There’s been tons of discussion over the past several months about the next tiaras that Queen Camilla will bring out of the royal vault. But while there are many of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s tiaras to choose from, Camilla also has an unseen royal heirloom tiara in her own jewelry vault: the Teck Crescent Tiara.
The diamond tiara reportedly began its life in the collection of a very interesting royal lady: Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (1776-1857). Mary was the longest-lived of the 15 children of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Sheltered by her parents, she didn’t marry until she was 40, and she and her husband (and first cousin), Prince William Frederick, had no children. Her long life meant that she witnessed the reign of her father and two of her brothers, King George IV and King William IV, and she was alive for much of the early reign of her niece, Queen Victoria.
When Princess Mary died in 1857, another niece inherited a piece of jewelry from her estate. Princess Mary Adelaide, younger daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, was also one of Princess Mary’s godchildren. When the elder Mary passed away, she left Mary Adelaide a small collection of jewels. Among the pieces was, according to Hugh Roberts, a “diamond bandeau for the head and three diamond roses.” Roberts posits that the diamond bandeau and roses were made into this rose and crescent tiara, which was worn frequently by Mary Adelaide throughout her life.
About a decade later, in 1866, Princess Mary Adelaide married Prince Francis of Teck, a relative of the King of Württemberg. In 1871, they became Duke and Duchess of Teck. Mary Adelaide also remained part of the royal circle of her cousin, Queen Victoria, and had plenty of opportunities to wear her royal jewels at court. The collection included the rose and crescent tiara, as well as a diamond hoop necklace and her mother’s collection of emeralds. She wore the bandeau-style tiara both with and without supplementary rows of diamonds at its base.
The Duke and Duchess of Teck were drawn even closer into the royal fold in 1893, when their only daughter, Princess Victoria Mary, married Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Duke of York. George and May would, of course, later reign as King George V and Queen Mary. In the Laurits Tuxen portrait of the royal wedding, Princess Mary Adelaide is seated in the foreground, wearing the rose and crescent tiara.
The pose used by Tuxen in the painting appears to be based on this photograph of Mary Adelaide. (I’m not sure whether it was taken as a study for the portrait or for a separate occasion.) In the photo, Mary Adelaide wears the rose and crescent tiara (with supplementary diamonds at the base), as well as the diamond hoop necklace.
Sadly, Mary Adelaide did not live to see her daughter and son-in-law ascend to the throne. She passed away in 1897. Her jewels were divided up among her children, and the rose and crescent tiara was inherited by her eldest son, Prince Adolphus of Teck. He would later succeed his father as the 2nd Duke of Teck.
Prince Adolphus may have been the heir to a German dukedom, but he married into a solidly English aristocratic family. His wife was Lady Margaret Grosvenor, daughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster. As Duchess of Teck, Margaret wore the rose and crescent tiara for the coronation of her brother- and sister-in-law, King George V and Queen Mary, in 1911. This portrait was taken during the coronation festivities, and it’s signed with the Duchess’s nickname, “Meg.” (Her husband was “Dolly” to the family.) You’ll note that Margaret is wearing the diamond hoop necklace as well.
Here’s another photograph of Margaret from the same 1911 portrait session. Adolphus and Margaret remained close members of the family, and in 1917, they renounced the Teck dukedom (a German title) as a patriotic gesture during World War I. In return, King George V made them the Marquess and Marchioness of Cambridge, a new title linking them to the late Princess Mary Adelaide and her parents. They held the titles until their deaths in 1927 and 1929, after which the Cambridge marquessate was inherited by their elder son, George.
The subsequent chain of ownership for the jewels that Adolphus had inherited from his mother, however, is less clear. By the 1930s, they were in the hands of George Cambridge’s aunt, Queen Mary. It’s not clear whether Adolphus and Margaret may have left them directly to Mary, or whether she may have acquired them from George. Either way, though, the rose and crescent tiara and the hoop necklace both ended up in Mary’s jewelry collection. She quickly passed them on to the next generation of the family, giving them to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). Above, Queen Elizabeth wears the tiara at the Savoy Hotel in London in March 1939.
Queen Elizabeth made a handful of appearances in the Teck Crescent Tiara over the years. Most of them appear to have taken place before the outbreak of World War II. In the spring of 1939, she took the tiara with her on the extensive royal tour of Canada and the United States. She wears the tiara above for a dinner at Chateau Laurier in Ottawa that May.
And here, in July 1939, she wears the tiara once more for a gala event. This time, she paired the jewel with Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Necklace. But for the most part, the tiara was relegated to the recesses of Elizabeth’s jewelry box and rarely worn once tiaras were brought out again after the war. In 2001, she did agree to loan the jewel to the landmark tiara exhibition mounted at the Victoria & Albert Museum, along with two other rarely-seen pieces from her collection (the Strathmore Rose Tiara and the Delhi Durbar Tiara).
After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, the Teck Crescent Tiara was made available to a new wearer: the Duchess of Cornwall, now Queen Camilla. Queen Elizabeth II gave it as a long-term loan to Camilla, along with two other tiaras worn by the Queen Mother (the Delhi Durbar Tiara and the Greville Tiara). But while Camilla has worn both of those jewels in public, she has still never worn the Teck Crescent Tiara in public. Our most recent glimpse of the rose and crescent tiara came in 2012, when it was photographed for The Queen’s Diamonds as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it worn again?
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.