12 June 2014

Tiara Thursday: Queen Maria Christina’s Cartier Loop Tiara

The Fleur de Lys Tiara is the Spanish royal family’s best-known large tiara, but it’s not the only big one they have to pick from. Today’s tiara is nearing the same size, and it is also a piece chock-full of Spanish royal history.
Queen Maria Christina's Cartier Loop Tiara
Made of diamonds and pearls set in platinum and reportedly made by Cartier, this large tiara was a wedding present to Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria (1858-1929) for her 1879 wedding to King Alfonso XII of Spain. It features round pearls at the center of upright diamond loops, each loop composed of an inner ring of large round diamonds and a thinner outer ring. More round pearls top the tiara between each loop and in the very center.
Maria Christina (l), Maria de las Mercedes (r)
The tiara passed to Queen Maria Cristina’s son, Alfonso XIII. It does not seem to have been used by his wife, Queen Victoria Eugenia, and Alfonso XIII gave it to Princess Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1910-2000) when she married their son Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, in 1935. (The Count and Countess of Barcelona were the parents of King Juan Carlos.) As Countess of Barcelona, Maria de las Mercedes used the tiara herself and loaned it to her family as well. Queen Sofia, before she became queen, loaned it early on for the 1971 celebrations in Persepolis of the Persian Empire’s 2500th anniversary.
Pilar (l), Simoneta (r)
The Loop Tiara was worn by the Countess of Barcelona’s daughter, Infanta Pilar, on her wedding day in 1967 and by Pilar’s daughter Simoneta for her own wedding in 1990. Infanta Pilar also wore the tiara during a 1988 state visit from Queen Elizabeth II. Many thought the tiara to be Pilar’s property, particularly after the death of the Countess of Barcelona in 2000. But everybody was in for a surprise when Queen Sofia showed up at a banquet during a state visit to Norway in 2006 wearing, for the first known time since 1971, none other than Queen Maria Christina’s Cartier Loop Tiara. She has worn it for a few other state occasions in the years since. Some speculated that perhaps King Juan Carlos had bought the tiara from his sister Pilar, or some other sort of arrangement between the siblings had been made – but perhaps the more likely scenario is that reports of Pilar’s ownership were mistaken, and the tiara passed to Juan Carlos after his mother’s death.
This tiara is the last of the set of tiaras worn by Sofia as queen to be featured here, just in time for the throne to change hands: the Prussian Diamond Tiara, the Spanish Floral Tiara, the Mellerio Shell Tiara, the Niarchos Rubies, the Cartier Diamond and Pearl Tiara, Queen Maria Christina’s Cartier Loop Tiara, and the Fleur de Lys Tiara.

Which of the collection is your favorite?

Photos: AOP/Corbis/Pool/Hola