A 19th century English painting by Edward Matthew Ward depicts the investiture of Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor was bestowed with the Order of the Garter on April 16, 1855.
At Queen Victoria’s invitation, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie arrived in England on April 16, 1855 for an official state visit. They arrived at the port in Dover on their royal yacht Pélican where they were met by Prince Albert. The French Imperial Couple spent three days at Windsor and three days at Buckingham Palace in London. Some of the events included a state dinner at Windsor, a visit to the opera in London and a military review.
As part of the state visit, Napoleon III received the Order of the Garter. As depicted in the painting, the investiture took place in the Throne Room at Windsor Castle. You can spot Queen Victoria bestowing the Order on Napoleon III. The painting boasts a number of fine details of this event because Queen Victoria allowed the painter to observe the investiture. Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting are looking on behind her. Prince Albert, adorned in his own Garter robes, is standing right behind Napoleon III. On the far right you can spot a seated Eugénie wearing her Pearl and Diamond Tiara. Next to her is a young Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and right behind her chair stands a young Princess Royal (later Empress Friedrich).
The Order of the Garter
In 1348, King Edward III was so enchanted by the mythical tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that he set up his own group of knights, called the Order of the Garter. Today the Order is the oldest and highest Order of Chivalry that can be bestowed upon a British citizen.
Napoleon III reigned until his defeat during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He was imprisoned for a short time at Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany. After his release, he and Eugénie took refuge in England. Napoleon III died in 1873; Eugénie died in 1920. Their only child, Louis-Napoléon, was killed at age 23 in 1879 while fighting in the Anglo-Zulu War.
I hope you enjoyed reading this snapshot. I have a few more up my sleeve. Stay tuned!
After a public auction in 1887, the French Crown Jewels were sold and dispersed around the world. However, after more than a century away, some of those jewels would find their way home. We’ve already talked about Empress Eugénie’s Pearl and Diamond Tiara returning home to France. Let’s take a look at another bejeweled treasure once owned by Empress Eugénie.
Eugénie de Montijo, a Spanish countess, was born in Granada, Spain in 1826. She became the last Empress of France when she married Napoleon III in 1853. Empress Eugénie, a fashionista, was considered one of the most beautiful queens of her era. As such, she commissioned a number of bejeweled items. One such item was the Diamond Bow Brooch made in 1855 by Parisian jeweler François Kramer.
The Diamond Bow Brooch was originally meant to be used as a belt buckle, however Empress Eugénie, to accommodate her fashionable needs, had it converted into a stomacher. Her jeweler enhanced the brooch’s grandeur by adding five diamond pampilles, a design that imitates icicle-shaped cascades, and a pair of diamond tassels.
After Napoleon III lost his throne, the brooch, along with the other French royal jewels, was sold in the infamous auction of 1887. This particular piece was bought by jeweler Emile Schlesinger on behalf of Mrs. Caroline Astor (1830-1908), the famous Astor millionaire and matriarch. It stayed with the Astor family for over 100 years. The family even referred to it as “Mrs. Astor’s diamond stomacher.” After her death in 1908, Mrs. Astor’s jewelry collection was dispersed between her five children. Exactly one hundred years later, the brooch was being prepared to be sold at auction via Christie’s.
When the Louvre and the Friends of the Louvre learned that this French 19th century brooch was up for auction they couldn’t allow the historic brooch to slip through their fingers. Christie’s must have been in agreement because at the last minute the brooch’s public auction, scheduled for April 15, 2008, was cancelled. Instead, with the full support of the brooch’s owner, a private sale was conducted between Friends of the Louvre and François Curiel, the President of Christie’s Europe.
The Diamond Bow Brooch has been on public display at the Louvre Museum ever since.
Yesterday when we chatted about Empress Eugénie’s pearl and diamond tiara, we also had a glimpse of her coronation crown. The crown was nestled within Winterhalter’s painting of Eugénie wearing her pearl and diamond tiara. So I thought you might like to see a photograph of the bejeweled crown.
Gabriel Lemonnier, who became the crown jeweler in 1853, designed and created the coronation crowns of Napoleon III and his consort, Eugénie. While the original coronation crown of Napoleon III is lost to history, Eugénie’s coronation crown is intact and on display at the Louvre Museum. Her crown is a smaller, lighter version of the crown made for Napoleon III.
It’s a unique piece; eight of the crown’s arches are shaped like the wings of eagles. The other arches are diamond-studded palmettes. The gold globe and cross are also made of diamonds. In total, there are 2,480 diamonds and 56 emeralds.
Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III, was the owner of numerous magnificent jewels and tiaras. Though many of her jewels were made by court jeweler Bapst, other jewelers also had a hand in creating jewelry for her. Today’s subject is Empress Eugénie’s beautiful pearl and diamond tiara created by jeweler Gabriel Lemonnier.
The tiara has 212 drop-shaped and round pearls weighing 2,520 metric grams. The pearls are surrounded by 1,998 small diamonds weighing 63.3 carats. The tiara was once accompanied by a matching coronet, which had 274 round and drop-shaped pearls, though sadly this piece is now lost to history.
Unfortunately, along with the other crown jewels, the tiara was sold in 1887. It came into the possession of a German princely family, Thurn und Taxis, where the tiara remained intact through the years.
Decades later, in 1980, the pearl headpiece was worn as a bridal tiara on the wedding day of Countess Gloria von Schönburg-Glauchau to Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn und Taxis. When the prince died ten years later, Gloria had to sell the tiara to settle financial debt.
The Louvre Museum purchased the tiara, returning it home to France, where it’s been on display ever since.
The Louvre Museum
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn