Tuesday, 13 July 2010

An interesting article on the cameo diadem

In a recent issue of the French magazine Point de Vue (no 3231, dated 23-29 June) there is an article by the jewellery expert Vincent Meylan on the cameo diadem which Crown Princess Victoria wore on her wedding day which adds some very interesting details about the history of this beautiful tiara.
As previously mentioned an oral tradition in the Bernadotte family maintains that the tiara, which sits in a box labelled Nitot, first belonged to Empress Joséphine of the French, yet the first known depiction of it shows it not on the Empress, but worn by her daughter Queen Hortense of Holland.
The portrait was done by Anne-Louis Girodet in 1812 and miniatures based on it have been up for sale at Dorotheum in Vienna in 2007 (external link) and at Sotheby’s in London last June (external link). The article says that a miniature is now in the Swedish royal collection, but this is probably wrong as the King of Sweden as far as I know did not buy any of the two.
The question is anyway how the tiara found its way from Queen Hortense to her niece Josephina, who was portrayed wearing it shortly after she became Crown Princess of Sweden and Norway in 1823.
Based on research in the Napoléon archives in Paris, Meylan states that Queen Hortense sold a cameo tiara in 1824 for 30,000 francs, but that tiara was made of cameos and rubies rather than cameos and pearls.
However, Meylan writes that a tiara of cameos and pearls was among Empress Joséphine’s possessions at the time of her death in 1814 and that this tiara went to her son, Prince Eugène, when he and Queen Hortense divided their mother’s estate. He explains the fact that Queen Hortense was painted wearing the tiara during her mother’s lifetime by pointing out that mother and daughter had the habit of borrowing each other’s jewels.
This would explain the fact that it belonged to the future Queen Josephina several years before the death of Queen Hortense and establishes the following list of owners: Empress Joséphine – Prince Eugène – Queen Josephina – Princess Eugénie – Prince Eugen – Princess Sibylla – King Carl XVI Gustaf.
The photo is a detail of an old postcard showing the then Princess Ingrid (later Queen of Denmark) wearing the cameo diadem when she dressed as her great-great-grandmother Queen Josephina for a charity masquerade in 1933.


  1. Thanks for quoting me, i loved you piece about that tiara.
    All the best
    Vincent Meylan

  2. This cameo diadem, as seen in photos published in Hola magazine of Crown Princess VIctoria's wedding, was the inspiration for a tiara made in Panama from cameos handcrafted by Wounaan Indian carvers for Rainforest Design®. The designs are totally different, but the idea of making a modern, eco-friendly, fair trade cameo tiara, using nature inspired cameos rather than classical motifs and set with pearls and gold, came from here.


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