In the last months of her husband’s reign as King of the Hellenes, Queen Friederike (or Frederica, or Frederika, depending on your preferred spelling) of Greece and her younger daughter, Princess Irene, made a trip to the United States. Today, we’re featuring a glittering appearance from the beginning of that royal tour, including an astonishing sapphire owned by more than one royal woman.
On January 22, 1964, newsreel cameras captured Queen Friederike at a reception in New York City. The occasion was the 75th anniversary of Barnard College. The Greek queen consort was one of numerous dignitaries present for the dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria. Earlier the same day, she had received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University (the first time one was ever awarded by the institution on a recommendation by Barnard).
The honor was bestowed on the queen because of her work on behalf of the Greek people, which Barnard’s president declared was “quite beyond the call of even royal obligations.” Some people were less pleased with the decision to grant her the honor, and there was a protest presence outside the building. Ahead of her arrival in America, Friederike had granted an interview to Associated Press reporter Eddy Gilmore. In it, she declared, “I don’t know why I’m called controversial.” (Her history of associations in Germany during the war, plus her political involvement in Greece, were major reasons.)
That evening, Queen Friederike arrived wearing an evening gown with a fringed bodice, a tiara, and coordinating jewels for the anniversary dinner.
She greeted fellow attendees at the event alongside the American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk.
Here, Friederike poses for a photograph alongside Secretary and Mrs. Rusk, Princess Irene, and Dr. Rosemary Park, president of Barnard College.
For the reception, Friederike wore some of her grandest jewels. She wore Queen Sophie’s Diamond Tiara. The tiara belonged to King Paul’s mother, Princess Sophie of Prussia. She received the tiara as a wedding present when she married into the Greek royal family in 1889.
She paired the tiara with gem-set earrings and a convertible jewel from her collection. The diamond and pearl necklace can be placed on a frame and worn as a tiara. On this occasion, though, she wore it as a necklace, with her incredible sapphire pendant.
The sapphire is an astonishing royal jewel. Originally owned by Cartier, the 478-carat gemstone was sold to King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania in 1921. It was sold again in the 1940s, after the end of the monarchy in Romania. The buyer was a wealthy Greek citizen, who presented it to Queen Friederike. (Learn more about the sapphire’s history over here!)