Sunday, 19 June 2011

Royal jewels: The Egyptian diadem

This weekend saw the religious blessing of the marriage of Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Alexander Johannsmann, who married on 27 May last year. For this event Princess Nathalie wore the bridal veil of her great-grandmother, Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, which was also worn by her grandmother Queen Ingrid of Denmark and subsequently by all Queen Ingrid’s daughters and granddaughters as well as Crown Princess Mary.
The diamond tiara worn by Princess Nathalie has a similar story. It was a wedding present from Abbas II, the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to Princess Margaret of Britain when she married Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden in Windsor on 15 June 1905, in the middle of the drama brought on by Norway’s unilateral dissolution of the personal union with Sweden eight days earlier.
Princess Margaret, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Connaught, had met the heir to the Swedish and Norwegian thrones while in Egypt with her parents. It had been thought that her younger sister Patricia might be a suitable wife for Prince Gustaf Adolf, but he preferred Margaret and became engaged to her while still in Egypt. Thus it was probably only natural that the Khedive presented his “guest” with an opulent wedding gift when she married a few months later.
The diamond tiara was made by Cartier and can also be worn as a corsage. I cannot recall having seen it worn in that manner, but Crown Princess Margareta does so in a portrait by Axel Jungstedt which hangs in Prince Bertil’s (now unused) apartment at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
After Crown Princess Margareta’s untimely death at the age of 38 in 1920, the Egyptian diadem was inherited by her only daughter Ingrid, here pictured wearing it as a young Princess of Sweden around 1930. She took it with her to Denmark when she married the future King Frederik IX in 1935 and wore it frequently throughout her life.
Queen Ingrid was generous in lending jewellery to relatives and allowed her youngest daughter, Princess Anne-Marie, to wear the Egyptian diadem for her wedding to the then King Konstantinos II of the Hellenes in 1964. Her eldest daughter, Princess Margrethe, likewise wore it as a bride in 1967 and so did the middle daughter, Princess Benedikte, in 1968.
Thus one might say they had established a tradition for female descendants of Queen Ingrid to wear it as brides. Queen Ingrid again lent it to her granddaughters, Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Princess Alexia of Greece, for their weddings in 1998 and 1999 respectively.
Following Queen Ingrid’s death in 2000 the Egyptian diadem was inherited by ex-Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, who yesterday lent it to her niece Nathalie. Princess Theodora of Greece is now Queen Ingrid’s only unmarried granddaughter and while she will probably also wear the Egyptian diadem when/if she marries, it remains to be seen whether the tradition will be picked up by Queen Ingrid’s great-granddaughters (of whom the eldest is only fifteen and the youngest was born earlier this year).


  1. Do you know if it has got a new base? Princess Nathalie wore it higher on the head than before.

  2. Yes, this high base must be relatively new. There is an old photo which shows that there earlier was a velvet-covered base on the "rear side" of the tiara, but I remember noticing that ex-Queen Anne-Marie fairly recently wore it higher on the head than before. In my opinion it is not a particularly fortunate change - if the new base is hidden in the hair it might work, but not when the entire base is visible as it was on Saturday.


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