also named William, becomes King William I, and the Stuart diamond is a part of his royal jewel collection.
1851: The Great Exhibition is held in London, and the Stuart diamond (called the “Holland Diamond” in the exhibition literature) is one of the treasures on display.
|Queen Emma and Queen Wilhelmina (source)
1897: Preparations for the investiture of the young Dutch queen, Wilhelmina, are underway; she will be crowned the following year after her eighteenth birthday. Her mother, Queen Emma, orders a new tiara from Eduard Schürmann and Co. to wear at the ceremony. The new tiara features the Stuart diamond set among other stones from the family’s collection. The piece is a part of a set that becomes known as the “House Diamonds.” Here’s a good view of the Stuart Tiara, worn years later by Queen Juliana.
1960: Queen Juliana wears the tiara during a state visit to Belgium.
1967: Juliana wears the tiara to the wedding of Crown Princess Margrethe of Denmark in Copenhagen.
1972: Given its complicated Dutch/British history, the Stuart Tiara is an especially appropriate choice for Juliana to wear at Windsor Castle during a state visit to Britain. Juliana is the last Dutch queen to wear the Stuart Tiara in public. Here’s hoping we see Queen Maxima take this one out for a spin soon!