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.
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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
The gold diadem of Grand Duchess Stéphanie von Baden (née de Beauharnais) is set with pearls and diamonds. Since Stéphanie spent time at Napoleon’s court, the diadem was probably made in Paris. It’s remarkable that even though it was made in the beginning of the 19th century, the bejeweled headpiece remains in such excellent condition.
Napoleon adopted his wife Joséphine’s cousin, Stéphanie, and bestowed upon her an imperial rank. In a dynastic match to consolidate power, Napoleon arranged the marriage of Stéphanie to Hereditary Grand Duke Carl von Baden. Though they produced five children, it wasn’t a happy marriage. After Carl’s death, Stéphanie enjoyed widowhood very much and never remarried. Instead, she cultivated the arts and acted as a much-loved hostess of literary salons.
After Stéphanie died in 1860, her daughter Joséphine von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, inherited the headpiece. Over the years, however, the diadem changed hands several times. In 1930 it came into the ownership of Marie José of Belgium, spouse to Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, who later became the month-long King Umberto II. (In this image, Marie José of Belgium wears the diadem low across her forehead.) Eventually it was acquired by the State of Baden-Württemberg for Mannheim Palace, where it remains on permanent display.