25 February 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Northumberland Strawberry Leaf Tiara

The Northumberland Strawberry Leaf Tiara
King George IV (1762-1830) presented the third Duke of Northumberland with a ceremonial sword inlaid with diamonds, and those important diamonds were later used by the Northumberland family to create this tiara. The diadem featured strawberry leaf motifs with very large diamonds at their centers rising from a diamond base in a coronet style.
Video: The tiara was loaned to a 1959 exhibition called Ageless Diamonds. Several royal pieces can also be spotted on display.
As befit a tiara with such an important history, it featured in more than one coronation. Helen Percy (1886-1965), wife of the eighth Duke, was painted in her coronation robes and this tiara by Philip de Laszlo for the 1937 coronation and she wore it to the 1953 coronation, by which time she was the Dowager Duchess. She served as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, so she not only had a role to play in the coronations, but she also attended plenty of occasions where she could showcase the family’s finest jewelry. Unfortunately, it was one of those occasions that led to the tiara’s demise.
In 1963, the Dowager Duchess went to Garrard to retrieve the tiara and other jewels she required for a banquet to be given that evening by King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece, who were on a state visit to the United Kingdom. On the way home, her car was ambushed by five men. She was left “screaming in her car outside her London home” as the thieves made off with her jewels, including a tiara. Diana Scarisbrick’s Ancestral Jewels identifies the stolen tiara as the strawberry leaf diadem.
The tiara modeled for the exhibit. See additional video here.
The design of the tiara may not have been entirely unique on its own - Queen Fabiola's Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara is a similar example - but the size of the diamonds involved really set this one apart. Showcasing really large stones in tiaras isn't always the easiest design feat, yet the Strawberry Leaf Tiara pulled it off with ease. The family had other tiaras, but the loss of those diamonds and that history must have been keenly felt.

Photos: British Moviefone screencap/de Laszlo/Beaton/British Pathe screencap