21 December 2011

Readers' Top 15 Tiaras: #4. The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara

Our countdown of your favorite tiaras continues with...

#4. The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara

We have bemoaned the size of Crown Princess Mary's tiara collection many a time on this site. She has just two, plus the loaned Midnight Tiara, and one of them is a tiara that many find way too small for a future queen. But here's a thought: if you were to value jewel collections by the weight of their historical provenance, rather than just cumulative carats of bling or pure variety, Mary might come out farther ahead in the game than you think. Yes, her ruby parure - containing your fourth favorite tiara - carries some hefty historical weight indeed.
The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara
This tiara tale begins, like many others, at the court of Napoleon Bonaparte. When planning his coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804, he wanted to ensure that it would be the grandest possible event. He went so far as to give money to his marshals so that they could buy their wives the proper amount of jewels for the occasion. One of those men, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, bought a ruby and diamond wreath tiara and accompanying parure for his wife, Désirée Clary, and she wore it on that historical day. This couple would later become King Carl XIV Johan and Queen Desideria of Sweden, and the jewels found a new Swedish home.
Queen Alexandrine of Denmark
In the modern history of this tiara (which was not truly a tiara to begin with, but bits of other jewels), it is so well associated with Queen Ingrid of Denmark (who was born a Princess of Sweden) that many assume it made the trip from Sweden to Denmark along with the rest of Ingrid's wedding gifts. In fact it came over much earlier, with another Swedish princess that became a Danish queen: Queen Louise, who married the future Frederick VIII in 1869. Louise received the tiara as a wedding gift from her grandmother, Queen Josephine of Sweden (Désirée's daughter-in-law), because the rubies and diamonds echoed the colors of the Danish flag. Queen Louise gave the tiara to her son Crown Prince Christian's bride Alexandrine as a wedding gift; Alexandrine would have to wait until Louise passed away to inherit the rest of the parure.
Queen Ingrid in the original parure
It was Alexandrine that gave it to Princess Ingrid of Sweden when she married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 1935. You've probably noticed by now that the pictures of the tiara in use so far look nothing like the tiara we know today (nothing slips past you!), and you're quite right. The original version was more like a small wreath than a proper tiara, but Ingrid fixed that. In 1947, she took two of the brooches that came with the initial parure (which she can be seen wearing above) and added them to the tiara, giving it much more substance and turning it into a proper diadem that still had a lovely wreath structure from the random placement of the leaves.
A young Princess Benedikte playing with her mother's rubies
You will often see this set referred to as "Ingrid's rubies" and that makes sense: not only is she responsible for the Extreme Tiara Makeover, this was one of her signature pieces. Apart from allowing her daughter Princess Benedikte to wear the parure for a play Ingrid put together on the life of Queen Desideria, Ingrid kept the rubies to herself and did not share with the other ladies in the family.
Queen Ingrid in the altered parure
When Queen Ingrid died in 2000 she left the parure to her beloved grandson, Crown Prince Frederik, thereby ensuring that the future Crown Princess would have a truly grand and historical set of jewels to wear. It is the first tiara Mary ever wore - she wore the set twice for pre-wedding events in 2004, though she obviously opted for her wedding tiara on her wedding day - and it is the tiara she chooses for her grandest events. It is her "big gun" and she saves it for big gun events. She wears it for the annual New Years Court gala, the fanciest occasion of the year for the Danish royals, and she took it out of the country for the first time in her marriage for the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. (No mistake there: Ingrid was married in that same cathedral.)
Crown Princess Mary in the tiara as she first wore it
The parure today includes a huge necklace, hairpins, a set of earrings, a brooch, a bracelet, and a ring (added by Mary). It's interesting to note in close ups that the larger rubies are actually a couple smaller rubies joining forces to make one larger piece - that's not evident from farther away. (Large rubies are rare and expensive, so it makes practical sense to set it this way.) It's also interesting to investigate the color of the rubies; they often appear pink, magenta perhaps, rather than pure red. Crown Princess Mary has made some very successful combinations of this parure with dresses in many shades of blue, and I think the pink tones help her out there.
The parure's brooch
Ingrid usually wore the whole set at one time. But all together, it is enormous and possibly a bit overwhelming (certainly it must be a trial to wear!). So Mary's come up with some inventive ways to wear different pieces - the earrings can now take different pendants, she's worn the pendant of the brooch as a pendant on a necklace, that sort of thing.
The parure, L to R: the full parure; the pendant of the brooch used as a necklace; (above) the bracelet and ring; (below) the full earrings which have additional wires to wrap around the top of the ear to distribute their weight; the top of the earrings with a pearl pendant; and just the top of the earrings used for a more casual event
She's also taken a page out of Ingrid's book and has altered the shape of the tiara to her own taste. It's certainly not as large of a change as Ingrid made. She's rearranged the leaves, making a more compact shape, and she put it on a new frame customized to her head shape, which allows her to wear it upright more easily. The new tiara debuted in 2010, and the changes (with additional flexibility for the whole set) were completed by the Marianne Dulong jewelry firm. They also created the new ring, and made the hairpins out of the leftover pieces.
Mary's tiara overhaul
I have to say, I miss the old version. I didn't even know that I appreciated the leafy randomness of the thing until she took some of it away. That said, I know this: a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Kudos to her for making it her own and doing whatever she needs to do to make such a cumbersome (grand and gorgeous, but cumbersome) piece work for her. We still have the sparkle, no matter which version you prefer.
Mary with the altered tiara
So, do you see why I think Mary comes out farther ahead in the jewel game than it might initially appear? She might not have access to as many jewels as Crown Princess Victoria or Princess Máxima, but which other crown princess has sole custody of a tiara with this much history and this large of an accompanying parure to boot? None of them have that. And though I would never call myself a big fan of her wedding tiara, after a full review of this set, I can understand why it is what it is: it's light, it's got to be easy to wear, it's basically the polar opposite of the rubies.
A sparkly view is above; for even more information and loads more glittering shots, I highly recommend you watch Part 1 of De Kongelige Juveler, where you can hear Queen Margrethe and Crown Princess Mary discuss this piece and what it means in their own words.

How do you rate the rubies?

Photos: Nordisk Film/Sn.dk/Corbis/PPE/DR 1/Svenskdam/BilledBladet