A day with a tiara surprise is truly a good day, isn’t it? Today at the birthday gala held for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark at Christiansborg Palace, Queen Letizia of Spain debuted a brand-new sparkler: the Ansorena Fleur-de-Lis Tiara. You could say that I was a bit excited when she stepped out of the car…
NEW TIARA FOR LETIZIA!
— Ella Kay (@courtjeweller) April 15, 2015
… but there’s a lot of murkiness around the way this tiara was acquired — which is probably why Letizia held on to the piece for six years before wearing it.
When reports first surfaced that Letizia, then the Princess of Asturias, had a new tiara of her own, her husband was credited with the purchase. Felipe, it was said, had bought the tiara from Ansorena as a fifth anniversary present for his wife in 2009. (It’s sort of a junior version of the very large fleur-de-lis tiara that is a part of the joyas de pasar collection in Spain.) But Letizia kept the tiara, which is made of diamonds and pearls, tucked away, only wearing a small portion of it in public.
The central fleur-de-lis element of the piece is detachable and can be worn as a brooch, and Letizia has only ever worn that piece of the larger tiara, usually as a brooch to secure the sash of one of her orders. The fleur-de-lis is a symbol of the House of Borbon, by the by, and it is as associated with the current Spanish royal family as it is with the country of France and its former ruling family.
If your husband bought you a tiara, you’d probably be eager to wear it, no? Well, details that have subsequently been released perhaps shed a light on why Letizia has been reluctant to wear the tiara. After the news of the tiara’s existence broke, representatives from Ansorena revealed that they had made the tiara and given it to the princess themselves — that it had not been commissioned or purchased by Felipe. They credited the late head of the firm with the idea of giving a tiara to the new Spanish princess. He died before work could be completed, but the firm reportedly carried on without him and gave the tiara to Letizia anyway.
The business of accepting gifts has always been a tricky one for modern royals, especially royals (like the Spanish royal family) living in depressed economic times. The Borbons have dealt with all sorts of scandal lately, and perhaps Letizia is trying to avoid an incident that could potentially resemble the famous Affair of the Diamond Necklace at the court of Louis XVI of France. A diamond brooch, though still glitzy and flashy, has a much different kind of resonance than a tiara, which is at its heart a symbol of wealth and status. By only wearing that small part of the piece in public for years, Letizia was sort of carefully dipping her toe into the bejeweled water, to mangle a metaphor.
In the end, we don’t really know exactly how Letizia came to possess the piece, and because of that, I was extremely surprised to see her wear the complete tiara tonight in Denmark. But maybe this occasion — which offered her the chance to wear the tiara a) outside of Spain, and b) at an event that was as much about family and friendship as it was about diplomacy — was just the moment for her to carefully bring this long-awaited sparkler out of the shadows? (Also — this tiara wasn’t Letizia’s only jewelry surprise of the night. Note that she’s finally wearing a wedding ring again!)