Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Royal jewels: Danish poiré pearl tiara

Among the grandest jewels at the disposal of the Queen of Denmark is the so-called “poiré pearl tiara”, which consists of eighteen large pear-shaped (poiré) pearls hanging from diamond arches.
It was probably made in Berlin in 1825 and was a wedding present from King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia to his daughter Louise when she married Prince Frederik of the Netherlands. Curiously, the King gave an exactly similar tiara to Princess Marianne of the Netherlands when she married his son Albrecht five years later. Apparently this “twin tiara” was inherited by her descendants of the princely Reuss family, but its current whereabouts are unclear.
When Princess Louise of the Netherlands died in 1870 her tiara passed to her eldest daughter Lovisa, Queen of Sweden and Norway. Queen Lovisa never got to wear it as she died a few months later. The tiara then became the property of her only surviving child Louise, future Queen of Denmark.
Queen Louise often wore it with a pearl brooch which had also been her grandmother’s and a necklace and earrings which were wedding presents from the Khedive of Egypt in 1869. These pieces fit so well together that they are often considered a parure, which they actually are not.
Upon her death in 1926 Queen Louise left the “parure” to the Danish Royal Property Trust, which means that it cannot be divided up and always belongs to the reigning monarch. Since then the tiara has been frequently worn by the Queens Alexandrine, Ingrid and Margrethe II.
The latter has also worn it for many portraits, including the first official photographs, taken a month after her accession by Rigmor Mydtskov (who always refers to it as “the Bernadotte pearls”) and on the 10 and 20 DKK coins. Above is a detail of Dimitri Zhilinskij’s 1993 portrait of the Queen, which hangs at Fredensborg Palace.
Only rarely has the tiara been worn by the royal ladies other than the Queen. In 1937 the then Crown Princess Ingrid was allowed to use it for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain and sixteen years later Princess Margaretha borrowed it when she and Prince Axel represented Denmark at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London.

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