Our May survey on the jewels that belonged to May of Teck—better known to history as Queen Mary—continues today with another wedding gift that was dismantled to make two spectacular royal tiaras.
When Princess Victoria Mary of Teck married Prince George, Duke of York in July 1893, she received a haul of wedding gift jewelry that was certainly fit for a future queen consort. Among the gifts displayed at White Lodge, her parents’ home in Richmond, was this stylized diamond floral fringe tiara. On Monday, July 3, the Earl and Countess of Lovelace had presented the tiara to Princess May and her parents at a garden party held at White Lodge. Lord Lovelace was the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, and the gift was offered on behalf of the people of the county (and notably, he was also the widower of Ada Lovelace, the famous computer programmer and daughter of Lord Byron).
During the presentation, the Evening Standard reported that the Duke of Teck told Lord Lovelace that the gift was “an additional testimony to the good feeling shown by the people of Surrey to members of his family.” The Duchess of Teck added that “she hoped she might add her thanks to the people of Surrey on behalf of her daughter, who would still often be seen among them.” (I find it interesting that the Duchess spoke on May’s behalf when May was standing right beside them, holding the new diamond tiara in her hands.)
Funds for the tiara (pictured above as part of an illustrated list of the wedding presents) had been collected from Surrey residents by subscription, with Lovelace’s second wife, Jane, helping to organize the effort. Contemporary newspaper reports described the tiara as designed “in the Empire style. The centre is formed of a tapering upright, two and three-quarter inches in length, with scroll sides, holding large single diamonds, and supported by a fleur-de-lis base surmounting a band of single diamonds. On each side of the centre there is an upright ray, with three important single brilliant. The same design is repeated in gradations throughout, and has an unusually graceful effort, whether worn as a tiara or as a necklace. The gift, which cost £1,200, contains over 300 brilliants, many of large size.”
Mary wore the tiara setting of the piece for a famous series of portraits taken in London by W. & D. Downey in March 1901. The photographs were taken ahead of Mary and George’s eight-month tour of the Empire, visiting all corners of the globe following the accession of King Edward VII. In the images, May still wears a dark dress and gloves, as the court was still in mourning for Queen Victoria. Indeed, an entire wardrobe of black clothing was made for her to wear on the tour.
With the dark ensemble, she wore diamonds and pearls, including the County of Surrey Tiara. Other jewels worn in this portrait session include her eleven-row pearl choker necklace, with its distinctive diamond spacer sections, and the Kapurthala Stomacher, a grand diamond ornament given to her as a wedding present by the Maharajah of Karpurthala. The choker necklace is now worn by the Duchess of Gloucester, while the stomacher was redesigned and now belongs to the Queen.
Here’s one more photograph from the March 1901 session, showing off the design details of May’s gown quite nicely. You’ll also spot a diamond leaf brooch pinned to her bodice, and a diamond floral bracelet on her right wrist. I believe the diamond flower was later reset as part of a new pearl bracelet, now worn by the Queen.
After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, George and May had held the rather clunky title of Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. At the end of their imperial tour in November 1901, King Edward VII offered his thanks by upgrading them to the title of Prince and Princess of Wales.
In this portrait from 1905, she pairs the Surrey Necklace with two new-to-her jewels: the Love Trophy Collar (made by Garrard in 1901) and the Boucheron Loop Tiara (made in 1902 using diamonds that had been given to her by De Beers during the imperial tour). The Love Trophy Collar is still in the Buckingham Palace Vaults today, but the Boucheron Loop Tiara was later broken up (to make the Delhi Durbar Tiara).
Eventually, May decided to have the County of Surrey Tiara dismantled as well. In 1913, the piece was broken apart, and the diamonds were used to construct and improve other jewels. Thirteen of the largest diamonds from the Surrey Tiara, for example, were used to replace the upright pearls which had once sat atop the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara (worn here by the Queen in 2004).