Today, the Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein, a small principality tucked between Austria and Switzerland, celebrates her 56th birthday. To join in the celebration, I’ve got a closer look today at the sparkling honeysuckle tiara we recently saw her wear for a royal wedding—and its interesting connections to a noble family from the ancient Kingdom of Bohemia.
To tell the story of today’s tiara, we need to start with a fairytale story. Legend has it that, more than a thousand years ago, a king’s daughter fled into the forests of Bohemia, a kingdom that was once part of the Holy Roman Empire and is now part of the present-day Czech Republic. The unfortunate princess was beset by a pack of wolves, an incident that so terrified her entourage that they all fled into the woods. But one brave young man stepped up to save her, fighting off the wolves and rescuing the princess. In gratitude, her royal father gave the young man both a title and a coat of arms decorated with wolves’ teeth to commemorate his courage. (You can see the three teeth in the family crest at the bottom of the portrait above.)
That’s just the legend, of course. We know that the Kinsky family was a documented part of the nobility in Bohemia as early as the 1200s, during the reign of King Wenceslaus I. (That particular Bohemian monarch was named in honor of a princely predecessor, a man who became better known centuries later as “Good King Wenceslaus” in the famous holiday carol.) The Kinskys came to prominence centuries later, when they took part in the conflict that became known as the Thirty Years’ War. They were able to cozy up to the Habsburgs in the wake of the war, holding various high-ranking diplomatic and military positions at the imperial court in Vienna. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary granted princely titles to one branch of the family in 1747. They even acquired their own grand Baroque residence in the city, known as the Palais Kinsky. The Kinskys lived richly, becoming patrons of artists like Ludwig van Beethoven and breeding horses for officers of Austrian cavalry regiments.
The Kinsky family’s rise to prominence as part of the Habsburg court brought them into social circles that included numerous other princes and aristocrats. (Lots of familiar names here: Thurn und Taxis, Metternich, Fürstenberg, etc.) Among them were the Princes of Liechtenstein, who had owned Liechtenstein Castle near Vienna at two different points in history. They were also on the Habsburg side during the Thirty Years’ War, a loyal relationship that earned them princely titles. After the princes acquired land in the Alps, including the County of Vaduz, Emperor Charles VI made them rulers of their own principality in 1719. Even after the end of the Holy Roman Empire, the Princes of Liechtenstein retained their territory and are still sovereign princes of that state. The principality is actually the only monarchy that was once part of the Holy Roman Empire and is still in existence today.
Even after acquiring their own principality, the Princes of Liechtenstein maintained two grand residences in Vienna: the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein and the Gartenpalais Liechtenstein. (Both are still privately owned by the family, but they also serve as museums housing the family’s incredible art collection.) With both the Liechtenstein and Kinsky princes resident in Vienna and present at court, it was inevitable that the families would be joined in marriage—and they were, multiple times over. In 1856, Ferdinand Bonaventura, the 7th Prince Kinsky, wed Princess Maria Josepha, a cousin of the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. The couple had seven children, including the 8th Prince Kinsky and the 9th Prince Kinsky.
In the 1870s, Ferdinand Bonaventura gave his wife an elegant diamond tiara with honeysuckle elements incorporated into its design. Princess Maria Josepha would have worn the tiara at court functions in Vienna and abroad. The Kinskys traveled throughout Europe, often landing on newspaper pages in Britain when they settled in at Claridge’s with their entourage during trips to London. Their son, Karl, the 8th Prince Kinsky, was particularly fond of England. He served as the Austro-Hungarian attaché to Britain, rode his own horse to victory in the 1883 Grand National, and had an affair with Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome.
After the deaths of Ferdinand Bonaventura and Maria Josepha in 1904 and 1905, the tiara passed to Karl. He had no children, and so the tiara was passed down to his brother, Rudolf, the 9th Prince Kinsky. By this time the title was in name only, as the Austro-Hungarian empire was no more. Rudolf bequeathed the tiara to his nephew, Ulrich, the 10th Prince Kinsky. His wife, Princess Mathilde, is pictured wearing the tiara above in the 1930s. She became particularly known in Vienna for her glittering jewels at the time. One newspaper noted in 1935, “The ravishing family jewels worn by Princess Ulrich Kinsky, wife of Vienna’s Jockey club president, are a byword in Viennese society.”
From Ulrich and Mathilde, the tiara passed to their son, Franz Ulrich, the 11th Prince Kinsky. Meanwhile, in 1967, yet another Liechtenstein-Kinsky wedding took place. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein married Countess Marie Kinsky in a sparkling ceremony in Vaduz. Hans-Adam and Marie were second cousins once removed; both were direct descendants of Ferdinand Bonaventura and Maria Josepha. After twenty years of marriage, Hans-Adam acquired a special piece of jewelry for his wife. He purchased Maria Josepha’s honeysuckle tiara, likely through a Sotheby’s auction where it had been offered by the 11th Prince Kinsky.In 1993, Princess Marie wore the tiara for a reception held at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich on the night before the wedding of her son, Hereditary Prince Alois, to Duchess Sophie in Bavaria. This appears to be one of the only times that Princess Marie wore the tiara in public.
But a few years later, the tiara took on new life when it was worn by a pair of Liechtenstein family brides. Prince Hans-Adam and Princess Marie’s only daughter, Princess Tatjana, wore the tiara for her wedding to Baron Philipp von Lattorff in June 1999. And a few months later, in January 2000, the tiara was worn by Angela Brown for her wedding to Hans-Adam and Marie’s second son, Prince Maximilian.
Today, the tiara is primarily worn by Hereditary Princess Sophie, the wife of Hans-Adam and Marie’s eldest son, Hereditary Prince Alois. He has served as the regent of the principality in August 2004, taking over the duties from his father, who had been at the helm of the country since 1984. Alois and Sophie also serve as the primary royal representatives for Liechtenstein at events abroad. Above, Sophie wears the tiara during the wedding celebrations for her sister, Duchess Elisabeth Marie in Bavaria, in September 2004.
In September 2021, another member of the extended princely family borrowed the honeysuckle tiara to wear as a bridal diadem. Princess Marie-Astrid, who is a niece of Prince Hans-Adam, wore the diamond tiara for her wedding to Ralph Worthington V at the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Ortobello, Italy.
Most recently, we saw Hereditary Princess Sophie wear the tiara for the banquet held after the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein and Princess Rajwa of Jordan in Amman in June 2023. It was delightful to see her choose the honeysuckle tiara for the occasion, as she has previously used the family’s other major diadem, the Habsburg Fringe Tiara, for most recent gala events.
Sophie paired the tiara with a floral dress, the sash of the Order of Merit of the Principality of Liechtenstein, and gorgeous antique diamond earrings with a ribbon design. Like the honeysuckle tiara, these diamond earrings also belonged to Sophie’s late mother-in-law, Princess Marie.