15 September 2016

Tiara Thursday: Queen Victoria's Strawberry Leaf Tiara

Following news of an uncertain future for one of Queen Victoria's most famous tiaras, the tale of another Prince Albert-influenced piece that drifted away:

Queen Victoria's Strawberry Leaf Tiara
Queen Victoria's Strawberry Leaf Tiara was a much-altered tiara, both during and after Queen Victoria's time. In the 1840s, Joseph Kitching (maker of Queen Victoria's Sapphire Coronet) made a ruby and diamond bandeau for the sovereign; other ruby and diamond jewelry was altered and created by Kitching and later by Garrard throughout the decade. (Royal Magazin elaborates on the pieces and alterations here.) In 1860, Garrard redid what is thought to have been Kitching's ruby and diamond bandeau.

Queen Victoria painted by Winterhalter wearing what appears to be the ruby bandeau, 1855
The revised ruby and diamond diadem featured thirteen strawberry leaf motifs interspersed with fourteen lozenge motifs, all on a ruby and diamond band. The tiara was the main piece in a parure that included a necklace, earrings, and a brooch. As with most of the jewels created for Victoria, the ruby set's design has been credited to the taste of her husband, Prince Albert.

Princess Beatrice
Queen Victoria gave this ruby parure to her daughter, Princess Beatrice, as a wedding present in 1885. Beatrice was her youngest child, and one she kept close even as she withdrew from other family members and from court life after the crushing blow of her beloved Albert's death in 1861. (She was opposed to Beatrice's marriage, actually, wanting her to remain as her companion and secretary. She consented after the couple agreed to live with her so that Beatrice could still fulfill those roles.) Victoria continued to wear mourning colors for the rest of her life, including an almost complete avoidance of colored gemstones. She only made a few exceptions, including wearing this parure at Princess Louise's wedding in 1871 and her continued use of the small sapphire coronet. The rubies were among several jewels the Queen chose to hand over to family members, while certain other pieces were named as heirlooms of the crown and thus designated to stay with the sovereign line.

The Marchioness of Carisbrooke (left) and Queen Victoria Eugenie (right)
Princess Beatrice had her mother's tiara enlarged, adding an additional gallery of strawberry leaves at the bottom. Her daughter, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, was pictured wearing the ruby tiara; Beatrice left the parure to her son, the Marquess of Carisbrooke. As Geoffrey Munn details in Tiaras: A History of Splendour, the Marchioness of Carisbrooke sent the diadem to Cartier in 1933 to have the rubies removed, leaving an all diamond tiara. That brings us to its last known configuration. However, a diamond brooch/pendant was sold at Bonhams in 2009 with auction notes stating that it was believed to have been a part of Queen Victoria's Strawberry Leaf Tiara (one of the lozenge pieces between the leaves); the owner's family had a connection to the Carisbrookes. As for the rest of the tiara? Well, it remains a question mark.

With or without rubies, which would you have?

Photos: Cartier Archives, Royal Collection Trust, DR