bookmark_borderThe Greek Antique Corsage Tiara

The Greek Antique Corsage Tiara
The Greek Antique Corsage Tiara

There is a curious tradition amongst the Royal and Aristocratic families of Europe – The Family Tiara.
Either worn by the female members or those marrying in, we often see the same headpiece used at weddings time and time again.
A famous example of this custom was Princess Diana, when she wore The Spencer family tiara for her wedding in 1981 to Prince Charles.

The Danish and Spanish Royal families follow the same pattern and the Greek Royal Family have also adopted this practice by way of the Antique Corsage tiara.

The Greek Antique Corsage Tiara - Grand Duchess Louise of Baden

A Corsage is a term used for a large brooch that can be worn on across the front of a dress. The Researcher and Master Jeweller, Pablo Milstein believes that the jewel originated in Prussia during the reign of Frederick the Great. Made from pearls and diamonds, this corsage brooch was part of the collection of Princess Louise of Prussia who became the Grand Duchess of Baden in 1856. In this portrait, you can see the corsage at her waist and other pearl elements in her hat.

After her death in 1923, the Corsage was inherited by her daughter, Queen Victoria of Sweden. It stayed with the Swedish Royal Family until it was given to Princess Ingrid on her marriage to Crown Frederick Prince of Denmark in 1935.

Ingrid wore the Corsage very conventionally, pinning it to the front of her dress and using it as a necklace. Just as she had altered the Danish Ruby Parure, she would go on to convert the Corsage into a tiara with the detachable pendants becoming a pair of Pearl and Diamond earrings.
In doing so, she transformed the Corsage in to a demi parure.

The Greek Antique Corsage Tiara - Tiara Conversion
The Greek Antique Corsage Tiara – Tiara Conversion

King Frederick and Queen Ingrid had three daughters, Margarethe, Beneditke and Anne Marie. When they turned 18, each princess was given a tiara from the Danish Royal Collection.

Princess Anne Marie’s 18th birthday was important for two reasons. Not only was she coming of age, she was finally old enough to wed her fiancé, King Constantine of Greece. To mark the occasion, her parents held a series of magnificent receptions in Copenhagen and it was there that she chose debut her new tiara.

As the new Queen of the Hellenes, Anne Marie now had access to the Greek Royal jewels and therefore did not wear the Corsage tiara as regularly as some of her more imposing pieces.
She did however wear the demi parure on a state visit to the Vatican in 1966.

Despite not wearing the tiara often, Queen Anne Marie appears to have enjoyed wearing the accompanying Pearl and Diamond earrings.

King Constantine’s reign was, alas, short. After a failed counter coup against the Greek Military dictatorship in 1967, King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie were forced to flee Greece (The Greek monarchy was officially abolished on 1st June 1973). The Greek Royals are closely related to the other royal families of Europe. Queen Anne Marie is the younger sister of Queen Margarethe of Denmark & King Constantine is Queen Sofia of Spain’s brother as well as Prince William’s Godfather. This means that there are still many occasions for these jewels to be worn at.

Both Queen Anne Marie’s daughters, Princess Alexia & Princess Theodora have worn the tiara but it has been Theodora who has been photographed wearing it most frequently. She will often wear the complete demi parure for an event, such as Crown Prince Frederik’s 50th birthday on 26 May 2018.

But the Corsage tiara has also become the de facto wedding for the Greek Royals.
All three of Queen Anne Marie’s daughter in laws have worn the tiara at their weddings with the most recent being Princess Nina in 2021.

Given the Greek Monarchy is now defunct and the Greek Royals will inevitably fade from public view, it will be interesting to see what becomes of this magnificent suite of jewels.

bookmark_borderWallis Simpson and the Mystery of Queen Alexandra’s Emeralds

Wallis Simpson and the Mystery of Queen Alexandra's Emeralds - The Ednam Lodge Robbery

On October 15th 1946, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were dining in London with their friends, The Earl and Countess of Dudley.
It was the first time the notorious couple had set foot in England since the end of WWII . When they returned to their hosts residence at Ednam Lodge in Berkshire they were horrified to discover that they had been robbed and that the Duchess’ jewel box was missing.

When a rope of pearls belonging to Queen Alexandra was found in the fields surrounding the house, the rumour mill went wild. Were the Royals behind the robbery? Were they trying to reclaim fabulous jewels that the Duke of Windsor had ‘stolen’ after his abdication?

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor was no stranger to fine jewels.
Since becoming mistress to Edward, Prince of Wales, she had been showered with gifts (Emeralds being a particular favourite) and throughout her life she would receive many spectacular pieces featuring the luscious, green gemstone.
The earliest known purchase featuring Emeralds was in 1935, when the Prince had bought a double rowed necklace from the famous French jewellery house, Van Cleef and Arpels.

Wallis Simpson and the Mystery of Queen Alexandra's Emeralds - Van Cleef and Arpels Diamond and Emerald Bracelet/Brooch

In 1937, Van Cleef and Arpels created an unusual Emerald, Diamond and Ruby bracelet for the Duchess.
The central element could be detached and worn as a brooch.

Wallis’ jewels were never static. She was forever dismantling and resetting her pieces into more up to date designs. The stones featured in this bracelet were to be transformed into a stunning necklace in the 1960’s.

Her most famous Emerald though was her legendary engagement ring.

When he abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry Wallis, King Edward VIII commissioned the great jeweller, Cartier to make an important Emerald and Diamond ring . The central stone was to be a breath-taking, 19.77 Carat rectangular Emerald, said to be one half of a great stone belonging to a Grand Mogul. Engraved on the inside of the platinum band was the message “We are ours now 27 X 36”

To celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Wallis had Cartier remount the ring into an extravagant gold and platinum creation which reflected the lavish mid century styles. She did however, keep the original platinum mount and both were to be sold at auction after her death.

But what of the legendary Emeralds of Queen Alexandra? The gems that Edward VIII is supposed to have stolen from the Royal vaults and bestowed on the woman for whom he gave up his throne? The Emeralds that were stolen back by the Royal Family in the dead of night?

Amongst the list of stolen items handed over to the Police and the insurers, there is only one Emerald mentioned and this was a ring:

The list of missing items:
1 x Diamond Bird Clip
One Diamond and Aquamarine brooch
One platinum and diamond bracelet with six large Aquamarines
One Aquamarine Solitaire Ring – 58.2 carats
One gold ring set with One gold sapphire (41.4ct)
One solitaire Square Cut Emerald Ring (7.81ct)
One pair of Sapphire and diamond earrings
One pair of diamond ball earrings
One pair of earrings in the shape of a shell, one set with a blue sapphire and the other with a yellow sapphire
one double gold chain necklace with one large blue sapphire and one yellow sapphire

Allegedly, the supposed Emeralds were brought to England by Princess Alexandra of Denmark when she married the future Edward VII in 1863. This is easily disproved as the Danish princess was quite poor (in royal terms) and had to sew her own wedding trousseau. As the Princess of Wales and as Queen, Alexandra did receive many precious jewels but she appeared to prefer Pearls and Diamonds, as was the fashion of the time. It is possible that she owned a collection of loose gemstones, given to her by her husband Edward VII from his tours of India.

Suzy Menkes in her legendary book ‘Royal Jewels’ solves the mystery for us.
According to her, the great society hostess and Royal friend Mrs Ronald Greville gave an interview to an American newspaper stating:

“King Edward bought priceless Emeralds for Mrs Simpson. These were the property of Queen Alexandra who left them to her daughter Princess Victoria, who in turn sold them to Garrads…who sent them to Cartier in Paris and it was actually Cartier who made the sale”

But Nicholas Rayner, chairman of Sotheby’ Geneva, disputes this account. ”I don’t believe the Alexandra emeralds ever existed,” he said. ”We’ve found no evidence of them at all. I believe the story was simply malicious gossip started by people who were offended by the marriage. They wanted to believe the Duchess stole jewels belonging to the royal crown.”

It is unclear which pieces (if any) these stones made their way into but it is my opinion that at some point, Wallis Simpson did own Emeralds belonging to Queen Alexandra.

The Ednam Lodge robbery did nothing to stop the Windsors insatiable appetite for Emerald jewellery.

Although she is supposed to have told Queen Olga of Greece ‘A tiara is one thing I will never own’, this particular Emerald and Diamond diadem would probably be the closest Wallis would ever come to wearing a conventional tiara. It is thought to have been a Cartier stock piece made in 1949.
It was originally a necklace but Wallis had some of her own Emerald beads added to the base to give it the required height.

Her last important Emerald piece would be a grand necklace featuring stones taken from her Van Cleef bracelet and a 48.49 carat Emerald that had previously belonged to King Alfonso XIII of Spain.
In 1959 the Duke and Duchess acquired the extraordinary pear shaped gem from legendary New York jeweller, Harry Winston.
A year later Cartier designed an eye catching Emerald and Diamond necklace that merged the Van Cleef stones with the Harry Winston Pendant. The Duchess would wear it frequently in later life.

After her death, the necklace, together with the rest of her jewellery collection, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s. The proceeds from the sale were donated to Pasteur Institute in Paris

Further Reading:

bookmark_borderThe Orleans Sapphires

These beautiful Sapphires were originally part of the same, much larger set. Separated after the 1848 Revolution, they were reunited under the previous claimant to the French throne only to be split up once more.  

The Orleans Sapphires - Montpensier and Comte de Paris sets
The Orleans Sapphires – Montpensier and Come de Paris sets

Like most surviving French royal jewellery, these stones are thought to have belonged to Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Their marriage was childless but her children Eugene and Hortense were adopted by Napoleon.
Their new status enabled Eugene to become the Duke of Leuchtenberg and Hortense the Queen of Holland. When Josephine died in 1814, her will stated that Hortense was to inherit “a portion of her mother’s diamond collection, a ruby parure and a sapphire parure“.

After a the events of 1815, Hortense was banished from France, taking her jewels with her.
In 1821, while living in exile in Italy, she sold the Sapphires to Louis Philippe, Duke d’Orleans. He then presented them to his wife, Marie Amelie of Naples and Sicily (niece of the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette). When Louis Philippe became King of the French in 1830, the Sapphires became part of the French Royal Collection once more.

The Orleans Sapphires - Queen Marie Amelie, Queen of the French. Louis Hersent 1836

The Sapphires were sent to the renowned French jeweller Bapst to be remade into the grand set that Queen Marie Amelie wore for her portrait by Louis Hersent in 1836.
In this painting she can be seen wearing a Diamond, Sapphire and Pearl tiara, set against her black hat. The Tiara features upright Sapphire and Diamond clusters set on a Diamond and Pearl base. This is the tiara that will come to be known as the Montpensier Tiara.
The remaining Sapphires were converted into a necklace, a pair of earrings, and several brooches, some of which are pinned to the front of Marie Amelie’s dress. These brooches would become the basis for the second Sapphire parure, the Comte de Paris set.

According to jewellery historian, Vincent Meylan:

Originally the tiara had nine elements. Only five remain. A sixth one was used to make the brooch. The three last sapphire elements were added as brooches to another tiara to form a second parure which the queen gave to one of her sons. It is also possible that the necklace was modified. The square sapphires do not seem to fit with the other oval sapphires.

When Marie Amelie died in exile in 1866, the two sets were divided amongst her descendants. The Diamond, Sapphire and Pearl set was inherited by her youngest son, Prince Antoine, Duke of Montpensier. The later Diamond and Sapphire set was given to her grandson Prince Philippe, Comte de Paris (He was the eldest son of her eldest son, Prince Ferdinand Philippe, who had died in 1842.)

In 1864, Prince Philippe married his first cousin Princess Marie Isabelle (daughter of Prince Antoine, Duke of Montpensier) and the Sapphires were reunited once more.

The Orleans Sapphires - Comte de Paris Set - Princess Isabelle of Orleans

Their daughter Isabelle also married her first cousin Jean, Duke de Guise. He had inherited the title Comte de Paris when Isabelle’s brother, Prince Louis Philippe Robert died without legitimate children.
During her time, she wore the tiara in the 1920s bandeau style.

Jean and Isabelle’s son Henri became the next Comte de Paris in 1940. When he married a member of the Brazilian Royal family, Isabelle d’Orleans-Braganza, she became the next custodian of the Sapphires.

Henri, Comte de Paris marries Isabelle d’Orleans-Braganza, Palermo 1931

Comtesse Isabelle wore the Comte de Paris Set frequently and lent the Montpensier Set to her daughter in law, Marie-Thérèse of Württemberg.

Unfortunately, Comte Henri spent most of the family fortune on his political causes and supporting his large family. He was eventually forced to sell both the Comte de Paris and the Montpensier set.

The Orleans Sapphires - Montpensier Set

The Montpensier set (including its original display box from Bapst) was sold to a private buyer and its current location is unclear.

Luckily, in 1985 the Comte de Paris set was bought by the Louvre Museum where it can still be viewed and enjoyed by visitors today.

Further Reading: