14 December 2011

Readers' Top 15 Tiaras: #12. The Luxembourg Empire Tiara

Our countdown of your favorite tiaras continues with...

#12. The Luxembourg Empire Tiara

And this is why I love you guys: you just automatically came up with a list that skews to the “Go Big or Go Home” side of the game. Bless your little magpie hearts.
The Luxembourg Empire Tiara
Coming in at number 12 on your list of favorite tiaras we have one of the largest diadems in use today, the Luxembourg Empire Tiara. Composed of massive amounts of diamonds in the Empire style potentially dating from the early 19th century, it earns its name on scale alone.
Grand Duchess Charlotte (left) and her sister Princess Hilda (right) on their wedding days
This regal gem made its public debut on the head of reigning Grand Duchess Charlotte when she married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma in 1919. Without exact confirmation of the piece’s origins, speculation points to two sources of family jewels: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia and Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden. Elizabeth was the first wife of Charlotte’s grandfather and brought plenty of Romanov jewels with her when she married. With this sort of intricate design and overall opulence, it’s not hard to believe it could be of Russian provenance; indeed, this is the explanation you tend to see most frequently. The other option is Charlotte’s aunt Hilda, who left some jewels to Charlotte and her sisters. One of those sisters, also named Hilda, wore it for her wedding too.
Grand Duchess Charlotte
Charlotte continued to wear the tiara on important occasions during her reign, up to and including the day she abdicated in favor of her son, Jean. She then turned the grand tiara over to her daughter-in-law Joséphine-Charlotte, the new grand duchess.
Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte
Jean abdicated in favor of his son Henri in 2001, but it’s quite possible that J-C didn’t feel as open to handing things down when it came to her daughter-in-law Maria Teresa. Whether it was out of respect or because she wasn’t given possession of the Empire Tiara, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa did not wear it publicly until after Joséphine-Charlotte’s death.
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa
Back when we discussed the equally stately Braganza Tiara, you all brought up an interesting point in the comments: not only are tiaras like this about more than aesthetics, part of the trick to wearing them is to only hold them for the most important occasions. I would say that is precisely what Maria Teresa has done thus far. The first appearances she used the diadem for were state visits to Belgium and the Netherlands; not only are these countries united in the Benelux economic union, they are family too - King Albert of the Belgians is Grand Duke Henri’s uncle, and Queen Beatrix and the Grand Duke both descend from the House of Nassau. We have also seen her use the tiara in an official portrait, and at Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding.
Maria Teresa at Victoria's wedding
Some might argue that it was inappropriate for Maria Teresa to bring so much sparkle to someone else’s wedding, but you can always count on me to justify bringing out the big guns: it was the most important royal gathering since she’s had custody of the tiara, and she treated it as such.
I don't think you need me to state it, but I will: I love this one. Seriously, I think it's magnificent. It's one of those pieces that is uniquely suited to a grand duchess specifically - not a queen, not a princess, but a grand duchess. I'm sure it's an absolute beast to wear, and as these pictures show us, it doesn't go with just any old hairstyle. But when it's worn right...oh, it's so worth it.

What say you: too big or just right in the context?

Photos: ANP/Cour grand ducale/Getty Images/Daylife