Pictured in 1911 with her sister Queen Alexandra, the former Tsarina Maria Feodorovna can be seen wearing a large oval shaped Cabochon Sapphire brooch, surrounded by four diamonds.
Before the Russian Revolution Maria Feodorovna was at the centre of Imperial Court life. Unlike her antisocial daughter in law (Tsarina Alexandra), Maria Feodorovna believed it was the duty of the Empress of Russia to be on display. Being one of the wealthiest monarchies of all time, the Romanovs displayed their power using their outstanding jewel collections.
(Below are the ladies of the Imperial Court at the opening of the state Duma in 1905, dressed in all their magnificent jewels)
When she was forced to flee Russia in 1919, Maria Feodorovna lost most of important jewels to the Bolsheviks Revolutionaries. These were later sold to support the Soviet regime.
Click HERE to see the sale catalogue
She did however, manage to hold on to her ‘everyday jewels’. During her exile, they were kept in a chest under her bed and despite the pleas of her daughters Xenia and Olga, she refused to sell them during her lifetime.
When she died in her native Denmark in 1928, the chest was immediately sealed and sent to London on the orders of her nephew King George V.
According to historian John Van der Kiste:
The jewel box was finally opened at Windsor in May 1929, to reveal the seventy-six items comprising the last of Marie Feodorovna considerable collection, including the Diamond Star of the Order of St Andrew; ropes of pearls, ‘the largest the size of a cherry’; and brooches, bracelets, hair ornaments and hatpins, all sparkling with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
Once the jewels had been sorted and valued, they were offered for sale via Mr Hardy of Hennell & Sons of Bond Street, London. The brooch then disappeared from public view between 1929 and 1953. More than likely it was purchased by Queen Mary and kept in her vast personal collection before being bequeathed to her daughter in law Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent (herself of Romanov descent). Princess Marina wore the brooch at many social occasions, including Ascot and her yearly visits to Wimbledon Tennis Club.
When Princess Marina passed away she left her jewels to her sons, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent.
The Sapphire brooch was left to Prince Edward and was next seen on the current Duchess of Kent, Katharine
Nothing is known about the brooch’s current whereabouts. The Kents were forced to sell several important pieces of jewellery to pay Princess Marina’s inheritance tax but there is still a chance that the current duchess still possesses this wonderful piece with its amazing provenance.