Princess Alice of Albany has the distinction of being the longest-lived grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. During those many years, she lived a fascinating royal life—and had a jewelry collection to match. Today, we’ve got a look at one of her favorite jewels, the Athlone Palmette Tiara.
Princess Alice’s royal connections were extensive. She was the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmont. Her father was the youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and her mother was a sister of Queen Emma of the Netherlands and a niece of Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg. Alice was a close cousin of royals from across Europe, including Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Greece, Norway, Russia, Romania, and Spain.
Alice was a beloved member of her family. During her youth, the British press described her as “one of the most popular of the young English Princesses,” adding that she was “very bright and cheerful” as well as “a fearless horsewoman and bicyclist.” When she was twenty, Alice became engaged to Prince Alexander George (“Alge”) of Teck. Alice and Alge had known each other since childhood—he was the son of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge and a brother of Princess Mary of Teck—but their romance blossomed in 1903. Alge was stationed with the army near Alice’s home, Claremont, where he often visited her and her mother. They shared a love of horses, and in her memoirs, Alice describes Alge helping her with training of a troublesome new horse. In the book, she jokes, “It does not require the exercise of much imagination to visualize how our friendship developed and his courtship followed. Had he helped me into the saddle so clumsily that I fell off the other side things might have turned out differently!” They married in 1904, with Alice wearing the Teck Ears of Wheat Tiara for the occasion.
Alge and Alice were known as Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck until 1917, when the Tecks relinquished their German titles. King George V, who was both their cousin and their brother-in-law, made them the Earl and Countess of Athlone, and their children, May and Rupert, were styled as the children of an earl. Nevertheless, Alice and Alge remained vital members of the royal family (and Alice retained her own British royal style and status). Alice’s jewelry box contained several pieces fit for a princess, including a diamond tiara with a modern palmette design.
The piece, which likely dates to the 1920s or very early 1930s, incorporates motifs popular during the Art Deco period. From the top border of diamonds, several large cushion-cut yellow diamonds are suspended. One of the first recorded outings of the tiara came in October 1932, when she wore it during the wedding celebrations for her niece, Princess Sibylla, and Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden. (They were the parents of the present King of Sweden.) Above, Alice wears the tiara above for a portrait taken during the coronation festivities in May 1937.
Here’s a clearer, closer look at the tiara’s shape and design, from a photo of Alice wearing the piece later in life.
Alge served as Governor General of South Africa from 1924-1930, and as Governor General of Canada from 1940-1946. The appointments provided Alice with plenty of opportunities to wear gala jewels at official functions. Above, she wears the diamond palmette tiara in an official portrait taken in connection with their Canadian appointment. They lived at Rideau Hall in Ottawa for the duration of World War II. Several of their relatives, including Alice’s Dutch royal cousins, stayed with them in Canada for periods of time during the war. (Alge, as Governor General, was the one who gave approval to a special law temporarily declaring Princess Juliana’s Ottawa hospital room as Dutch territory, so that her baby daughter, Princess Margriet, could be born on Dutch soil.)
After the end of the war, the Athlones returned to Britain. In September 1948, they accompanied Princess Margaret to the Netherlands for the inauguration of Queen Juliana, Alice’s first cousin once removed. For a special “sports fantasy” entertainment at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam, Alice sparkled in the palmette tiara and a sequined gown. Margaret also glittered in a tiara borrowed from her grandmother (Alice’s sister-in-law), Queen Mary.
After Alge’s death in 1957, Alice remained a central member of the family, often attending events with her royal relatives both at home and abroad. Here, she wears the palmette tiara for a screening of The Madwoman of Chaillot at the Warner Theatre in London in November 1969. She’s accompanied by Princess Anne, who wears the Cartier Halo Tiara for the occasion.
And here, two years earlier, she wears the palmette tiara for a dinner with her Dutch royal relatives in the Netherlands. The occasion, which took place in January 1967, celebrated two events: the 30th wedding anniversary of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, and the upcoming nuptials of Princess Margriet and Pieter van Vollenhoven. Here, Alice chats with Prince Claus, the new husband of Princess Beatrix, during the dinner.
Alice died in January 1981, shortly before her 98th birthday. Her life was celebrated at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where she had been born, baptized, and married. After her death, the tiara was inherited by her daughter, Lady May Abel Smith, who auctioned it at Christie’s in December 1984. Alice’s legacy lives on thanks to a charming memoir, For My Grandchildren, which recounts her memories of six royal reigns.