After this week’s diplomatic reception, you probably saw lots of press noting that the Duchess of Cambridge wore the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara at the event. Except … she didn’t! The Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara is a totally separate piece from the sparkler that Kate wore on Thursday. Gather ’round, magpies, and let me tell you the story of the real Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara.
The year is 1818, and the unmarried sons of King George III of the United Kingdom are scrambling to find royal wives and produce royal heirs. George’s seventh son, the Duke of Cambridge, chooses a German bride: Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. Among her wedding gifts is a diamond and pearl tiara with lover’s knot motifs. The tiara was reportedly a present from Augusta’s family. Above, the Duchess of Cambridge wears the tiara in an illustration published in La Belle Assemblée, a British women’s magazine, in 1830.
Although Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge had other tiaras, she wore the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara for some of the most important royal events of her lifetime, including the 1838 coronation of her niece, Queen Victoria. After her death, the tiara was inherited by her elder daughter, Princess Augusta, who married Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
The second Princess Augusta, pictured above, was the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz from 1860 until her husband’s death in 1904. She wore the tiara in a series of portraits taken in 1902 during the coronation celebrations for her cousin, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. Augusta passed away in 1916, and she bequeathed the tiara to her granddaughter, Duchess Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had married Crown Prince Danilo of Montenegro in 1899.
To my knowledge, Jutta was never photographed in the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara. The piece definitely caught the eye of one of her cousins, however. Mary of Teck, who became Queen of the United Kingdom in 1910, admired the tiara greatly. In 1913, she had her own copy of the piece made. That copy is the Lover’s Knot Tiara that has been worn by numerous British royal women, including Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and the Princess of Wales. (You can read more about Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara over here.) The two tiaras are often confused, but they are separate pieces of jewelry owned by different families.
Montenegro’s monarchy was officially abolished in 1918, when the country was merged with Serbia to form Yugoslavia. Jutta spent the rest of her life in exile. Precisely what she did with her Lover’s Knot Tiara is unclear. She had no children to inherit the piece, and some think she may have privately sold it during her lifetime. She died in 1946, and the tiara popped up next in public in May 1981, when it was sold at Christie’s in Geneva.
At that 1981 auction, the tiara was purchased by a pair of German aristocrats: Georg and Marie Gabrielle von Waldburg zu Zeil. Although Georg died last year, the family still owns the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara today, and it is now worn by their daughter-in-law, Mathilde. The tiara was also recently featured on the cover of Vincent Meylan’s fabulous book about the Christie’s archives. (You can read my review of the book here!)