Friday, 18 June 2010

Royal jewels: The Swedish cameo tiara

There has been much speculation over whether Crown Princess Victoria at her wedding tomorrow will wear the same cameo tiara as her mother and two of her aunts wore for their weddings. It remains to be seen what she will wear, but nevertheless the cameo tiara is a piece of jewellery with a long royal history.
It has often been said that it may have belonged to Empress Joséphine of the French, but the first known wearer is the Empress’s daughter, Queen Hortense of Holland, who was portrayed wearing it by Anne-Louis Girodet in 1812. However, Crown Princess Margareta once appeared in her elder sons’ schoolroom adorned with this tiara and told the children that it had been worn by Empress Joséphine.
It is not listed in the inventories of the Empress’s jewellery made up at the time of her coronation in 1804 or her death in 1814, but a possible explanation may be that the Empress gave some of her jewellery to her children at the time of her divorce from Napoléon I in 1809 and thus it may have “escaped” both inventories. To this day the tiara lies in what is believed to be the original box, which bears the name of Nitot, one of the favoured jewellers of the Napoleonic court.
Somehow the tiara found its way to the Empress’s granddaughter and Queen Hortense’s niece, Princess Josephina of Leuchtenberg, about the time she married the future King Oscar I of Norway and Sweden. In her later years Queen Josephina is portrayed with matching earrings and a necklace (which originally had four strands of pearls, but now only three). There is also a brooch to go with the parure, but it is somewhat uncertain if all these pieces originally belonged together.
Queen Josephina left the tiara to her only daughter, the childless, sickly and artistically gifted Princess Eugénie. From her it passed to her nephew, Prince Eugen. He had no wife who could wear it, but on several occasions he lent it to his niece-by-marriage, Crown Princess Margareta, to whom he was close.
One such occasion was the wedding of Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg to Baroness Marianne de Geer af Leufsta in 1915 and it was on that occasion Margareta entered her sons’ schoolroom wearing a golden dress and these jewels and said to the children: “This diadem has been worn by Napoléon’s Empress. It is not mine, but today I have been lent it by Prince Eugen”.
Margareta died in 1920 and twelve years later Prince Eugen gave the tiara as a wedding present to Princess Sibylla, the bride of his great-nephew Prince Gustaf Adolf and mother of the current king. In 1933 she lent it to her sister-in-law Princess Ingrid when she dressed as Queen Josephina for a charity masquerade (photo above).
Following her husband’s violent death in 1947 Princess Sibylla’s hair went white almost overnight and subsequently she rarely wore the tiara as she thought it did not go well with white hair. Two of her daughters borrowed it for their weddings – Princess Birgitta in 1961 and Princess Désirée in 1964.
As mentioned Queen Silvia also wore if for her wedding in 1976, by which time Princess Sibylla had been dead for some years. Unlike several of the other grand Swedish tiaras, the cameo tiara is King Carl Gustaf’s private property and has so far in his reign only been worn by his wife.
The fact that it is accorded its own paragraph at the Royal Court’s wedding website, where its wearing at weddings is described as a tradition, it may seem quite certain that Crown Princess Victoria will wear this tiara tomorrow. However, she might yet surprise us and, as she does not entirely share her mother’s taste for grandeur, other good choices could be the so-called “Princess Sibylla’s tiara”, the sunray tiara or a delicate floral wreath tiara from Crown Princess Margareta which now belongs to Princess Lilian and which the latter has stated will be inherited by Crown Princess Victoria. Wearing Princess Lilian’s tiara would also be a nice gesture towards a beloved great-aunt who will sadly not be able to attend the wedding.

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