On August 21, the princely family of Liechtenstein said goodbye to one of their most important family members: Princess Marie, the wife of Prince Hans-Adam II and the mother of Hereditary Prince Alois. Today, to celebrate her life, we’ve got a look at one of the most meaningful pieces of family jewelry that she wore: her wedding tiara.
On July 30, 1967, Countess Marie-Aglaë Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, married Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein at St. Florin’s in Vaduz. Geoffrey Atkins of the Associated Press wrote that the wedding of the “handsome rich prince” and “beautiful German countess” in the small principality “put the seal on a fairy tale royal romance.” Marie, a 27-year-old graphic designer, arrived at the cathedral to marry the 22-year-old prince wearing a white silk gown embroidered with pearls. The dress was made by the French designer Jacques Heim.
On her wedding day, Princess Marie’s veil was held in place by a sparkling family heirloom: the Habsburg Fringe Tiara. The classic tiara, made of diamonds set in silver and gold, was created by Köchert, the imperial court jeweler of the Habsburgs, around 1890. It was designed to mimic the kokoshnik-style diamond fringe tiaras worn at the court of the Romanovs in Russia.
How did a Habsburg tiara make its way into the princely jewelry collection in Liechtenstein? The answer can be found in the princely family tree. The tiara’s original owner was Archduchess Maria Theresa, the third wife of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria. Karl Ludwig was a younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. After Franz Josef’s son and heir, Crown Prince Rudolf, died in 1889, Karl Ludwig and Maria Theresa gained new prominence at court, because Karl Ludwig and his son, Franz Ferdinand, were the new heirs to the Habsburg throne.
Rudolf’s grieving mother, Empress Elisabeth, withdrew from public life, making Maria Theresa the most senior woman at the imperial court. The position required major important jewels, including the diamond fringe tiara. (At the time, she was also the wearer of the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, which you can learn more about here.) Archduchess Maria Theresa remained a senior figure at the Viennese court until 1896, when Archduke Karl Ludwig died, and she had to retire from court life as an imperial widow.
Even during her widowhood, Maria Theresa remained an influential figure behind the scenes in Vienna. She was a strong supporter of the relationship between her stepson, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Countess Sophie Chotek, even pleading their case before the emperor. When the morganatic marriage was finally permitted to take place, Maria Theresa organized the ceremony, which took place at her summer home in Bohemia. Maria Theresa and her daughters, Archduchess Maria Annunciata and Archduchess Elisabeth, were the only members of the imperial family to attend the wedding.
In the autumn of 1911, Maria Theresa wore her diamond fringe tiara for another important Habsburg occasion: the wedding of Archduke Karl and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. (After the murder of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, and the death of Emperor Franz Josef, Karl and Zita became Emperor and Empress—until the end of World War I knocked the family off the throne entirely.) In the group photograph above, you can see Maria Theresa wearing the diamond fringe tiara. She’s the second figure from the left, standing between Zita and Karl.
Maria Theresa also wore the diamond fringe tiara for the wedding of her younger daughter, Archduchess Elisabeth. In April 1903, Elisabeth married Prince Alois of Liechtenstein in a grand imperial ceremony in Vienna. Unlike the marriage of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, this union had full support of Elisabeth’s uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, who even attended the ceremony himself. In gratitude for his recognition, Alois and Elisabeth named their first child Prince Franz Joseph in the emperor’s honor.
Elisabeth was the only one of Maria Theresa’s daughters to marry and have children of her own. When Maria Theresa died in 1944, the diamond fringe tiara was inherited by Elisabeth, bringing it into the collection of the princely family of Liechtenstein.
The tiara has been worn by the princesses of Liechtenstein ever since. Princess Gina, the wife of Prince Franz Joseph II, was apparently especially fond of the jewel, wearing it for several prominent gala occasions and in numerous official portraits. One of those portraits, dating to the early 1970s, is featured on this 1971 postage stamp, issued by Swiss Post as a partner of the government of Liechtenstein. The details of the tiara stand out particularly nicely in the illustration.
At the time of the 1967 wedding of Franz Joseph and Gina’s eldest son, Prince Hans-Adam, and Countess Marie, the tiara was reported to be worth approximately $35,000. The jewel was the centerpiece of Marie’s bridal ensemble.
Today, the day-to-day business of running Liechtenstein is the responsibility of Prince Hans-Adam and Princess Marie’s eldest son, Hereditary Prince Alois. For years, the diamond fringe tiara has been worn primarily by his wife, Hereditary Princess Sophie. Above, she wears the tiara (plus a pair of diamond earrings that belonged to Princess Gina) for a dinner on the eve of the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in 2013.
On Saturday, August 28, the princely family celebrated the life of the late Princess Marie with a state funeral in Vaduz. The service, which was attended by her husband, her children, and her grandchildren, as well as by foreign royal representatives, was held in the same cathedral where Marie had become a princess more than half a century earlier.
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