27 February 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Cartier Indian Tiara

The Cartier Indian Tiara
An imposing tiara if there ever was one, the Cartier Indian Tiara is a design of Indian inspiration (hence the name) rendered solidly in diamonds, sapphires, and pearls. Its attribution to Cartier is likely but not definite, and it was probably made in the early 20th century. It belonged to a fascinating, if lesser known, royal figure: Princess Marie Louise (1872-1956).
Princess Marie Louise
She was born Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein; her mother was Princess Helena, daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She married the German Prince Aribert of Anhalt in 1891, but it was a disastrous match and was infamously annulled by her father-in-law in 1900 without Marie Louise's knowledge (she was conveniently out of the country at the time). She returned home to Britain on the orders of her sovereign grandmother and there she remained. When the Windsors ditched their German titles in 1917, Marie Louise dropped the "Schleswig-Holstein" and did not replace it with a substitute, being titled simply Her Highness Princess Marie Louise. To her family, though, she was affectionately known as Cousin Louie, and was reportedly quite a character. (Memorable exploits include bringing a supply of gin and tonic with her to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and subsequently hanging out of the carriage window in the rain to wave to the crowds on the way back from Westminster Abbey.)
Detail of the center element
It's not clear exactly how this large tiara came to be in Marie Louise's possession, if it was something she obtained for herself or if it was a gift, but events the tiara saw during Marie Louise's ownership include that rainy coronation in 1953. She never remarried and never had any children, and when she died, she left jewels to several different people (including the Queen and the Queen Mother). This tiara was bequeathed to her godson, Prince Richard of Gloucester. Prince Richard was the young second son of the Duke of Gloucester at the time, but he would grow up to become the Duke on his own following the unexpected and tragic death of his older brother. The tiara is now worn by the current Duchess of Gloucester, Richard's wife Birgitte.
The Duchess of Gloucester
We don't see this tiara on the Duchess very often these days, although it must be noted when she is in attendance at tiara-wearing state banquets, we don't normally get to see her. I don't know how much this tiara weighs, but considering it is this gem-packed and elaborate, I have to imagine it's not the lightest thing in the world. It's also the very definition of a statement piece, so sparing use seems only natural. (Luckily, the Gloucesters have several tiaras, so the Duchess' options are plentiful.)

What do you think: too much, or too fabulous?

Photos: Geoffrey Munn/Duke and Duchess of Gloucester/NPG/Getty Images/PA