10 November 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Nine Provinces Tiara, Revisited

We need diamonds and we need things to look forward to, and luckily I have both for you right here: The King and Queen of the Belgians will visit the Netherlands for a state visit at the end of November! My guess is that we’ll see Queen Mathilde wear the biggest version of the most important tiara she has, so let’s revisit that piece while we keep our fingers crossed.

Queen Astrid in the Nine Provinces Tiara, with and without the diamond arches
The Nine Provinces Tiara was a wedding gift from the people of Belgium to Princess Astrid of Sweden, who married the future King Leopold III in 1926. Created by Belgian jeweler Van Bever, there are more than 100 carats of diamonds at play in this flexible diadem. It was originally given as a diamond bandeau in a stylized Greek key motif topped with 11 large diamonds from the (now former) Belgian colony of the Congo set on spikes. A set of diamond arches was added to enclose each of the 11 independent stones, making a more impressive (and much improved, if you ask me) tiara.

Princess Lilian (left, wearing what are thought to be the large diamonds from the tiara on her necklace), and Queen Fabiola (right)
Princess Astrid was Queen Astrid for just a year before her tragic death in a car accident at the age of 29. After Astrid’s death the tiara was in the possession of King Leopold. His second wife, Princess Lilian, mainly wore parts of the tiara, including using the bandeau as a bracelet and appearing to use the individual large stones with other pieces of jewelry. (Theirs was a controversial marriage; she did not hold the title of queen consort.)

Video: Baudouin and Fabiola's wedding
King Leopold abdicated the throne in favor of his son Baudouin in 1951. When Baudouin married Fabiola de Mora y Arag√≥n in 1960, Leopold gave the tiara to the new queen. Fabiola was Belgium’s first queen since Astrid, and she wore the Nine Provinces Tiara on her wedding day. It was a majestic topper for her regal fur-trimmed Balenciaga gown.

Queen Paola
Queen Fabiola handed the jewel over after King Baudouin passed away and King Albert took the throne, giving it the new queen consort – Queen Paola – to wear. Queen Paola then did the same when her husband abdicated and King Philippe took the throne. Queen Mathilde debuted the only jewel passed from Belgian queen to Belgian queen right away, wearing the bandeau portion of the tiara for her first official portrait as queen.

Queen Paola wearing the Nine Provinces bandeau as a choker and Queen Elisabeth's Diamond Bandeau as a tiara
Belgium doesn’t have a huge jewel collection, but to their credit, what they do have is usually quite flexible. This tiara can be worn in several different ways: the original bandeau and spike version, the full diadem with arches, just the bandeau worn as a tiara, the bandeau and arches without the 11 large diamonds inside, the bandeau as a necklace, or the bandeau as a bracelet.

Click here to see Place Royale's feature on the tiara, with beautiful close ups and shots of the tiara in action
Queen Mathilde has so far used that flexibility to her advantage to customize the tiara to the level of grandness required by an occasion, if you will; she usually wears just the bandeau, but debuted the full version with arches for the first time when in Denmark to attend a birthday banquet for Queen Margrethe.

Queen Mathilde
Wearing the tiara at state visits for other monarchies was something Queen Paola did (in fact, the photo of her wearing the full tiara above is from a state visit from the Netherlands), and I’m curious to see if Mathilde will do the same. (She did not bring it to Japan in October.) This is Belgium's big gun, and while it’s a little too pointy with the arches for my tastes, it can do battle with the best of them when it comes to carat power and pure sparkle.

Does this have a spot on your list of favorite big gun tiaras?