Princess Margaret’s auction at Christie’s is a treasure trove of history. If you have time, take a look at the 2006 Christie’s auction. Honestly, I’d classify Princess Margaret as a bit of a hoarder because she seems to never have let go of any of her belongings. But then again, if I was the owner of countless Fabergé and priceless heirloom jewelry I’d never want to let go of them either.
Today’s trinket is a bracelet that was given to Princess Margaret by her mother Queen Elizabeth. The diamond bracelet is set with one natural pearl, one sapphire and one ruby.
But before it belonged to the Queen Mother it belonged to her mother-in-law Queen Mary because she received it as a Christmas present in 1929 from King George V. And before that, it belonged to Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. What a provenance!
At my other blog about books and writing, I introduced a series called Trinket Tuesday. It’s where I used to write about royal (and non-royal) jewelry. It’s the series that inspired me to create The Royal Archivist! I’ve moved most of those posts and images over here, but I’ve also decided to bring back Trinket Tuesday. (Let me know if you have any special requests!)
Today’s royal trinket is one of sentimental value. A gold ring with a turquoise surrounded by ten diamonds was given to Mary, Duchess of York by George, Duke of York to commemorate the first anniversary of their engagement day. The inside of the ring is inscribed May 3rd 1894. Very romantic!
On February 26, 1952, just twenty days after Elizabeth II took the throne, photographer Dorothy Wilding snapped this photograph of the young queen. You probably recognize the tiara because this photograph is one of the iconic images that became the basis for her image on postage stamps. This was also one of the photographs sent to embassies around the world.
One of the many tiaras in the jewel vault of Queen Elizabeth II is the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. You probably recognize it from some of the coins and banknotes. The queen enjoys wearing it often. Not only does it suit her well, but it’s also one of her lighter tiaras making it quite comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
There is also a sentimental reason why the queen favors this tiara.
The tiara was given to the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) in 1893 upon the occasion of her marriage to the future King George V. The diamond jewel was paid for with funds raised by a committee of ladies, the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland.” The committee was organized by Lady Eva Greville, who would go on to become Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting.
The diamond tiara, made by Garrard, is in the shape of festoons and scrolls and sits on a diamond-studded band. At one point in time, the tiara used to be topped with pearls. It could also be worn as a necklace or reconfigured to be worn as a small crown.
Queen Mary loved this tiara and considered it one of her most prized possessions. In 1947, she gave the tiara as a wedding present to her beloved granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth. Supposedly, the queen still refers to this tiara as her “granny’s tiara.”
The magnificent Delhi Durbar Tiara was made for Queen Mary by Garrard to wear to the Delhi Durbar on December 12, 1911. The Delhi Durbar was a ceremonial gathering in honor of King George V’s succession as King Emperor of India. Garrard used the stones from the dismantled Boucheron Loop Tiara to create the tiara. The tiara is actually a circlet and designed in a band of forget-me-not leaves and flowers; the floral theme makes it a very romantic tiara. Don’t you think?
Queen Mary was very creative and wore her Delhi Durbar Tiara in a couple of different ways. You’ve probably seen images of Mary at the Delhi Durbar where she was wearing the tiara mounted with ten large emeralds. But she also wore it mounted with two of the Cullinan diamonds, as seen above. The cushion-shaped Cullinan diamond (62 carats) was secured by a wire to sit at the top of the tiara. The other Cullinan diamond is a 92 carat oval and hung within the tiara’s front opening.
It’s an impressive diamond tiara, fit for a queen. What do you think?
Queen Mary (then Princess of Wales) is wearing the Boucheron Loop Tiara. This tiara no longer exists because Queen Mary had it dismantled for the creation of a new tiara. Garrard, the court jeweler, used the stones to create the Delhi Durbar Tiara.
For all the tiaras at her disposal, Queen Elizabeth II turns to the Vladimir Tiara for tiara events more often than not. It’s beautiful and suits the Queen very well. But it’s more than just a well-suited piece of jewelry. The tiara, acquired from the collection of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, has a storied past.
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, born Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was already engaged to a German prince when she met Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, second son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She promptly ended her engagement with the German prince. After several back-and-forth negotiations, such as her wish not to convert to the Russian Orthodox faith, she married Grand Duke Vladimir in 1874.
That same year, the happily married couple moved into their newly-built palace, Vladimir Palace, situated near the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. There they lived a life of splendor where they entertained lavishly and cultivated the arts. They had five children together, though only four survived to adulthood: Grand Duke Alexander (1875-1877), Grand Duke Cyril (1876-1938), Grand Duke Boris (1877-1943), Grand Duke Andrei (1879-1956) and Grand Duchess Elena (1882-1957). By all accounts, the family had a happy home life.
Perhaps understanding her prominent new role in the imperial court, her father-in-law, Tsar Alexander II, generously provided her with a magnificent emerald parure as a wedding gift. This was only the beginning of her love affair with jewelry. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna maintained a working relationship with Chaumet and Cartier, who provided her with new jewelry on a continuous basis. She often provided them with her own gemstones. She made frequent trips to Paris where she met with her jewelers. One of her favorite pieces of jewelry, which she wore frequently, was the Vladimir Tiara, a kokoshnik-shaped tiara believed to be made by court jeweler Bolin in 1874, the year of her wedding. It’s made of fifteen intertwined diamond-encrusted circles from which fifteen perfect pendant pearls hang. The Grand Duchess also had the option to wear the versatile tiara without the pearls.
Sadly, Grand Duke Vladimir died unexpectedly in 1909. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna carried on, acting as the matriarch to her now-grown children and their families. Later, she survived the Russian Revolution and was the last Romanov to escape Russia. In 1920, under the protection of the White Russian Army, she departed on a boat to Italy. Luckily, most of her jewels, including the Vladimir Tiara, were already smuggled out of Russia by a trusted British friend, the Honorable Albert Henry Stopford. After arriving in Italy, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna made her way to Switzerland before finally settling in France.
The Grand Duchess didn’t live much longer after her escape from Russia. She died in September 1920 at the age of 66. After her death, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her daughter Grand Duchess Elena. To finance their new lives in exile, her children sold most of the jewels. Grand Duchess Elena sold the Vladimir Tiara to Queen Mary in 1921.
After Queen Mary purchased the Vladimir Tiara she took it to Garrard, the court jeweler, for repairs. The tiara wasn’t necessarily in the best of shape. Garrard updated the frame to include a special mechanism that allowed the wearer to switch from pearls to a different set of gemstones, in this case, emeralds.
After Queen Mary died in 1953, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II wears the Vladimir Tiara often. She has worn it with both the emerald and pearl settings, but also without either drops. After almost 150 years it’s safe to say the Vladimir Tiara has a permanent home.
Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly
Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi
Today’s tiara is a long-hidden treasure from the coffers of Her Majesty the Queen. But the tiara dates much older than Queen Elizabeth II. It initially belonged to her grandmother, Queen Mary. On the occasion of her wedding in 1893, the County of Lincoln gifted the then Princess Mary a brooch composed of ten brilliant diamonds. Almost four decades later, in 1932, Queen Mary had a tiara made specifically to fit this brooch. The large detachable brooch sits within a platinum band of eleven flexible sections set with even more brilliant diamonds.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited this intricate tiara in 1953. The geometric design appears strikingly modern, which made it such a perfect fit for the very modern Duchess of Sussex on her wedding day.
Thank you so much for reading this week. I’ll be back on Monday with even more royal jewels. I hope you have a great weekend!