Many of us have been enjoying the behind-the-scenes look at Denmark’s royal jewels through the new television documentary, which focuses on the creation of a pair of exhibits dedicated to the sparkling objects from the Danish Royal Collection. Today, I’ve got a treat: a peek inside one of the exhibits! Here’s a special look at some of the jewels from “Mary and the Crown Princesses,” on display now at Koldinghus.
We’ve watched as Crown Princess Mary toured the exhibition’s progress and attended its official opening. The exhibition, which is timed to coincide with Mary’s 50th birthday, celebrates the lives and legacies of four of Denmark’s crown princesses, using clothing, jewelry, and other objects to bring their stories to life.
Here’s a quick look at the four women profiled in the exhibition. First is Princess Lovisa of Sweden, who became Crown Princess of Denmark when she married the future King Frederik VIII in 1869. Lovisa was the only surviving child of King Carl XV of Sweden and Norway and his wife, Princess Louise of the Netherlands. She was a great-granddaughter of the first Bernadotte monarch, King Carl XIV Johan, and a great-great-granddaughter of Empress Joséphine of France. She brought jewels from the Bernadottes and the Leuchtenbergs into the Danish collection.
Lovisa became Queen of Denmark in 1906, and held that position until her husband’s death in 1912. She was the mother of eight children, including King Christian X of Denmark, King Haakon VII of Norway, and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, making her an ancestor of the current sovereigns of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Next is Duchess Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was the eldest child of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and his Romanov bride, Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia. In 1898, she married Prince Christian of Denmark, eldest son of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Lovisa. She and Christian had two sons, King Frederik IX and Hereditary Prince Knud.
Alexandrine became Crown Princess in 1906 when her father-in-law ascended to the throne. Six years later, she and her husband became King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine of Denmark. She was widowed in 1947. Today, her granddaughter reigns in Denmark as Queen Margrethe II.
The third crown princess profiled in the exhibition is Princess Ingrid of Sweden. The only daughter of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and Princess Margaret of Connaught, she was descended from both the Scandinavian and British royal families. In 1935, she married Crown Prince Frederik, the elder son of King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, making another family connection between the Swedish and Danish royal families.
King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid ascended to the throne on his father’s death in 1947. Ingrid was an enthusiastic jewelry-wearer as queen consort. (She’s wearing her mother’s Khedive of Egypt Tiara here.) She absorbed the history of the collection and was dedicated to making use of the historic jewels. She passed that knowledge along to her daughters, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.
And, of course, the fourth princess profiled is Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, who has been Crown Princess of Denmark since marrying Crown Prince Frederik in 2004. Mary was raised in Australia and met her prince during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. She and Frederik have four children: Prince Christian, Princess Isabella, Prince Vincent, and Princess Josephine.
There are some truly spectacular pieces of jewelry included in the “Mary and the Crown Princesses” exhibition. I’m able to bring you this little peek inside thanks to the generosity of reader Anne Cathrine Hermann Roed, who attended the exhibition and offered to share some of her photographs with all of us. Thank you so much, Anne Cathrine!
Among the jewels on display, of course, is a set worn by all four women: the Danish Ruby Parure. The jewels originally belonged to the Bernadottes and were worn for the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris in 1804. Princess Lovisa of Sweden received the set from her grandmother, Queen Josefina, as a wedding gift in 1869. It was given to her specifically because the rubies and diamonds reflect the red and white colors of the Danish flag.
The rubies are beautifully displayed in the exhibition. The tiara, necklace, earrings, brooch, bracelet, and ring are all presented alongside photographs of the women wearing the jewels. The exhibition also reflects the changes made by the crown princesses to the parure over time. Queen Alexandrine wore the tiara in a slim bandeau format, and Queen Ingrid transformed it into the large wreath tiara we’ve become familiar with. More recently, Crown Princess Mary had the tiara reworked slightly as well.
Jewels brought to the collection by Queen Alexandrine are also showcased. These include her Russian Sapphire Tiara. The tiara was Alexandrine’s wedding gift from a Romanov cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The jewel was originally a smaller bandeau. It was renovated into the form we see today by Alexandrine’s daughter-in-law, Princess Caroline-Mathilde, in the 1960s. The tiara was recently sold by Caroline-Mathilde’s descendants, but its anonymous buyer has delightfully allowed it to be displayed with other royal items in the Amalienborg Museum. It’s also been loaned to Koldinghus for this exhibition.
You’ll spot another jewel from Queen Alexandrine’s collection here as well: her diamond meander bracelet, which could also be worn as a choker necklace. (You’ll spot a photograph of Alexandrine wearing it in its necklace setting beside the jewel). The piece now belongs to Alexandrine’s grandson, Count Ingolf of Rosenborg, and his wife, Countess Sussie. They’ve loaned it for display in this exhibition.
Speaking of bracelets, there are also some additional fascinating heirlooms on display. All of these came to Denmark with Queen Lovisa. The top two jewels are acrostic bracelets, where gemstones are used to spell out the letters of names or phrases. Both of these were commissioned by Napoleon for Joséphine, and they spell out the names of her children. The top bracelet uses gems to spell out “Eugène,” and the second bracelet spells out “Hortense.” Anne Cathrine noted that the bracelets were inherited by Queen Lovisa from her mother, Queen Louise of Sweden.
The bottom two bracelets also come from Queen Lovisa’s royal ancestors. The nine-row pearl bracelet features a clasp with a miniature portrait of Princess Augusta, Duchess of Leuchtenberg. The portrait is encircled by three rows of diamonds. Augusta (who was born a Bavarian princess) was the wife of Eugène de Beauharnais and the mother of Queen Josefina of Sweden and Norway. The bracelet was made in the 1820s, and it has been worn by Queen Lovisa, Queen Alexandrine, and Queen Ingrid, as well as by Queen Margrethe II.
The three-row pearl bracelet, the Bernadotte Bracelet, features a clasp with a miniature portrait of King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden, the first Bernadotte king. Queen Lovisa inherited the bracelet in 1876 (the year that her grandmother, Queen Josefina, passed away). The portrait is ringed with a cluster of diamonds and emeralds.
Please join me again in thanking Anne Cathrine for so generously sharing her photos with us!