28 January 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Greville Tiara, Revisited

Over at the Jewel Vault, I've been digging deep into the Greville bequest, the collection of jewelry left to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville: Part 1 on Mrs. Greville herself, and Part 2 on her jewels. To finish it up, I wanted to take a moment to revisit the most famous piece in that collection. We first covered the Greville Tiara back in 2011.
The Queen Mother wearing the Greville Tiara
Portrait by Richard Stone, via Wikimedia Commmons
Margaret Greville (1863-1942) was a society hostess extraordinaire, a woman with a drive to best her rivals and befriend society's elite (especially the royal family). She had a fortune to make it happen courtesy of her father, William McEwan, who made millions brewing beer. That fortune enabled her to assemble a jewelry collection worthy of the grand functions she hosted and the grand people she entertained.
The tiara made for Mrs. Greville in 1901, later dismantled to make the Greville Tiara
In 1901, she required a new tiara for the coronation of King Edward VII. He was a valued friend, and something fashionable and grand was needed for Mrs. Greville as she sat next to her best friend, Alice Keppel, the King's favorite mistress, at the coronation. She had one made by Boucheron from what were apparently her own stones, perhaps diamonds from another diadem she sent in to be disassembled - a tiara that also provided stones for the large Greville Bow Brooch. (That disassembled tiara could have been the diamond tiara her father was reported to have given her as a wedding present, or another diadem. It's unclear how many she really had.) The new tiara was a complete circlet of tall lotus flower or papyrus designs.
The Queen Mother wears the tiara as it was when she inherited it, together with the five strands of the Greville Festoon Necklace
Mrs. Greville constantly reworked her jewel collection, updating things to fit the newest fashions in jewelry. The height and shape of the lotus flower tiara made a perfect match for the large hairstyles of the Edwardian era, but when they went out of style, so did the diadem. Back to Boucheron it went in 1921 for another redesign, emerging in the geometric honeycomb structure that we know today. But it still wasn't in its final form.
The Queen Mother's redesign, before and after
When Mrs. Greville died in 1942, this tiara was among the jewels she bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother (1900-2002). Queen Elizabeth first wore it during a 1947 tour of South Africa. The diadem had a flat top and a kokoshnik feel when it arrived in royal hands, and after wearing it that way for a few years, she sent it to Cartier in 1953 to make her own changes. She had the top brilliants rearranged and added more diamonds, including a single marquise stone, to give it more height and more variation.
The Queen Mother in the new design and the Greville Peardrop Earrings 
The revamped tiara rapidly became one of her favorites, and was one of only two tiaras she used in her later years (the second being the Oriental Circlet). Despite the popularity of the piece, its origins were hazy for decades. In the 1980s, it was still reported as a new commission made specifically for the Queen Mother, and also often attributed wholly to Cartier. Later, the Greville origin was revealed. On this blog and elsewhere, it has also been referred to as the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara.
Video: The Greville Tiara sparkles at the 1984 Royal Variety Performance
The tiara passed to the Queen in 2002, when the Queen Mother died. It has since been loaned to the Duchess of Cornwall. She debuted it at a state banquet for the President of Brazil in 2006. (Incidentally, the Duchess of Cornwall's grandmother, Sonia Keppel, was Mrs. Greville's goddaughter.) Camilla has worn the Delhi Durbar Tiara and her family's Cubitt-Shand Tiara and has been loaned the Teck Crescent Tiara, but the Greville is by far her favorite. She wears it for nearly all her tiara appearances.
The Duchess of Cornwall wears the tiara with her Diamond Pear Drop Earrings
The Duchess of Cornwall has given me a whole new appreciation for this tiara. I never much liked it in pictures of the Queen Mother; she often wore it with the pearl and diamond necklace from Queen Alexandra's Wedding Parure, a clash of styles that always made me wrinkle my nose. But on Camilla, who sometimes pairs it with necklaces of more modern design and who suits the tiara so well overall, it has grown into a tiara I can't help but like.

And you? Are you sold on Camilla's favorite tiara?

Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Boucheron Archive, British Pathe screencap, Royal Collection, via Getty Images