We’ve been marveling at lots of royal jewels worn for state visits to Germany this week—so I thought it was time that we also gazed on some jewels worn by members of one of Germany’s former royal families. Today, we’re drooling over the magnificent royal jewels that belonged to Queen Therese of Bavaria, who helped found one of Munich’s most enduring traditions: Oktoberfest!
Queen Therese (1792-1854), who was born Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, was the daughter of two German ducal families. Her royal family connections were impressive: one of her aunts was the Queen of Prussia, while another was Queen of Hanover. Her sisters had married into the royal families of Nassau and Württemberg. In 1810, when he was looking for his second wife, Napoleon Bonaparte glanced her way before ultimately marrying Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. In the end, Therese made a glittering match of her own.
On October 12, 1810, Therese married Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (1786-1868), the eldest son of King Maximilian I Joseph. Like Therese, Ludwig’s royal connections were impressive. His younger sisters included Princess Augusta, Duchess of Leuchtenberg; Empress Caroline of Austria-Hungary; Queen Elisabeth of Prussia; Queen Amalie of Saxony; and Queen Maria Anna, also of Saxony. (The last two were married to brothers.) Through two more of his sisters, Sophie and Ludovika, Ludwig was the uncle of both Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and his wife, Empress Elisabeth.
Ludwig and Therese were married in a grand ceremony in Munich. The enormous public wedding celebrations were held just outside the city gates in a huge open meadow, which became known as Theresienwiese. The festivities ran for several days, and included a parade, horse races, and a whole lot of beer drinking. The people of Munich had so much fun that they decided to repeat the festival the next October, too. It’s been held every year since, under a name you’ll probably recognize: Oktoberfest.
In 1825, Ludwig’s father died, and the royal couple ascended to the throne as King Ludwig and Queen Therese of Bavaria. The portrait of Therese above shows her in her coronation robes. Though the couple had nine children, the marriage wasn’t ultimately a happy one. Ludwig was a famously unfaithful husband, and one of his affairs (with the actress Lola Montez) made him so unpopular that it contributed to his abdication in 1848.
But, happy or not, royal marriages require major jewels, and Therese had a jewelry box packed with fascinating pieces. Among her favorites were these classic pearl and diamond girandole earrings.
Here, in another portrait depicting her in her coronation robes, the pearl girandoles are easy to spot. She wears them with her pearl-encrusted crown, a diamond tiara, and a pearl necklace with numerous pendants.
Indeed, pearls were clearly some of Therese’s favorite jewels. The display of the Bavarian crown jewels in Munich also includes a long, simple necklace of round pearls from her collection.
Numerous portraits depict her absolutely dripping in pearls, like this one, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler in the 1850s, after her husband’s abdication. Note that Therese is also wearing a large pearl brooch in this picture, which appears to match the design of the pearl girandole earrings.
Therese’s grandest piece of pearl and diamond jewelry was undoubtedly the Bavarian Lover’s Knot Tiara. These pearl and diamond tiaras with lover’s knot motifs were very popular in the first part of the nineteenth century. One of Therese’s cousins, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, had her own version: the famous original Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara. (Today, the current Duchess of Cambridge wears Queen Mary’s copy of that original Cambridge tiara.)
Therese’s Lover’s Knot Tiara was made around 1825 by Bavarian court jeweler Caspar Rieländer. Like so much of her jewelry, the tiara was a gift to Therese from her husband, King Ludwig.
The Bavarian Lover’s Knot Tiara features heavily in numerous portraits of Therese. (I’m always fascinated by her portraits—they all look so different. I think she must have had a difficult face to capture, possibly because of her constantly changing body. Nine pregnancies will certainly do that.) Here, she’s depicted in the late 1820s, wearing the tiara with pearl and gold jewels.
Eventually, Therese passed the pearl tiara (and many other jewels) along to her daughter-in-law, Queen Amalia of Greece. Amalia is depicted wearing the tiara in the portrait above, which was painted by Carl Rahl in 1860, a few years after Therese’s death.
Around 1921, another Bavarian princess was pictured wearing the tiara. Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, the wife of the last Crown Prince of Bavaria, wore the tiara in this bejeweled portrait.
Here’s another portrait of Therese wearing the tiara. The piece was painted by Carl Joseph Begas in the late 1820s. In this image, Therese is also wearing several diamond and amethyst clusters pinned to her gown.
Those clusters were later transformed into a suite of amethyst jewels, including this lovely, classic amethyst and diamond necklace.
The amethysts remained with the Bavarian royal family for nearly two more centuries. Here, they’re worn by Anna of Bavaria during the wedding festivities for Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden in June 2010. In 2013, the royals sold the necklace and the coordinating earrings at Sotheby’s.
The Bavarian crown jewel collection, which today is displayed at the Residenz Museum in Munich, also includes a grand parure of ruby and spinel jewels that belonged to Queen Therese. The set, which was also made by Caspar Rieländer, includes an enormous tiara, a pair of bracelets, a necklace, and earrings.
Here’s a closer look at the tiara, which is just an absolute whopper of a jewel.
I’ve never seen a portrait of Queen Therese wearing these ruby and spinel jewels, but this photograph of Crown Princess Antonia of Bavaria, taken around 1921, shows her wearing the jewels. The size of the tiara makes me think that it’s ultimately much better off as a museum piece!