|Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg as Queen of Spain |
|Crown Princess Victoria wears the cameo parure |
|Queen Silvia wears the cameo tiara |
The Bernadottes of Sweden have some serious royal jewelry in their vaults, but one of their most prized sets is the cameo parure. According to De Kongelige Juveler, a Danish documentary about royal jewels, the cameo set was made by Marie-Étienne Nitot for the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, Joséphine de Beauharnais, in 1809 . The first royal woman to be depicted wearing the parure in a portrait was Joséphine’s daughter, Hortense, who was briefly the Queen of Holland. It made its way into Swedish hands via Hortense’s niece, Joséphine of Leuchtenberg. The piece is especially romantic because of the designs depicted on the tiara’s cameos: scenes from the myth of Cupid and Psyche, in which a mortal woman and the god of love must overcome numerous obstacles before they can finally be married. It’s also gained a romantic aura because of its use as an important Bernadotte family wedding tiara. Queen Silvia and her elder daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, are among the royal women who have been married in the cameos. Queen Silvia remarked in the jewel documentary that she focused on two things during Victoria’s walk down the aisle: “the beauty of the tiara and her happiness.”
Queen Elizabeth II’s Engagement Ring
|Alice of Battenberg |
Engagement rings are inherently romantic pieces of jewelry, and there are numerous famous royal examples. But for me, one of the most lovely is the diamond ring given by Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) to Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom. It’s not an especially unusual design: the ring consists of a three-carat diamond set in platinum and surrounded by five additional diamonds. But beyond the classic, elegant setting of the ring, and its status as a romantic gesture, the gems themselves have special significance: they were taken from a tiara once worn by Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. She gave the tiara to her son, who helped design the engagement ring using his mother’s diamonds. Prince Philip had a difficult childhood to say the least, and it’s a lovely tribute to his mother to have her diamonds used for his wife’s ring. And clearly it was a good start to a marriage — the couple have been married for 66 years and have four children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
The Khedive of Egypt Tiara
|Ingrid of Denmark |
Made by Cartier, this lovely diamond and platinum scroll tiara was one of the many wedding gifts given in 1905 to Princess Margaret of Connaught on her marriage to Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden. It’s not the most elaborate of the gifts she received, but it is one of the most romantic, largely because of the identity of the giver. Margaret and Gustaf Adolf had met, fallen in love, and become engaged in Cairo; he’d been singled out as a marriage prospect for Margaret’s sister, Patricia, but he fell in love with Margaret instead. The tiara was a gift from Abbas II, the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan; the gift therefore commemorated the couple’s first meeting and their wedding. We’ve talked quite a bit about Margaret’s tragic story on the blog; her early death was one of the reasons that her daughter, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, took extra care to remember her mother by wearing her jewelry. The Khedive tiara has become the official wedding tiara of all of Ingrid’s female descendants, crowning Danish, German, and Greek brides at their royal weddings.
Alexandra Feodorovna’s Aquamarine Brooch
|Alix of Hesse |
Nicholas II of Russia had to propose several times to Princess Alix of Hesse before she agreed to marry him, so it’s perhaps not surprising that once she said yes, he showered her with jewels. One of the most lovely of these tokens is an enormous aquamarine and diamond brooch, which he gave to her in August 1894. The brooch was purchased in St. Petersburg from Fabergé, and the beautiful aquamarine that dominates the piece was mined in Siberia. I’ve never seen an image of Alix wearing the brooch, but it’s a rare piece of her jewelry that still exists today. It was acquired by Wartski of London, a firm that specializes in Fabergé; they apparently didn’t know about its Romanov origins until they did additional research. Geoffrey Munn (he of the famous tiara tome), the managing director at Wartski, describes the provenance of the romantic engagement piece as “sort of stratospheric.”  You can see a photograph of the brooch here.
The Cambridge Emeralds
|Queen Mary |
Our final romantic royal jewel story is a bit less conventional. The Cambridge emeralds weren’t worn at a wedding or given as an engagement present; instead, they were a gift from a prince to the mistress he loved. The deep green stones were won in a lottery by the Duchess of Cambridge. She gave them to her daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck — better known to us as the mother of Queen Mary. But May didn’t inherit the emeralds from her mother; instead, when Mary Adelaide’s children divided her estate, the emeralds went to Prince Francis of Teck, one of Queen Mary’s younger brothers. Francis never married, but he was apparently very in love with his mistress, the Countess of Kilmorey (who was also reportedly one of the mistresses of King Edward VII). When Frank died in 1910, he left Nellie Kilmorey all of the jewels he’d inherited from his mother, including the family emeralds, much to the shock and dismay of his sister . She was preparing for her coronation, and she wanted the Cambridge emeralds back. In the end, she had to purchase them from Lady Kilmorey; for good measure, she also had Frank’s will sealed to avoid public scandal. Shortly afterward, the emeralds were incorporated into the Delhi Durbar parure, worn by Mary at the coronation celebration in India in 1911 . You’ll also see the some of the Cambridge emeralds, once gifted to a royal mistress, worn with the Vladimir tiara today by the current queen.
|Queen Elizabeth II wears the Nizam necklace on the Bahamian dollar bill |
|The Nizam of Hyderabad |
Princess Elizabeth chose two pieces: a floral tiara, which included removable elements that could be worn as brooches, and a coordinating floral necklace. Both pieces were made of diamonds set in platinum. The necklace, which was made by Cartier in 1935, is especially intricate, featuring more geometric diamonds nestled in the abstract floral design. Hugh Roberts describes it as follows: “The pavé-set centre with detachable double-drop pendant incorporating 13 emerald-cut diamonds and a pear-shaped drop; the chain of 38 brilliant-cut open-back collets with an elongated oval brilliant-set snap” . The piece had actually been previously owned; it had been sold in 1936, and then reacquired by Cartier from the buyer the following year. The first incarnation the necklace included several additional pendant sections, which were removed by the jeweler before Elizabeth acquired it . In the period before it was selected by Elizabeth, it was also photographed on Elfrida Greville, Countess of Warwick, who was married to the 6th Earl of Warwick.
Elizabeth wore both of the pieces frequently during the early years of her marriage. She posed in the necklace for one of the last series of portraits taken of her before she succeeded to the throne. The photographs were taken by Yousuf Karsh in 1951, and two of the images are now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Another early portrait of the Queen, in which she wears the Nizam necklace with the George IV State Diadem, has been reworked for use on various pieces of currency (including the image above).
In 1973, Elizabeth had the Nizam tiara dismantled. She kept the three floral brooches from the piece intact, but had the diamonds repurposed. They were combined with a cache of 96 Burmese rubies, which had also been a wedding gift, to make a new tiara, the Burmese Ruby. The necklace was not significantly altered. It remains today largely the same as it was when she selected it from Cartier, although she has shortened the chain, removing eight collets. She still wears the necklace on occasion, often pairing it with other impressive jewels, including the pearl and widowed versions of the Vladimir Tiara.
On February 11, the necklace was worn for the first time in public by the Duchess of Cambridge, granddaughter-in-law of the Queen. The piece joins a list of other heirloom royal jewels worn by Kate. You can see Kate wearing the piece in the following tweet, released by Hello! Canada:
It’s a real treat to see the younger generation of the Windsors begin to wear some of the impressive pieces that belong to Elizabeth II. Here’s hoping this is just the first of many jewelry surprises from Kate!
NOTES, PHOTO CREDITS, AND LINKS
3. See Roberts, The Queen’s Diamonds, pp. 282-85.
4. A photograph of the original version of the necklace is available on p. 282 of The Queen’s Diamonds.