Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Tiaras of Queen Victoria

In honor of Friday's royal nuptials (and my fondness for Queen Victoria), here's a look at some of the elegant tiaras that graced the head of Britain's longest reigning monarch. Queen Victoria's collection of jewels was massive; as Queen, Empress of India, and ruler of an empire over which the sun famously never set, Victoria amassed an unrivaled set of precious jewels and stones from across the world. Some of these have been integrated into the Crown Jewels and are thus the perpetual property of the people of Great Britain, while others were the personal property of Victoria and Albert and have been passed down through the various branches of their very large and extended family. That family, of course, includes the present Queen Elizabeth II, who is often seen wearing one of these stunning pieces of history.

1) The Oriental Circlet, 1853

Photo linked from coloreddiamond.info.

This ruby and diamond tiara, made by Garrard's, was designed by Prince Albert for his wife.  Originally, the rubies were opals, which were Albert's favorite stone (and one of mine as well!), but Queen Alexandra later replaced them with rubies that had been given to Victoria in 1873.  The design, which includes lotus flowers and Moghul arches, was inspired by the Indian jewellry gifted to Queen Victoria during the Great Exhibition of 1851.  The circlet was passed down through Victoria's family line and was one of the Queen Mother's favorites.  It is currently owned by the Queen, who still wears it on occassion.

2) The Emerald and Diamond Tiara, 1845

Photo linked from The Anglophile blog.

This tiara (more appropriately a diadem) is part of a set which also includes earrings and two brooches.  All were designed by Prince Albert in the Gothic revival style popular during the period.  The set was produced by Joseph Kitching in 1845 and Albert allegedly paid a total of £1,150 for it.  In 1846, Victoria wrote in her diary, ""My beloved one gave me such a lovely unexpected present - a wreath, going right around the head, made to match the brooch and earrings he gave me at Christmas."

The Royal Family (1846), by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
Image linked from the Royal Collection website.

Detail of the above painting, showing the emerald and diamond
tiara, along with the matching earrings and brooches.

The current owner and location of this tiara are unknown.

3) The Diamond and Sapphire Tiara, 1842

Photo linked from The Royal Forum.

Another Gothic-revival-inspired design by Prince Albert, this tiara features diamonds set in silver and kite- and cushion-shaped sapphires set in gold.  It cost the Prince Consort £415 when he commissioned it in 1842.  It was later given as a gift to the Princess Royal by her mother Queen Victoria, and then passed down through the family over the years.  It is now currently owned by the Earl and Countess of Harewood.

Queen Victoria (1842), by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
Image linked from the Royal Collection website.

Detail of the above painting, showing a close-up of the diamond
and sapphire diadem, worn at the back of the head.

And one honorable mention: the "Girls of Great Britain and Ireland" tiara, 1893

Photo linked from GoldenAgedRegina blog.

Even though this piece was not worn or even gifted by Queen Victoria, I have to include it here anyway because it's my favorite of all the British royal tiaras.  This tiara was a wedding present to Princess May of Teck when she married Victoria's grandson; she became Queen Mary when her husband came to the throne as George V and she was thus the present Queen's grandmother.  The tiara is named for the group of women who collected a total of five thousand pounds to contribute this unforgettable gift to their future Queen Consort.  Made by Garrard's of diamonds mounted on silver, the tiara originally featured pearl finials, which Queen Mary later replaced with diamonds. 

Queen Mary with the "Girls of Great Britain and Ireland" tiara.
Photo linked from Golden Aged Regina blog.

"Granny's tiara" was later given by Queen Mary as a wedding present to her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) to celebrate her wedding in 1947.  Though Elizabeth chose the stunning fringe tiara for her special day instead, she has frequently worn her grandmother's piece for formal and state occassions throughout her reign.  And if you think it looks a little familiar, you're right: this is the tiara featured in the Queen portrait on British currency!

The Queen wearing the tiara, her favorite.
Photo linked from The Daily Mail.

So which one is your favorite?  And who else besides me is getting out her tiara for Friday morning's celebration?  :-)

For more on the British royal weddings of the past, be sure to check out our earlier post.  And for more on the tiaras of the British and European royal families, see this great "Tiara-pedia" on Mad Hattery.

Printed Sources featuring some of these tiaras:
- Tiaras: Past and Present, by Geoffrey Munn - This book is a re-release of the exhibit catalogue for "Tiaras," an exhibition staged at the V&A in 2002; it includes photos of several of the tiaras profiled above, with loads of stunning detail shots.
- Tiaras: A History of Splendor, by Geoffrey Munn - I'm honestly not sure how this book relates to the one above, other than that it's four times as long.  I personally have not seen a copy, though I'm sorely tempted to buy one now...!
- The Queen's Jewels: The Personal Collection of Elizabeth II, by Leslie Field - While most accounts of British royal jewels focus on the Crown Jewels, this one is unique in that it offers a rare glimpse at the personal, privately-owned collection of the Queen.


Julia said...

These are really beautiful! I especially like the emerald one. Makes me wish to sew something emerald green...

lahbluebonnet said...

These are lovely. How about the one Princess Di wore? I might need to consider one of these for a future history presentation costume!

Cynthia Griffith said...

They're all so beautiful! Thanks for doing a post about them. Hmmm... I'd like to watch the wedding Friday -- maybe I'll have to wear my tiara, too! (although it obviously is nothing like any of these... a girl can daydream or pretend for a few hours though, eh?)

Rebecca said...

Lady R. - Doesn't it, though?! That's the first thing I thought of when I saw those giant emerald finials: "I think I need a green gown now..."! And emeralds are my birthstone, so I might just be swayed into something green soon...if only I could find a replica tiara like that one!

Laurie - I love the one Princess Diana wore, too, but I didn't include it here because it belongs to the Spencer family. The Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara she always wore with the diamonds and pearls was a royal heirloom, though, and I was tempted to list that one. This post might require a "Part Two" now!

Cynthia - Yes, I know what you mean! My old and tarnished rhinestone tiara looks pretty shabby compared to these, but I don't care! It'll be fun to be girly and get it out to celebrate on Friday anyway...just for a few hours! :-)

lahbluebonnet said...

I finally had time to really read this. Prince Albert was quite the tiara designer, wasn't he? My favorite tiara is the one in my head that I can't remember where I've seen now!

lahbluebonnet said...

Okay, I've done some research and I found my favorites. Prince Albert was a great designer, but Princess Diana's are my *swoon* favorites!

lahbluebonnet said...

Oh, I keep forgetting to say...I almost became Queen Victoria for our 19th century history presentation! But I think that was when we were moving so I just made a basic era gown.

Rebecca said...

Laurie, which tiara is your favorite that you found? Was it the one in your head that you were thinking of?

I wish I could find a good replica of one of Queen Victoria's to do an entire reproduction outfit from one of those paintings. You'd think it would be an easy thing to find, something other people would want, but I guess not!

Albert designed all sorts of jewelry for Victoria - the wedding brooch, lots of sets of earrings, all sorts of necklaces. And the sad thing is that after his death (for half of her life!), Victoria hardly wore any of it.

lahbluebonnet said...

Oh, I can't decide. I like both of Princess Di's tiaras. The Spencer has the gorgeous swirls and the Lover's Knot has pearls. *Swoon*
I can't imagine her not wearing them. I know she grieved his death but wearing the jewelry would have made me feel closer to him.

Rebecca said...

Lack of formal jewelry (outside of "mourning" pieces like rings) was part of the code of mourning attire, so I guess in Victoria's mind, wearing black and setting aside her jewels was the "proper" way to remember her husband. Though I totally agree - I personally would want to wear those pieces because I'd think they would feel like part of him went into making them. At least she kept them and passed them down to her family, though, so we can enjoy drooling over them...from however far away!

lahbluebonnet said...

Didn't she take mourning to an extreme, and sort of set the pace for that? I think many widows abandoned the black after about a year. Perhaps not?

Anonymous said...

After years of searching for perfect replica royal tiaras and crowns, I stumbled across two sister websites for the same company. I recently visited their atelier and ordered several replica tiaras. They're not cheap, but are well worth the price, because their replicas are custom-made and as near to the originals as I've ever seen.

How accurate are their replicas? While I was there, I met a Queen Elizabeth lookalike, who was picking up a replica George IV Diadem!

The websites are www.stagejewellery.com and www.royalexhibitions.co.uk.