On this date in 1818, King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden was crowned in Stockholm. Did you know, though, that part of his coronation crown is currently worn as a tiara by his female descendants? Here’s the story behind the transformation that created the Swedish Diamond Six-Button Tiara.
On May 11, 1818, King Carl XIV Johan was crowned in Stockholm’s cathedral. He’d had an unusual journey to the throne, to say the least. Born in France as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, he embarked on a career as a soldier and rose to the position of Marshal of the Empire during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. (He also married Napoleon’s former fiancée, Désirée Clary, with whom he had a son, Oscar. Bernadotte bought Désirée a grand suite of rubies to wear to Napoleon’s coronation, and today, they’re worn by the Crown Princess of Denmark.)
Meanwhile, King Carl XIII of Sweden was searching for an heir. He was elderly, he had no children of his own, and the prince he’d adopted to be his heir had passed away. When he suffered a heart attack in 1809, the Swedish government started searching in earnest for a suitable heir. Keen to strengthen their relationship with Napoleon, members of the Riksdag were interested in selecting a member of the Bonaparte family. Napoleon’s brothers weren’t interested, and neither was his stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais. (Ironically, one of Eugène’s daughters would later be Queen of Sweden—but I digress.) A courtier impulsively offered the throne to Bernadotte, who agreed once Napoleon gave his okay. (The courtier was briefly imprisoned for his cheek, but later released.)
The French soldier became Crown Prince of Sweden. He was elected by the Riksdag and adopted by King Carl XIII, taking on the new name “Carl Johan.” He arrived in Stockholm in 1810, and his reputation in Sweden grew over the subsequent eight years. He was the de facto regent from the moment he arrived in the country, and he inherited the throne outright in February 1818. The painting above depicts his May 1818 coronation in Stockholm.
The new King Carl XIV Johan was crowned with a jewel that had been part of Swedish royal history for generations. The Crown of King Eric XIV was made in 1561 by a Flemish goldsmith working in Stockholm. The gold crown, made in the Renaissance style, is encrusted with gemstones. But Carl XIV Johan decided that he wanted to upgrade it even further for his coronation and had several changes made.
Along with alterations to the crown’s monde and cross, Carl XIV Johan had additional diamonds added to the diadem. Among these diamond additions was a set of diamond rosette ornaments, which were affixed to the base of the crown. The ornaments had once belonged to Queen Lovisa Ulrika, wife of King Adolf Fredrik and mother of both King Gustaf III and King Carl XIII. The diamonds added extra sparkle and splendor to the crown, and they were also one more link to between the dynasty that had adopted Carl XIV Johan (the Holstein-Gottorps) and the new dynasty he was founding (the Bernadottes). You can see several diamond rosette ornaments featured in the portrait of Queen Lovisa Ulrika above.
Subsequent Swedish kings from the Bernadotte line were also crowned with the upgraded coronation crown used by King Carl XIV Johan. You can spot the diamond rosette ornaments on the band of the crown in this portrait of his grandson, King Carl XV of Sweden.
And you’ll be able to identify the rosettes in this portrait of King Oscar II of Sweden, brother of King Carl XV. The portrait was painted during Oscar’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1897.
Oscar II was the last King of Sweden to be crowned in a traditional coronation ceremony. When he died in 1907, his son, King Gustaf V, was not crowned, and that has continued with both subsequent monarchs (King Gustaf VI Adolf and King Carl XVI Gustaf) as well.
Now no longer worn, the Swedish crown is now merely present for important ceremonial occasions, and it’s gone through more renovations during the last century. In 1909, Lovisa Ulrika’s diamond rosettes were removed from the band of the crown. King Gustaf V’s wife, Queen Victoria, reportedly dreamed up the idea of having the rosettes mounted on a tiara frame. Construction was begun on the piece, but it was not finished at the time of her death. Instead, the partially-constructed tiara was stored in the palace vaults.
In 1976, when King Carl XVI Gustaf married Queen Silvia, lots of jewelry discoveries were made during inventories at the palace. The diamond rosette tiara was found in the vaults, and construction of the piece was completed. The family calls the jewel the “Carl Johan Tiara” in honor of King Carl XIV Johan.
The first wearer of the jewel was Princess Lilian of Sweden, wife of Prince Bertil and aunt of King Carl XVI Gustaf. She often wore the tiara after her royal marriage in 1976, frequently sporting it at the annual Nobel Prize ceremony. Here, she wears it for the ceremony in December 2005. She paired it with other glittering jewels from the family collection, including the Diamond Lozenge Brooch and the Diamond Zig-Zag Bracelet.
The tiara has also been worn by numerous other members of the family. Queen Silvia has worn the tiara on occasion, and it has been worn frequently by her sister-in-law, Princess Christina. Here, Christina wears the tiara for the Nobels in December 2003.
And here, she wears it for the same event ten years later, in December 2013.
Queen Silvia’s daughters and daughter-in-law have all worn the tiara as well. Madeleine wore the tiara for the King’s Dinner in December 2005. And Crown Princess Victoria has worn it frequently. In the photograph above, she wears it for the Nobels in December 2007. (She’s also wearing several other diamond jewels from the vaults, including the Diamond Lozenge Brooch and the Baden Ivy Leaf Brooch, used as a pendant.)
Victoria paired the tiara with the Napoleonic Amethysts for the Nobels in December 2009.
And she wore the tiara with the Leuchtenberg Sapphires at the Nobels in December 2011. She supplemented the base of the tiara with an additional row of diamonds on this occasion.
Princess Sofia has also made an appearance in the tiara. She wore the jewel in Oslo in May 2017 for the joint 80th birthday celebrations for King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway.
Recently, the tiara was prominently featured in Kungliga Smycken, a television documentary about Sweden’s royal jewelry. Crown Princess Victoria discussed the tiara on camera, showing us that the rosettes can be removed from the tiara frame, but that doing so is difficult, so the family leaves them where they are.