30 June 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Mountbatten Star Tiara

The Mountbatten family history is intertwined with that of several royal families, so naturally a tale of one of their tiaras touches the same family web. Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (1863-1950) was one of Queen Victoria's many grandchildren. She married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884; when the British royal family abandoned their German titles during World War I, they adopted the surname Mountbatten and the titles of Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven. The couple had four children: Alice, who became Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark (the Duke of Edinburgh's mother); Louise, later Queen Louise of Sweden; George, who inherited his father's Milford Haven title; and Louis, the last Viceroy of India and 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

Princess Alice of Battenberg, 1903, likely wearing her mother's original star tiara
Princess Victoria owned a fashionable set of bejeweled stars, probably the ones seen above on her daughter Alice on her wedding day. As Diana Scarisbrick details in her book Tiara, Princess Victoria took those jewels along on a trip to see her sister, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. The year was 1914, and the declaration of World War I meant that the couple had to cut their trip short in emergency fashion. Alexandra suggested that Victoria leave her jewels in Russia; after all, it would be one less thing to mind on the rushed trip home, and the gems would surely be safe in Russia in the meantime.

The Mountbatten Star Tiara
In the end, of course, nothing was safe. The Battenberg jewels were among the many treasures never to be seen again after the Russian Revolution, including countless gems from the imperial family and others, such as Queen Marie of Romania. Luckily for Victoria, her aunt Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, provided another star tiara as a replacement. That tiara was later given to Louis Mountbatten's wife, Edwina (1901-1960), who had it reset in a more modern fashion in the 1930s. The Chaumet diadem is still in the family today and includes a pavé-set diamond base with five star ornaments on top, each with pavé-set points and a central button pearl.

The current Countess Mountbatten of Burma on her wedding day, 1946
Patricia Mountbatten, daughter of Louis and Edwina and the current Countess Mountbatten of Burma, wore the star tiara to marry John Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne in 1946. (She holds her title in her own right, owing to arrangements made when Lord Mountbatten had no sons at the time of the title's creation; her marriage was one of the few where both spouses held a peerage in their own right.)

Video: Patricia Mountbatten's wedding (fast forward to 2:26 for max tiara sparkle)
Both Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were bridesmaids at Patricia's wedding. Footage of the dashing Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark taking Princess Elizabeth's coat in the days before the public knew a relationship existed has been replayed countless times in the years since.

The current Lady Brabourne, wearing the Mountbatten Star Tiara in 1996 for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden's 50th birthday celebrations
The tiara has become a bridal tiara for Countess' family. Her daughters Joanna and Amanda both wore it for their weddings, as did her daughter-in-law Penelope, the current Lady Brabourne. The most recent bride to wear the tiara was Alexandra Knatchbull, daughter of Lord and Lady Brabourne, who married last weekend.

The tiara is similar to the star version of the Dutch Pearl Button Tiara, a setting made for the 2002 wedding of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. Like the Dutch version, this star tiara shines particularly brightly as a wedding tiara. The height of the stars means it won't be overrun by a veil, and a veil provides a nice backing for a tiara with tall separate elements. The sparkle in motion would set it easily apart.

Star tiaras: yay or nay?