29 March 2013

Readers' Ultimate Tiaras: Pick Your Aquamarine

We've dealt in design/size-related categories so far (fringe tiaras and whoppers), but many of you have wondered if your ultimate tiara collection would include specific stones. Naturally! Any comprehensive collection needs to have a member from each of the most popular gemstones, the ones most commonly represented in mega tiara collections. So, our March poll to add another member to your ultimate tiara collection has a birthstone theme:

Pick your ultimate aquamarine tiara!

Aquamarine might not be the first material you associate with tiaras, but there are actually quite a few aquamarine examples out there. And they're prevalent enough in today's royal collections to earn a spot in yours.

The collective British royal family has the largest array of tiaras of all the royal families, so it's no surprise they outnumber in the aquamarine category.
1. The Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara, the only aqua tiara worn by the Queen these days.
2. The Wessex Aquamarine Tiara, a convertible necklace which is thought to be the Countess' personal property.
3. The Five Aquamarine Tiara, previously worn by the Queen and now worn by the Countess of Wessex.
4. The Fouquet Aquamarine Tiara was originally a kokoshnik, and now simply has its motifs on a frame. It combines aquamarines, diamonds, and pearls, and has been worn by the Duchess of Kent.
5. The Aquamarine Pineflower Tiara, a curious motif to render in aquamarine, I think. Worn by the Princess Royal now.

Sweden has a few additions, the Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara from Princess Margaretha, and the small bandeau tiara which originally came from Queen Louise and is best known as Princess Madeleine's first tiara.

The Dutch are represented by the Art Deco aquamarine tiara which originally belonged to Queen Juliana and is now worn by multiple royal ladies.

In Luxembourg, there's an Art Deco set of aquamarines and diamonds with a bandeau tiara. Princess Sibilla has worn the current version of Queen Victoria Eugenia's Aquamarine Tiara, which sort of doubles as a Spanish entry here.

From Belgium, Queen Fabiola's convertible Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara is most often worn in its aquamarine version.

And a few more for good measure, many without known locations these days:
Left: a Cartier aigrette tiara auctioned from the collection of Olga, Princess Paley, Countess Hohenfelsen in recent years.
Right: The Hesse Aquamarine Tiara, once owned by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia. It and its matching set, earrings plus a necklace and bracelet by Faberge, were sold in 1996 by Princess Dorothea of Hesse.

Left: A Russian aquamarine kokoshnik said to have belonged to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Its whereabouts are currently unknown. 
Right: The Ligne Aquamarine Tiara, best known for being worn by Isabella Orsini on her wedding day.

Left: An aquamarine tiara auctioned from the collection of Christian, Lady Hesketh.
Right: An Art Deco tiara made by Cartier in 1937 in the run up to the coronation of George VI.

As a reminder, here's what your ultimate tiara collection looks like so far:

Ready to vote for your favorite?
-Vote for one tiara in the comments. (If you're mentioning multiple tiaras in your comment, indicate which one gets your vote, or I will just count the first one.)
-I will also count the number of "likes" or up arrows on those comments, so you can vote that way too.
-Non-royal tiaras and tiaras that no longer exist are fair game too.

UPDATE: Thank you for your votes, voting is now closed!

Photos: Getty Images/Cour Grand Ducale/IBL/Sotheby's/Cartier

28 March 2013

Tiara Thursday: The Brazilian Aquamarine Parure Tiara

The Brazilian Aquamarine Parure Tiara
For her coronation in 1953, the Queen received a gift of a necklace and earrings from the President and people of Brazil. The set includes large rectangular aquamarines, Brazilian obviously, set in scrolled diamond and platinum surrounds by Mappin & Webb in Rio de Janiero. The necklace features a large detachable pendant. The stones are perfectly matched; according to Leslie Field in The Queen's Jewels, it took a year to collect them. Brazil continued to collect more stones for the Queen following the first gift, and in 1958 presented her with a large brooch and a bracelet to add to the set.
The rest of the parure as it looks today (necklace, earrings, brooch, bracelet); the Queen wearing the earrings and original necklace before the tiara was made, in 1954
The Queen must have been happy with her gift, because not only does she still wear it, she decided to add to it herself. In 1957, she had Garrard make a simple tiara of a platinum bandeau set with diamonds and aquamarines and three large upright aquamarines with diamond surrounds. The uprights were detachable and could be used as brooches.
The tiara in its first format
But this is not how the tiara was destined to stay, as the Queen had more tweaking to do. In 1971, she added four aquamarine and diamond scroll ornaments around the upright pieces; these came from a jewel she was given by the Governor of São Paulo during a state visit to Brazil in 1968. (Many including myself had assumed the original São Paulo gift was a small tiara worn by the Queen once in Canada and never seen again, but this assumption was dashed when the Countess of Wessex wore the same small tiara in 2012, what I call the Five Aquamarine Tiara). The Queen also replaced the central aquamarine upright on the tiara with the large aquamarine pendant that had originally hung from the necklace. The necklace pendant was replaced with a smaller stone.
The tiara in its final format
The Brazilian Aquamarine Parure is still in use today - the tiara was last worn in Australia in 2011. She wears pieces of the parure outside of the full set from time to time, including occasional daytime appearances of the brooch (though by and large, when it comes to aquamarine brooches, she usually goes for the Aquamarine Clips.)
Pieces of the parure worn without the full set: the earrings and necklace without pendant, the brooch
Now, you know I love Lilibet, but the pieces she has commissioned during her reign...hmm. The Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara stands with the Burmese Ruby Tiara on my list of least enjoyable tiaras. I don't think those added scroll ornaments are the best match for the rest of the parure from Brazil or for what the tiara had going on in the first place. No doubt it needed something between those uprights, but this would not have been my choice. And while the stones are magnificent, I think it serves as proof positive that there is such a thing as a stone too big for tiara use. Clunky: that's my final verdict.

What's your verdict? If the tiara were yours, what would you change?

Photos: Getty Images/Royal Collection/Corbis

27 March 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Russian Imperial Wedding Splendor

Our recent poll for the Big Gun spot in your ultimate tiara collection saw a few nominations and quite a bit of interest for a large diamond tiara from Russia which was once a part of the imperial family's wedding traditions. As we all know, the overwhelming extravagance of the Russian imperial court would eventually come crashing brutally down around them, but in its heyday...well, there's nothing quite like it. This is a level of bedazzlement that was spectacular for a regular soirée, and special events were really out of the park. Today we're looking at the glittering jewels that were worn by generations of top Russian brides (tsarinas and grand duchesses) starting with that tiara some of you had your eye on.
The Russian Nuptial Tiara
The tiara worn by the imperial brides is most notable for its central pink diamond, a rose-colored stone of impeccable quality which comes from the treasury of Emperor Paul I (1754-1801) and clocks in at more than 10 carats. The large diamond tiara surrounding it was made around 1800 by St. Petersburg jeweler Jacob David Duval for Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna (1779-1826, born Princess Louise of Baden), wife of Alexander I (Paul I's son). As you often read when it comes to Russian jewels, the diamonds here are all of the finest quality. They come from Brazil and India and are mounted and set in silver and gold. The pink diamond sits in the scrolled lower portion of the diadem; a row of hanging briolette diamonds dangles above, and the whole tall tiara is topped by diamond uprights. Unlike many of the imperial jewels, the tiara survived the revolution and is today in the possession of the Russian government.
Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna (1882-1957, granddaughter of Alexander II) and Prince Nicholas of Greece on their wedding day, 1902
In addition to the tiara, brides also wore the Russian Nuptial Crown. Made from diamonds which were used as trimming for clothes and in a belt by Catherine the Great (1729-1796), it measures a mere 4 inches in diameter. Petite though it is, it isn't lacking in impressive stats: there are 320 larger diamonds weighing 182 carats total and 1,200 smaller diamonds totalling 80 carats, mounted in silver and set on a crimson velvet crown. It's thought to have been made by Nichols and Plincke, probably around 1844. The brides wore it behind the Russian Nuptial Tiara, a positioning similar to Queen Frederika's use of the Hanover nuptial crown on her wedding day, or to the peeresses and princesses donning coronets behind their tiaras at a British coronation.
The Russian Nuptial Crown
The Bolsheviks sold off many of the imperial family's jewels and possessions, and many of those items can't be located today - but the Nuptial Crown is the rare exception with traceable whereabouts. It was sold by Christie's in 1927 and was acquired by Marjorie Merriweather Post, an American businesswoman. Mrs. Post was an avid collector whose fortune came from the Post cereal company started by her father, which she turned into General Foods. Her third husband was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and during their tenure in Moscow she turned her collecting eye to the spoils of the Russian revolution. She amassed what is said to be the finest collection of imperial art outside of Russia. This crown and her other treasures are in the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C, which is her former home.
The wedding necklace and earrings; Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1890-1958, granddaughter of Alexander II) dressed for her wedding to Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, 1908
To go along with the tiara and crown, the Russian brides had a heavy necklace and earrings to wear. The necklace, part of the Russian crown jewels, was a diamond rivère with diamond pear drops, each stone of quite unbelievable size. All together, the stones weighed in at 475 carats. It was sold at the time of the Revolution and has been missing in action since. The earrings, Brazilian diamonds of the finest quality mounted in gold and silver, are in the form of cherries and were commissioned by Catherine the Great. They're enormously heavy, requiring a support wire which wraps up behind and over the top of the ear - a wire which had a tendency to cut into the wearer's ears, unfortunately for these brides.
The Clasp of the Imperial Mantle
Over their gowns, the brides wore a mantle, or robe, fastened with this magnificent diamond clasp made of diamonds in varying sizes, shapes, and colors. This is no mere brooch, mind you - as you can see in the photos above, it very nearly spans the entire chest. It held the imperial mantle made of embroidered cloth of gold edged with ermine, which was also used for coronations, as well as the crimson velvet and ermine mantle you also see above.
The wedding of Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (Alexandra Feodorovna, 1872-1918) and Emperor Nicholas II, 1894
But the jewels were only the start of the splendor for a Russian bride. Descriptions of Alix of Hesse's wedding attire reveal she had lace stockings, embroidered shoes, a silver brocade and tissue gown with fur accents and a bodice decorated with diamonds. Her gown itself had a train, plus a separate court train, plus the gold imperial mantle (and she needed four pages to carry the lot of it). The gems above were accented with more jewels, including a ring her grandmother Queen Victoria gave her, plus the Order of St. Catherine. Her head also held her mother's lace wedding veil, attached with orange blossom and myrtle.

If it all sounds a bit much...well, it definitely was. It wasn't unheard of for a bride to kneel during the ceremony and find herself struggling to make it back to a vertical position. It's no wonder Nicholas recorded in his diary that Alix ended up with a bad headache. It was too much in many ways, but as a capsule of history, it's nothing less than fascinating.

Which piece is your favorite?

Photos: Diamond Fund/Hillwood Museum/Royal Collection

26 March 2013

Royal Trip Report: The Belgians in Thailand

Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde headed to Thailand last week for an extensive six day economic trip. What we saw was pretty much classic Mathilde - when isn't it classic Mathilde? - as she expanded on her staple of a printed top + solid color trousers, but there's some loveliness here worth a chat.

You can't help but think she fits right in, in a temple where everyone wears her favorite citrus color.

Day 2
She brought out the blueish purple Armani she wore to Albert and Charlene's wedding, which is much improved without a hat bolted into her forehead and works really well for an official dinner.

Sometimes Mathilde surprises. A leopard print top might not sound right, but yet this is a great outfit for her.

I'm not entirely sold on her next dinner outfit, but she does win points for intricacy.

And  finally, a few others - this is not all-inclusive - including a meeting with the King of Thailand (far right). I'm going to have to go against her beloved orange and say my favorite is the pink flowered outfit.

What was your favorite outfit from this trip?

Photos: Stella Pictures/Belga/LaSoir/PhotoNews/Getty Images

25 March 2013

Weekly Royal Fashion Awards: March 17-23

Best in Color
Princess Letizia
Mary attending the launch of Kofi Annan's memoirs; Victoria attending a children's rights seminar; Máxima meeting the President of Liberia and in Rome as part of her U.N. role; Letizia at a reception at the Spanish Embassy while in Vatican City for the papal inauguration and attending a dinner for the IOC Evaluation Commission
Apart from the Pope's inaugural mass, it was a pretty low key week for many of our leading ladies. Lots of dark colors (for Victoria, because they're still in mourning for Princess Lilian), which makes Máxima's electric blue and Letizia's vibrant green pop. Letizia wins it because she didn't attempt to go the full Kermit, like you know Máx would have done.

Best in Coats
The Duchess of Cambridge
Visiting the offices of Child Bereavement UK; at Baker Street Underground station with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh; visiting a scout camp
The middle number is from Malene Birger, and where there's Birger, you know there will be a Danish princess: sure enough, Crown Princess Mary has worn this one in the past. Who wore it best? (Me, I think it works really well with that hat, so I'll give it to Kate. Also, I just really like her in teal-ish colors flying solo with HM and the DoE, apparently.) (Also also, you can see my report on the Queen at that event over at the Jewel Vault per usual.)

Most Tenacious Shoe Selections
Crown Princess Mette-Marit
At the FIS World Cup Nordic Holmenkollen 2013; visiting the Scandic Vulkan Hotel; visiting an elementary school
Oh, she's trying to make me like SHOOTIES, isn't she. Well, I will not be swayed! Unless she wants to come over here and bake me cupcakes, in which case I will sway, no problem.

And an Honorable Mention to...
Princess Caroline, Brand New Grandma
Attending the annual Rose Ball. Left to right: Charlotte Casiraghi, Pierre Casiraghi, Princess Caroline, Princess Charlene, Prince Albert
Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo welcomed a baby son last Thursday! Princess Caroline told a journalist at the Rose Ball that the baby's name is Sacha. The glowing new grandmother was my pick for best dressed at the ball, since Charlotte wore those shoes and Charlene got me all excited that she might be wearing some interesting jewelry for a change, only to find that it was merely beading on her Ralph Lauren gown. Beading she mostly covered up with her jacket, no less.

Who did you like last week?

P.S.: Stay tuned tomorrow for Mathilde, who was on a trip last week.

Photos: BestImage/IBL/RVD/ANP/CasaReal/Getty Images/PA/PacificCoastNews

22 March 2013

Random Royal Appreciation: The Pope's Inaugural Mass

Unless you've been living under a happy little rock, you probably know that there's a new pope out there: Pope Francis was elected on March 13th, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. His inaugural mass on Tuesday was witnessed by a handful of royal representatives, and that's where we come in.

Whenever royals are involved, the full intricacies of Vatican dress code protocol come to light. Generally speaking, when meeting the Pope ladies are requested to dress modestly in black and cover their heads (often with a veil or mantilla); protocol allows a select group of women to dress in white, which is called privilège du blanc, and we'll get to that in a bit. A visit to the Pope used to see some seriously formal outfits (long black gowns and veils often worn with tiaras and orders for royal ladies, and full uniforms or white tie with orders for the royal men), but as with many dress codes, things have gotten less formal. These days you see an increasing number of suits or day dresses. And if it's not even black, well, fine.

Because this is, at the end of the day, etiquette and not law. It is inherently open to interpretation, and can change at any time. It's also open for confusion. (I have a personal theory on all issues of protocol, by the way: just when you think you've got the "rules" down, you will find an example to contradict you. Therefore, by the transitive property of meh, you shouldn't worry about it too much.)

Anyway, usually these dress code issues are sorted out by a note on the invitation - except there were no invitations handed out for Tuesday's inaugural papal mass (those that wanted to come were welcome, said the Vatican). So there was no specific official dress code to abide by or to break, and what we ended up with was kind of a review of the changing Vatican dress code over time. A Vatican Variety Pack, if you will.

Left: the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg with Prince Félix behind them. Right: the King and Queen of the Belgians
Right away we can see a less formal dress code in action, as the men are wearing business suits. (Henri wore a uniform to Pope Benedict's installation.) Of course, one of the things that has been highlighted over and over again about the new pope is his own simple lifestyle and so on, so perhaps this is a nod to simpler desires. Queen Paola wore a less formal day dress, but Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wore a more formal full-length outfit. And on both, we can see privilège du blanc in action - they were the only two royal women in white at this mass.
The Prince and Princess of Asturias
If Queen Sofia had been present, we might have had a third, as she is also afforded the privilège du blanc. Letizia will not have the privilege until she's queen, so she wore black. (She and Felipe were considerably less formal than the last time they visited the Vatican, in 2004.) The privilege of wearing white has for the past many years been limited to the Queens of Belgium and Spain and the Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg among our currently reigning monarchies (it also applies to some in non-reigning monarchies). It was understood to be a special distinction that did not extend to every Catholic monarchy.
Left to Right: the Hereditary Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein, the Prince and Princess of Monaco. Behind them, Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein (née of Luxembourg, in the sunglasses) and her husband Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein (in white tie; he is Liechtenstein's non-resident ambassador to the Holy See)
The principalities (Monaco, Liechtenstein) were among those whose Catholic sovereign consorts traditionally wore black to the Vatican. And then in January of this year, Charlene showed up in white, and the Vatican press office backed her up, stating that she was allowed to dress in white in line with the ceremonial for Catholic sovereigns. I had hoped that the Princess of Liechtenstein would be in attendance at the inaugural mass to see if she too now has privilège du blanc, but the Hereditary Prince and Princess were there instead (and she, of course, was in black). Charlene was in black too, which caused even more confusion. Of course, those with the privilège du blanc can wear black if they like (Luxarazzi has a nice post on this too, showing Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte opting to wear black), but it is a little odd that she would opt out of the privilege for such an important event.
The Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
Prince Albert wore a morning suit, splitting the difference between the formal and relatively informal dress for men we saw, but the Dutch went all out. They were the most formally dressed royals, really: white tie for Willem-Alexander and a long dress for Máxima (who is Argentinian just like the new pope). Máxima herself is Catholic, but the Dutch monarchy is Protestant, meaning she'll never be the consort of a Catholic sovereign. So we shouldn't expect her to obtain privilège du blanc in the future...unless protocol changes again.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester
And finally, the Gloucesters represented the Queen. They split the difference too, with a morning coat for him and a day dress for her, but adding in some medals and orders (the Royal Victorian Order, the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and a rare daywear sighting of the Royal Family Order for the Duchess).

Do you see what I mean? So many things going on, it's barely worth trying to figure it out. (Some of you are tut-tutting me right now, insistent that things are concrete, and there are hard rules. And that's the way chats about protocol go!) Whatever the "rules" may be, I always do appreciate an opportunity to see a dress code that's a little out of the ordinary - especially when it involves inherently elegant mantillas.

P.S.: Some of you have requested a chat about the Our Queen documentary, and you can head over to the Jewel Vault for that!

P.P.S.: Those of you having difficulty seeing embedded videos on mobile devices and other platforms, let me know if you can see today's video. If not, the caption is a link to take you to the video site.

Photos: Getty Images/Reuters

21 March 2013

Tiara Thursday: The Württemberg Ornate Pearl Tiara

The Württemberg Ornate Pearl Tiara
One of the most impressive tiaras in the Dutch collection is known by a few different names. Many call it the Württemberg Tiara, as an oft-repeated story of its provenance states that it was one of the wedding gifts given to Princess Sophie of Württemberg when she married the future King Willem III of the Netherlands in 1839. It was thought to have been the product of German jewelers, namely A.H. Kuhn with possible later modifications by Schürmann. But a photograph of the tiara was found in the archives of Dutch jeweler Royal Begeer (and was published in Vorsten magazine), indicating that it was made in 1897 for Queen Wilhelmina and was Dutch-made. Though this may dash the Württemberg connection, I have chosen to leave it in our title here simply because so many know the tiara by that name.
Queen Wilhelmina (left and center), and Queen Juliana (right)
The tiara features an intricate design of diamonds studded with round pearls and topped by detachable drop pearls. Queen Wilhelmina wore the tiara and it has been passed down from queen to queen and/or future queen ever since. Wilhelmina's daughter Juliana wore the tiara but it was not one of her signature pieces; instead, her daughter Beatrix has made it one of her well-known pieces, and it is one of the larger tiaras she wears.
Queen Beatrix, at far left with the full version of the tiara and the rest without any of the top pearls
Beatrix has chosen to take advantage of the flexibility of the piece. In its full format, it includes 11 drop pearls standing upright in two levels at the top of the tiara, but different versions are created by using only some of those pearls (you could wear the top row or bottom row alone, or some combination thereof) or by omitting the top pearls entirely. She almost exclusively wears the tiara without any of the pearl toppers, though there are a few exceptions; two of those are her wedding day and during a glittering state visit to the United Kingdom in 1982, both of which featured the full, impressively tall tiara. Her use of the full tiara in Britain echoed her mother, who wore it during a state visit there in 1950 (pictured above).
Video: State Visit, 1982
The tiara belongs to the family foundation, but Beatrix has reserved this one for herself during her reign. With the abdication on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what happens next and when we might see it on Queen Máxima. I've always loved this tiara - it was in the running to make my personal ultimate tiara collection - but felt it can look a little spindly when in its tallest version(except on Beatrix's wedding day, when it was perfection backed by that veil). I look forward to seeing what Máxima and her jewel creativity can do about that, and would love to see the different versions come out to play once again.

What say you: too big, or just right?

UPDATE: Beatrix added the top row of pearls back for her last tiara event as Queen Beatrix, the dinner before she abdicated.

Photos: Gahetna/Getty Images/ANP/Life/Scanpix

20 March 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Queen Beatrix's Gown

HRH Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Claus von Amsberg
March 10, 1966
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Princess Beatrix - the oldest of the four daughters of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, and the future Queen of the Netherlands - fell in love with a diplomat with an aristocratic background, which might normally be a recipe for a perfect future prince consort. But Beatrix had a problem: her love, Claus von Amsberg, was German. So was her father, but now the Dutch were living in a post-World War II world. And for many of her countrymen, welcoming a former member of the Hitler Youth (which he was required to join) and the Wehrmacht (he was drafted in, and never participated in active combat) into the royal family just two decades after Nazi occupation was a lot to ask.
The carriage procession with smoke bomb in the background
Beatrix and Claus (with the help of Prince Bernhard) won acceptance from Queen Juliana and won the required permissions from the Dutch government. Their wedding was cheered by many, but the day was also marked by protests including a smoke bomb thrown at the carriage procession. Beatrix herself noted that it was not a fairytale affair - but judging only by the happiness you see in the photos of the bride and groom, you'd never know.
The wedding gown was made by Caroline Bergé-Farwick of Maison Linette, a couturier to the Dutch royal family (and designer of Princess Margriet's gown), but the design ideas came from the bride. The outcome was a high neckline gown with three-quarter sleeves and a slim skirt underneath the train, which begins as a split skirt from the waist and extends back. The dress features a subtle pattern mimicking the swirled design of her tiara, made by creating a velvet effect on the satin. The pattern runs on the lower skirt as well as down the sides of the split top skirt and onto the train.
The tiara made the look in more ways than the dress pattern. She wore the family's large diamond and pearl tiara, often called the Württemberg Tiara (more on that tomorrow, of course), in its most impressive form. It was backed by her waist-length voluminous tulle veil. She also wore a family heirloom pearl and diamond leaf brooch with a pearl pendant.
This gown is certainly a 1960s gown, sharing many of the simple characteristics we've seen time and again in other wedding dresses from this era. But I've always felt this one has something more, a distinctly regal feel that sets it apart. From the historic (and humongous) tiara to the brooch placement to the long gloves she wore throughout the day, this dress is most certainly the dress of a future queen.
Video: The wedding day
I think the dress was a winner, and in the end, her groom turned out to be a winner too. Claus won over the Dutch public, eventually topping polls as the most popular member of the royal family, and his death in 2002 was genuinely mourned. Beatrix and Claus had three sons, Willem-Alexander, Friso, and Constantijn. Beatrix will end a reign that began in 1980 on April 30, 2013, when she abdicates in favor of Willem-Alexander.

What do you think of this dress: regal, or not quite?

Photos: ANP/Corbis/Gahetna

19 March 2013

Weekly Royal Fashion Awards: March 10-16

Best in Additions
The Duke of Cambridge
Video: Presenting shamrocks to the Irish Guards for St. Patrick's Day
The Duchess is very glow-y and happy and hair-up-y and that's all good. But I'm digging Cambridge #2 this week and I have my reasons. First, he has a new addition to his uniformed fanciness - he was just made an Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, and has the gold braid at his shoulder to prove it. And second, glasses (at the Cheltenham Festival).

Best in Purses
Princess Letizia
Attending the Discapnet Awards; at a concert organized by the Prince of Girona Foundation
I like her sparkly clutch. Yes, I'm reaching.

Best in Shoes
Princess Máxima
Attending a meeting; opening an art event (with and without coat); participating in NL Doet volunteering day
Uh...I honestly think the bowling shoes are an improvement over some of her other clunkers.

Best in Effort
Crown Princess Victoria
At the farewell ceremony for the President of Turkey; the return concert hosted by the Turkish president
Again, Victoria's tried a little hair ornamentation...not sure I'm a fan, but A for effort given the circumstances. (We won't be covering Lilian's funeral now, either. Too sad.)

Who did you like last week?

Pssst: Look for a post on the Pope's inaugural mass later in the week!

Photos: Getty Images/SCP/ANP/Parool/All Over Press

18 March 2013

Royal Trip Report: All Kinds of People, All Over the Place

Royal trips a-go-go! Seems like everybody's traveling everywhere lately, and I love it. Trip wardrobes are the best, even when they're a little on the low key side. So let's check in with some of our royal wanderers, shall we?
Frederik and Mary in Chile, days 1-3
First up: Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary went on an official visit to Chile. This was actually supposed to be a state visit made by Queen Margrethe, but on doctor's advice she cancelled and the crown princely couple stepped up. And as you might expect for a substitute visit, this is mainly a trip of repeats. Actually, I think the new item getting the most attention here seems to be Fred's new hairdo...and you thought the royal men didn't get enough frivolous attention.
Days 4 & 5
I think my favorite outfit might be the new dress shown above on the far left, from Elise Gug, blergh and all. And I will be forever grateful that she stopped short of a full jumpsuit with that print on the far right above. We've been there, and it wasn't pretty.

Elsewhere, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene made an official visit to Palau.
Video: in Palau
Seems to have been a pretty short and casual island-appropriate trip, as you might expect.

The Windsors are out and about too, starting with the Earl and Countess of Wessex in the Czech Republic to present Duke of Edinburgh Award certificates as well as other engagements.
These were my two favorite Sophie outfits from the trip: Sophie does McQueen, and more Roland Mouret. I'm not entirely sold on the head-to-toe cream, but the continual Benjamin Button-esque evolution of Sophie's style gets two thumbs up from me. And I think we always need more Roland Mouret.

Speaking of things we need more of, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall started a trip to the Middle East in Jordan with a visit to King Abdullah and Queen Rania, wearing Antonio Berardi. We could use more Berardi on the royal scene, I say. Good match for Kate or Beatrice maybe (or, hey, Sophie while we're at it).
Video: Charles and Camilla's official welcome in Jordan
They're on a multi-country tour which also includes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. And it's been your basic Charles and Camilla show, you know, no real surprises or outliers in the fashion realm as far as I'm concerned. I will say this: the Qatar leg was disappointingly low on sightings of my girl crush, Sheikha Mozah - only one meeting with Charles, I think. And I will also say this: I can't wait for the release of this year's royal gift list. Will Cams pick up another ruby breastplate? The suspense is killing me.

Which trip outfit is your favorite?

Photos: Kongehuset/Abaca/Marfa/CTK/Getty Images

15 March 2013

Flashback Friday: A Few More Engagement Rings

Today we have the last entry in our mini-series on royal engagement rings! This is just a random handful of rings, really. We haven't covered every ring, obviously, but I think we've hit most of the ones that we can get good looks at.

Clotilde, Princess of Venice and Piedmont
Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy gave his French actress fiancée a ring designed by his friend Fawaz Gruosi of Maison de Grisogono. It includes a central ruby with 14 white diamonds, all in heart shapes.

Queen Soraya of Iran
The young second wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran received a massive 22.37 carat diamond when she married - it's a lot like a super-sized version of Princess Grace's ring. They divorced and she took the title of princess instead of queen; when she died, the ring was included in the auction of her possessions.

Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
Perhaps the most petite ring in this series is the one Alexander Johannsmann gave Princess Nathalie. But one expects that with Nathalie's lifestyle - she competes in dressage and breeds horses - it was a perfect fit.

Victoria, Countess Spencer
A bit on the fringe of what we normally cover here, but this is an interesting one: Earl Spencer gave this dual ruby and diamond ring topped with a crown to his first wife, Victoria Lockwood. Queen Victoria received a similar one as a wedding present from her half-sister.

Sophie, Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein
Prince Alois gave his bride a classic e-ring, easily mistaken for others we've seen here: a single sapphire with a diamond on either side.

Empress Joséphine of France
And finally, the oldest engagement ring we've featured: the one Napoléon Bonaparte reportedly offered to Joséphine in 1796. It is, like others we've seen, a "toi et moi" (you and me) ring featuring two stones - one a pear-shaped diamond, the other a pear-shaped sapphire, both set on a simple gold band. It's just come up for auction.

And that's it! Here are the previous entries:

We've seen different traditions and different ways of looking at engagement rings as we've gone through the series. Some of these ladies wear their engagement rings permanently, while a good percentage switch things up or go without. (And part of the point of this is to say: no, it often doesn't mean that anything is wrong with a marriage just because the ring is gone.) We've also seen a lot of different designs, from small to huge and basic to complicated, and now I'm curious to know:

What's your all-time favorite royal engagement ring?

Photos: Maison de Grisogono/Corbis/BilledBladet/ANP