The Joyas de Pasar (the Jewels to pass on) are a set of jewels that may only be worn by the Queens of Spain.
In 1963, when she was writing her will in Lausanne, Switzerland, The exiled Queen Victoria Eugenia (Ena) of Spain specified that the following jewels were to be passed on to her son Don Jamie and then to her grandson Don Juan Carlos:
- A diadem of diamonds with three Fleur de Lys
- The largest diamond Riviere
- The necklace with thirty-seven large pearls
- A diamond brooch from which hangs a pear-shaped pearl called “La Peregrina”
- A pair of earrings with a large diamond and diamonds all around
- Two identical diamond bracelets
- Four strands of large pearls
- A brooch with a large pale grey pearl surrounded by diamonds and from which a pear-shaped pearl hangs.
The ‘diadem of diamonds with three fleurs-de-lis’ is known to us as the Fleur de Lys Tiara. Nicknamed ‘La Buena’ (the good one) it is the most imposing and the most regal tiara in the Spanish collection.
The tiara was originally commissioned as a wedding gift for Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria on her marriage to King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906.
Alfonso came from Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon, the royal family who had ruled France until the revolution in 1789. The Fleur de Lys had been the traditional symbol of French royalty since the middle ages. English kings later used the symbol on their coats of arms to emphasise their claims to the throne of France. The Spanish Bourbons had taken the throne of Spain in 1700 and continued to use their family’s symbol on their insignia.
Made by the Spanish court jeweller Ansorena, the headpiece features three large Fleur de Lys motifs, each set with old mine cut diamonds and connected by diamond swirls and scrolls, all set in Platinum.
It’s original setting was enclosed, like a small crown or coronet but as fashions changed, Ansorena adapted the piece so that it could be worn in a more open style and worn lower on the forehead.
Like many other European Monarchies in the 20th Century, the Spanish royals were forced into exile in 1931 after Spain declared itself a Republic. Miraculously, Queen Ena managed to retain her many jewels. Although she was forced to sell several pieces to support her family she did keep a core collection of important pieces, one of them being the Fleur de Lys tiara.
In 1953, Queen Ena loaned the piece to her daughter-in-law, Maria de Las Mercedes, Countess of Barcelona for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
In her memoirs Maria recalled:
I think that the tiara of the fleurs-de-lys, which Alfonso XIll gave to Aunt Ena for the wedding, I only wore once in England for the coronation of the Queen, which was in June 1953. When we were going to leave for Westminster Abbey, I had my small tiara on, and then Queen Victoria said to me: No, you have to wear the one with the fleurs-de-lys. And I obeyed. But as soon as it was all over, I gave it back to her. They had given it to her as a gift and the logical thing is that she would have it as long as she lived. Later, when she died, they gave it to me, but I passed it on to Sofia. Aunt Ena continued to wear it for important events and for some precious photographs”.
When she died in 1969 her vast jewellery collection was inherited by her children but as she had wished, the Joyas de Pasar passed to Maria de Las Mercedes as the de facto new Queen.
However, the complexities of Spanish politics meant that when the monarchy was restored in 1975, Maria did not become Queen of Spain. It was not until 1983, when the situation had improved that her daughter in law Queen Sofia began to wear La Buena.
Queen Sofia has been described as ‘The Most Royal Lady in Europe’.
She has the distinction of being the daughter (King Paul of Greece), sister (King Constantine of Greece), wife (King Juan Carlos of Spain) & mother (King Felipe of Spain) of Kings.
As such, she understands the importance of royal tradition and would only wear La Buena on state occasions with other monarchies.
When her husband King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, Sofia still retained the title of Queen but not the position.
This now belonged to her daughter in law Queen Letizia and just as the Countess of Barcelona had done, Sofia handed over the Joyas de Pasar to the new Queen.
As per Sofia’s tradition, Queen Letizia will only wear this tiara to the most important of events.
Princess Leonor will be the next owner of this tiara but she will have the distinction of wearing it as the first Queen Regnant of Spain since 1868.