Your Tiara Treat: The Romantic Backstory to Princess Victoria’s Laurel Wreath Tiara
Princess Madeleine may have made a splash with her aquamarine tiara recently, but her sister knows how to own the tiara spotlight too!
In honor of her father’s recent 70th birthday celebrations, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria wore a headpiece with special meaning.
King Carl XVI Gustaf would have recalled the distinctive laurel wreath headpiece being worn when he was a child by his beautiful and glamorous aunt, Princess Lilian.
The sparkling topper’s significance pre-dates Princess Lilian’s 1976 marriage to the king’s uncle Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland. Before we discover its romantic backstory, let’s take a closer look at this stunning piece.
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The French jeweler Boucheron created the tiara, setting its diamonds in silver and gold before it first appeared early in the 20th century. It’s thought to be one of two: in 2010 the auction house Christie’s sold for $83,170 a very similar (although perhaps not absolutely identical) item.
Frederic Boucheron, who also made jewelry for the British royal family, was one of the more imaginative and creative designers of the Art Nouveau period. Unlike his great rival Lalique, Boucheron focused on gem-set pieces (joaillerie) rather than mere bijouterie, which then harnessed more decorative materials such as glass, enamel or animal horn.
Like others in the Bernadotte Royal Family collection, Crown Princess Victoria’s headpiece can be worn either as a necklace (with a diamond pendant) or as a tiara, here featuring a striking center-set jewel. The surrounding design is a classically inspired laurel wreath, a motif fashionable among aristocrats at this time, reflecting the age’s interest in the newly revived Olympic Games.
But this is not an easy piece of jewelry to wear: the diadem’s unusual vertical height and its design, which eye-catchingly utilizes open space around its central diamond, mean that the wearer must be totally confident that her hair, along with every other visible supporting detail, are absolutely right.
Originally, in 1905, the tiara began its public life as a wedding gift from her Swedish paternal grandmother for Princess Margaret of Connaught. Following her untimely death in 1920, her son Prince Bertil inherited the jeweled headpiece and presented it to the love of his life, the glamorous Welsh model Lilian Craig.
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But because of his elder brother’s sudden demise in a 1947 airplane crash, contemporary custom dictated that Prince Bertil could not marry Lilian, a divorced commoner, in case he had to serve as regent for the then-infant Carl XVI Gustaf. His role was vital for the dynasty, and Lilian accepted her lot hidden from public gaze with good grace.
For their part, King Carl XVI Gustaf and the Swedish royal family were glad of Bertil and Lilian’s private guidance and public support as they grew into their roles and raised their young family: Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip.
Lilian’s wearing of this tiara even before legal changes allowed her and Prince Bertil to marry in 1976 signaled to the Swedish public that the ruling Bernadotte line absolutely accepted Princess Lilian as one of their own.
And Princess Lilian reciprocated the royal family’s embrace by leaving the tiara in her will to Crown Princess Victoria, who wore it in 2013 to her younger sister Princess Madeleine’s wedding.
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It may be hard to picture now, but perhaps one day the head it adorns will be that of the next-in-line to the Swedish throne—the nation’s most adorable four-year-old royal, Princess Estelle.