Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Royal jewels: The Brazilian tiara
The myth that this tiara was worn by Swedish queens on their way to the coronation church ever since the eighteenth century can be traced no further than to a book written by the royal postcard collector Sigyn Reimers in 1957 (a book which also seems to be the original source for the equally wrong claim that the emerald parure now in the possession of the King of Norway belonged to Empress Joséphine of the French and was worn by her at the coronation in 1804).
However, there are no traces of this splendid piece of jewellery until the inventory of the jewels of the Dowager Queen Josephina of Sweden and of Norway which was drawn up after her death in 1876. In this inventory the tiara and a matching necklace, a brooch and a pair of earrings are valued at 248,000 SEK, making it by far the most expensive parure in the inventory – the so-called Leuchtenberg sapphires are, for comparison, valued at 69,500 SEK, and the emerald parure now in Norway at 41,000 SEK.
The art historian Göran Alm, who recently retired as head of the Bernadotte Library at the Swedish Royal Collection, has furthermore discovered that Queen Josephina in a draft of her will describes it as “the great Brazilian parure”, leaving it to the royal jewellery foundation. This makes it obvious that the parure only came to Sweden as part of the great inheritance from Queen Josephina’s younger sister, the Dowager ex-Empress Amélie of Brazil, who died in Lisbon in 1873, an inheritance which also included the above-mentioned emerald parure and many other splendid items.
The inheritance was shipped to Kristiansand in Norway onboard the Norwegian naval corvette “Balder” and from there to Stockholm. Thus the tiara arrived in Sweden after the last coronation in the country’s history had been held in May 1873, making it possible to reject conclusively the myth put forward by Sigyn Reimers.
The Brazilian author Claudia Thome Witte, who is writing a biography of Empress Amélie, has recently revealed that the tiara was a wedding present to her from her husband, Emperor Pedro I, in 1829. The diamonds had originally belonged to the Emperor’s first wife, Leopoldina, née Archduchess of Austria, and had been inherited by their children following the Empress’s death in 1826. Pedro acquired the diamonds by assuming a debt in bonds as compensation to the children and presented the tiara to his new bride, who first wore it for the hand-kissing ceremony following her wedding. Empress Amélie wrote to her mother, Dowager Duchess Auguste Amalie of Leuchtenberg, that “the tiara [was set] with the best Brazilian diamonds in various sizes and [of] so pure clarity that [they] seemed made of water”.
There are no known portraits of Queen Josephina wearing the tiara, but following her death in 1876 it was worn by her daughter-in-law, Queen Sophia (pictured above with it and parts of the emerald parure) and subsequently by Queen Victoria. Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1930 it was worn rather frequently by her daughter-in-law, Crown Princess and from 1950 Queen Louise. Queen Louise often wore it to the State Opening of Parliament and in 1937 also at the coronation of her second cousin, King George VI of Britain. After Queen Louise’s death in 1965 it was not seen again until her step-grandson Carl XVI Gustaf married in 1976 and Queen Silvia immediately began to wear it. Now that its Brazilian origins have been established this seems particularly fitting, as Queen Silvia is herself half Brazilian.