This weekend, the daughter of a Portuguese royal pretender was married in a glamorous ceremony, wearing a sparkling diamond tiara that belonged to the nation’s last queen consort.
Infanta Maria Francisca de Braganza, the 26-year-old daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Braganza, married Duarte de Sousa Araújo Martins in a ceremony held in the basilica at the Palace of Mafra on Saturday. The ceremony was attended by members of various royal families, both reigning and non-reigning, from all over Europe. Maria Francisca wore an elegant wedding gown made by the designer Luzia do Nascimento with a dramatic veil and gorgeous diamond jewelry.
Maria Francisca and Duarte announced their engagement last December. You’ve seen them recently on The Court Jeweller, because they were guests at the Bavarian royal wedding in Munich back in May.
Maria Francisca’s father, the Duke of Braganza, is the current pretender to the defunct Portuguese throne. There hasn’t been a King of Portugal since the monarchy was abolished there in 1910, but Duarte Pio is recognized by most monarchists as the head of the royal family—and, thus, the person who would be king if there still was a king. He’s a great-grandson of King Miguel I, who briefly nabbed the throne from his niece, Queen Maria II, before being forced into exile.
Queen Maria’s descendants went on to reign until the monarchy was toppled, but because her line ended with the childless King Manuel II, monarchists had to go back to King Miguel I’s line for the next head of the House of Braganza. King Miguel’s eldest son, also named Miguel, was Duarte Pio’s grandfather. (Lots of other royals we discuss here regularly are also descended from Miguel, including the King of the Belgians, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and the Prince of Liechtenstein.) As the claimant to the throne, Duarte Pio uses the title of “Duke of Braganza.” He’s semi-recognized in Portugal, and you’ll occasionally see him at official diplomatic events like state dinners.
Duarte Pio and his wife, Isabel de Heredia, were married in a glittering ceremony in Lisbon in 1995. They have three children: Afonso, Maria Francisca, and Dinis. The Duke looked like a proud father indeed as he escorted his only daughter to her wedding ceremony on Saturday.
For the wedding, Maria Francisca wore a special tiara with important ties to Portuguese royal history: the King Luis Diamond Tiara. The jewel was made in the 1880s, and it features a series of round brilliants set on a base with a classic nineteenth-century design.
The first owner of the tiara was Princess Amélie of Orléans, who became Queen Amélie of Portugal through her marriage to Queen Maria II’s grandson, King Carlos I. The couple’s engagement, which was a political arrangement between their families, was announced in February 1886. They were married on May 22, 1886, in a glittering ceremony in Lisbon.
Through her marriage, Amélie became the Crown Princess of Portugal, and the union brought her exiled family closer to a reigning monarchy once more. Amélie was the eldest of the eight children born to the Count and Countess of Paris. Her father, a grandson of King Louis Philippe I of the French, was one of the pretenders to the French throne. The family had settled in England after they were exiled from France in 1848, and their three eldest children were born in Twickenham.
The three eldest, Amélie, Philippe, and Hélène, socialized often with members of the British royal family. Hélène, in particular, was close with the Wales family, and she fell deeply in love with the Duke of Clarence. But the Orléans family was Catholic, making a match impossible. Hélène ended up marrying the Duke of Aosta, while Philippe—as we recently discussed here on the site—ended up marrying a Habsburg archduchess.
But it was Amélie who made the most glittering match of all. She was showered with bejeweled gifts when she married Prince Carlos. Among the presents was a “splendid diamond parure” given to her by her new father-in-law, King Luis I of Portugal. The wedding guests, including the future King George V of the United Kingdom, were shown the jewels at the palace following the wedding banquet at the palace in Lisbon.
Amélie wore the tiara throughout her royal life, which ended up being a particularly tragic one. She became queen consort in October 1889, when King Luis died and King Carlos ascended to the throne. She gave birth to a pair of sons, Luis Filipe and Manuel, as well as a stillborn daughter, Maria Anna. Though her marriage was generally a happy one, anti-monarchist movements grew outside the palace walls.
In February 1908, as the family rode through the streets of Lisbon, a pair of assassins fired shots at their open carriage. King Carlos and Prince Luis Filipe were killed. Amélie’s younger son became King Manuel II, but his time on the throne was also short. The monarchy was abolished in October 1910 after a revolution. Like his mother’s family before him, Manuel sought refuge in England. Queen Amélie, however, decided to establish her home in exile in her parents’ native France, where she lived until her death in 1951.
King Manuel II died in 1932 with no heirs, and the headship of the House of Braganza passed to the present Duke’s father, Duarte Nuno. He was symbolically received in Paris by Queen Amélie, a key component to his recognition as the official claimant to the throne. Queen Amélie cemented that approval in 1945 when she agreed to serve as a godmother to Duarte Nuno’s infant son, Duarte Pio. When Amélie passed away in 1951, she left her grand diamond tiara to her young godson in her will, surely hoping that it would one day be worn again by a Portuguese queen consort.
The monarchy in Portugal has never been restored, but today, the tiara is worn by the Duchess of Braganza, Duarte Pio’s wife, Isabel. She donned the diamond tiara with her wedding gown for their grand nuptials in Lisbon in May 1995.
She occasionally wears the tiara for grand gala events, including a surprise appearance at a state banquet in Portugal in 2017, held during a visit from King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
We most recently saw Isabel wear the King Luis Diamond Tiara in May 2023, for a reception following the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Sophie-Alexandra of Bavaria in Munich.
And this weekend, the tiara was sparkling on a bride once more. Infanta Maria Francisca wore the diadem with a pair of antique diamond clip earrings that echoed the shape of the tiara’s round toppers.
Here’s one more look at Maria Francisca’s elegant heirloom jewels and lovely bridal ensemble. Two thumbs up from me!