20 August 2015

Tiara Thursday: Queen Elisabeth's Cartier Bandeau Tiara

Some tiaras are made important because of a royal connection, and others have significance on their own. Today's tiara is one such piece. It was made by Cartier in 1910 and is a prime example of Louis Cartier's innovative work with platinum, which he used to set jewels in a style more invisible than ever before. It's also an example of the Cartier Garland style, his alternative to the Art Nouveau design movement. This particular piece has round old cut diamonds in a swirling garland motif and a platinum millegrain setting, with a central cushion-shaped diamond weighing 5.84 carats.
Queen Elisabeth's Cartier Bandeau Tiara

The royal connection came next, when Cartier sold the tiara in 1912 to Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians (1876-1965), the wife of King Albert I. The arts-loving consort, who was particularly popular for her front line nursing support of the troops during World War I, wore the tiara  across her forehead in the traditional bandeau style popular at the time. When she passed away, the tiara was inherited by her son, King Leopold III, and it was worn by and eventually left to his second wife, Princess Lilian (1916-2002).

Lilian was a controversial figure. She married the widowed king while he was being held as a prisoner of war at the Castle of Laeken during the Nazi occupation of Belgium in World War II. They first wed in a secret religious ceremony, intending to wait until after the war to hold a civil wedding - contrary to Belgian law, which required a civil ceremony first - but Lilian became pregnant, forcing an early civil wedding. The announcement of their nuptials was met with mixed reactions. Some questioned whether their sovereign was truly sharing the hardships of his people during wartime; others still loved his first wife, the popular Queen Astrid, who had died in a tragic car crash six years earlier; many were troubled by the fact that the religious ceremony was not valid by law. Other actions by Leopold during the war would build controversy that resulted in his abdicating in favor of his son, Baudouin, in 1951.
Click here to see a picture of her wearing this Cartier tiara.
King Leopold and Princess Lilian's relationship with King Baudouin and his wife, Queen Fabiola, was reportedly contentious. One oft-cited example involves the Castle of Laeken, the residence of the Belgian sovereign, and home to Lilian, Leopold, and their children until King Baudouin married Fabiola in 1960. They moved out while Baudouin and Fabiola were on their honeymoon, but the popular tale alleges that, unhappy with the relocation, they took the moving part a little too far and the newlyweds came home to a bunch of empty rooms. That story is much disputed, but it was easy to paint Princess Lilian as the villain.

Center detail
The gossip and the animosity toward Lilian tie right into the tiara's fate, because in 1987, Lilian sold Queen Elisabeth's Cartier Bandeau. Some claim that she sold it without bothering to inform Baudouin and Fabiola of her plans for the tiara. (Once again, allegedly is the word of the day.) She was under no obligation to do so since the tiara was her property, but that doesn't stop people from blaming her for letting a tiara leave the royal family. And leave it did, returning to the firm of Cartier, who reacquired it as an important part of the firm's history. We no longer get to see it in royal use, but Cartier has proudly displayed it as part of several exhibits.

Controversy aside, who would you like to see wear this tiara? 
(In addition to yourself if applicable, obviously.)

Photos: Wikimedia Commons/Cartier