The Many Fringe Tiaras of Monaco

Although their Principality may be famous for its Grand Prix, generous income tax laws and being the second smallest state in the world, the Princes of Monaco do not have a conventional collection of royal jewels unlike their dynastic counterparts throughout Europe.
The Grimaldi’s may have ruled the principality since 1297, but before the American actress Grace Kelly enlarged the royal jewellery collection with her marriage to Prince Rainier in 1956, the next best thing were the personal jewels of Rainier’s mother, Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois

Charlotte had been the illegitimate daughter of Louis II of Monaco. In order to prevent a succession crisis, Louis adopted Charlotte as his legal heir in 1919.

Charlotte is reputed to have received this Fringe Tiara from her father on her wedding to Pierre de Polignac in 1920. Most believe that it came from Cartier but there is a chance that it may have been inherited by Louis from his mother, Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, who was Princess of Monaco from 1869 to 1880.

This newspaper report from the time mentions that one of Lady Mary’s wedding presents was ‘a large brilliant fringe necklace containing 1200 brilliants (diamonds)’

When Rainier famously married American actress Grace Kelly in 1956, it was claimed that Princess Charlotte did not approve. This would explain why Princess Grace was never pictured in her mother in law’s Fringe Tiara, or her Cartier Diamond and Pearl Drop Tiara. Instead she started her own collection, which included a magnificent suite of Van Cleef and Arpels Pearls  and a Cartier Diamond Festoon Necklace

Princess Charlotte is seen here wearing her Cartier Diamond and Pearl drop Tiara at the Pre Wedding Gala in Monaco in 1956. Princess Grace is wearing her new Bains de Mer tiara

Grace Kelly Wedding Gala

After her death in 1977, Princess Charlotte’s jewellery became part of the ‘Palais Princier de Monaco Collection’.
This Collection encompasses not only jewels but fine art, furniture and Prince Rainier’s famous vintage cars. The jewels are available for use by any member of the Grimaldi family but it has been Princess Caroline who has been the main wearer of her grandmother’s pieces over the years. 

From the time of her mother’s death in 1982 to her brother Albert’s marriage in 2011, Caroline was effectively Monaco’s first lady.
As such, she would wear Princess Charlotte’s jewels representing and promoting the Principality. In 1999, Princess Caroline married Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick. This marriage elevated Caroline from a Serene Highness (HSH) to a Royal Highness (HRH) and put her at the heart of the European Royal Society.
Ernst August is head of the House of Hanover which in turn, makes him a Prince of the United Kingdom. The Hanoverians are related to all the major European royal families so Caroline’s presence is required at high profile events. 

Princess Caroline prefers wearing this Fringe Tiara as a necklace and in doing so it was discovered that the Fringe Tiara/Necklace we all assumed was Princess Charlotte’s might not be the same Tiara at all. 

As pointed out by the Court Jeweller and the Royal Jewels Message Board, Caroline’s Fringe Necklace features interspersed ‘spoon-shaped’ spikes whereas Princess Charlotte’s Tiara does not. It has also been noted that Charlotte’s tiara features more Diamond Bars than Caroline’s necklace. 

The Monaco Diamond Fringe Tiaras

The Monaco Diamond Fringe Tiaras - Tatiana Santo Domingo

When Princess Caroline’s son, Andrea Casiraghi, married Tatiana Santo Domingo in 2014 she wore a Fringe Tiara to the religious ceremony in Switzerland. Once again, it was assumed that this must have been Princess Charlotte’s Fringe Tiara however this seems not to be the case. 

The Tiara that Tatiana wore appears to be far more substantial than Princess Charlotte’s. It could be that Charlotte’s Tiara was altered to allow it to be worn in a traditional, sun-ray setting but again, this is just speculation. 

Over time, I have changed my opinion on this. Initially I was convinced that these were three completely separate pieces. There is no doubt that the ‘spoon-shaped’ prongs are unusual and make Princess Caroline’s necklace obviously different to Tatiana’s wedding tiara.
However, I am inclined to believe that Caroline’s necklace & Princess Charlotte’s tiara are one in the same. Princess Caroline was not only very close to her grandmother but is also very keen to preserve tradition in Monaco and I think the wearing of her family’s the jewels is her way to achieve this.

Further Reading: