The Swedish royal vaults are fully stocked with every kind of tiara you could imagine, but today’s tiara—Queen Sofia’s Tiara—is one of the most divisive. Whether you love it or hate it, let’s have a look at the history of the tiara with a million nicknames!
You’ll sometimes see this sparkler called “the Nine-Prong Tiara”—because, as you can all see, there are nine diamond “prong” elements dotted across the top of the piece. The Swedish court, however, simply calls the piece “Queen Sofia’s Tiara,” in reference to the tiara’s original owner, Sofia of Nassau, the queen consort of King Oscar II.
The royal court states that the tiara was made for Sofia around 1860, perhaps when she became Sweden’s crown princess. It was certainly in the royal collection by 1872. Trond Norén Isaksen notes that the tiara is listed on the jewel inventory made after the death of Sofia’s brother-in-law, King Carl XV. He also speculates that the tiara could have been made by remodeling a diamond comb that once belonged to the first Bernadotte king, Carl XIV Johan.
Queen Sofia wore the diamond tiara throughout her lifetime, and it became a part of the Bernadotte jewel foundation before her death in 1913. The tiara has subsequently been worn by many other Bernadotte women, despite the reported difficulty of actually wearing the piece. Unlike many tiaras, this sparkler has a solid, inflexible base, meaning that it can be tough to perch properly on the wearer’s head.
After Sofia’s death, the tiara was inherited by her son, King Gustaf V. His wife, Queen Victoria, never wore the tiara. Instead, the tiara was next photographed on her daughter-in-law, the future Queen Louise, formerly Lady Louise Mountbatten (which made her an aunt to the Duke of Edinburgh, among other royal connections). I’ve speculated that Queen Sofia’s tiara is surely the “high diamond crown with points and rose centre” that King Gustaf gave to Louise as a wedding present in November 1923.
Today, the tiara is worn mainly by Queen Silvia, although it has also been worn by other members of the family, including several of the king’s sisters and the late Princess Lilian. Princess Birgitta made a memorable appearance in the tiara at the wedding of her niece, Crown Princess Victoria, in 2010. She wore the piece low across her forehead, as Queen Louise had done, and she apparently struggled to keep it from slipping into her eyes. (This is something that Queen Silvia also occasionally dealt with when she donned this piece in her early years of tiara-wearing.)
Queen Silvia, though, has continued to wear the tiara regularly for a range of gala events. She’s chosen it for more than one royal wedding. Above, she wears the tiara for a reception after the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Monaco in July 2011.
She even wore the tiara for the wedding of her younger daughter, Princess Madeleine, in June 2013.
And she regularly wears the tiara for the annual Nobel Prize celebrations in Stockholm each December. Along with the Leuchtenberg Sapphire Tiara, it’s definitely one of her most-worn Nobel jewels.
We’ve yet to see either Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine, or Princess Sofia don this particular sparkler. Perhaps they’re still brainstorming appropriate hairstyles to accompany this infamously difficult diadem?