|Victoria Melita of Edinburgh (as a Russian grand duchess) wearing her kokosnik, ca. 1913 |
Victoria Melita — who got her unusual middle name because she was born in Malta — was the third child of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (and later also Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; he was a son of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria) and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. The princess, who was called “Ducky” by her family, was married twice. Her first marriage to Prince Ernst of Hesse (her first cousin, and the brother of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna) was a disaster, and she had to wait until their mutual grandmother, Queen Victoria, died before she could divorce him. Tainted by the scandal, Ducky was a bit of an outcast in royal circles, but she ended up making another royal marriage, this time to a Romanov. Her 1905 wedding to yet another first cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich — the son of Maria Pavlovna the Elder, owner of the famous Vladimir Tiara — caused further outrage, but the pair were in love. Unfortunately, their marriage wasn’t exactly an unqualified success either, but so goes the story of so many royal marriages from a century ago.
Today’s piece of jewelry, her meander tiara, is from the time of her second marriage. Befitting a Russian grand duchess, this tiara started off as a kokoshnik. (We talked yesterday about the definition of kokoshnik — head over that way if you need a refresher!) Look closely at the photo of Victoria Melita above; you can see the thinner bands of diamonds that mark the top of the kokoshnik shape. Those bands are set atop the fabric backing that is attached to the diamond meander, or “Greek key,” design. You can even see a bit of the ribbon used to secure the kokoshnik; it’s tied in a bow at the nape of Ducky’s neck. She’s wearing Russian court dress in the photograph, which is why you can also see a veil attached to the back of her headpiece.
Carol and Helen’s marriage was, sadly, just as disastrous as Ernst and Ducky’s had been a generation earlier. But their son, Michael, did end up reigning as Romanian king before finally being compelled to abdicate in 1947. Even though he lost his throne, his family was able to retain this tiara. His wife, Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, wore the tiara to their wedding in 1948. Their daughter, Princess Maria, also wore the tiara at her wedding in 1995. Today, the piece is worn most frequently by Michael and Anne’s eldest daughter, Margarita. She often represents her father at European royal events, giving her plenty of opportunities to show off the family’s only remaining heirloom tiara.