For today, I thought I’d share a few royalty-related articles. For me, it’s always fun to talk about royal history. If you feel the same, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.
What remains of France’s aristocracy? – This short video by France 24 is super interesting and fun. It’s about France’s former aristocracy and their grand homes. There is also a tour of an aristocratic chateau and the France 24 journalist meets with an aristocratic family to talk about what it’s like to maintain a chateau.
Ten questions to ask about tiaras. – If you are ever in need of purchasing a tiara (how I wish this was a real problem for me), then read this insightful article by Christie’s.
Germany’s ex-royal family win legal case against historian. – Truly, I’m not sure how I feel about this case. The courts have sided with the Hohenzollern Family in their lawsuit against a historian. Perhaps I do not fully grasp the legal issue at play, but I’m worried that this ruling may lead to future historians and journalists being censored. What do you think?
A royal engagement. – Grand Duke George of Russia is engaged to be married. If you are interested to learn about his imperial Romanov lineage, read my post about it here.
Current royal read. – I’m currently reading Chère Annette: Letters from Russia 1820-1828. It’s a compilation of letters written by Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia to her daughter, Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna. She married the Prince of Orange and moved to the Netherlands. It’s a charming compilation of letters because it’s evident how much the Empress loved her daughter. Are you reading a royal history book?
Next month Sotheby’s is auctioning incredible jewelry from the collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1924-2017). With an illustrious name like Mountbatten, we can’t just delve right into the jewels. Let’s dig into the family genealogy first, shall we?
The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma was born Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten in 1924. She was the eldest daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979) and his wife, the equally illustrious, Edwina Ashley (1900-1960). If the Mountbatten name seems familiar to you, it’s because Patricia’s father was Britain’s last Viceroy of India, the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was killed by the IRA in 1979. After her father’s assassination, Patricia inherited his peerage in her own right making her the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
Patricia was a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, through her father. The Earl of Mountbatten’s parents were Prince Louis of Battenberg (Mountbatten is the anglicized version of Battenberg and was changed in response to anti-German sentiments) and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.
Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine was a grandchild of Queen Victoria through her mother, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. Louis Mountbatten’s sister was Princess Alice, later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This made Patricia a first cousin to Prince Philip.
Patricia married John Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne (1924-2005) in 1946. They had eight children together and by all accounts were happily married for almost sixty years. After Patricia’s death, her eldest son, Norton, inherited her title becoming the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Now let’s take a look at a few items on the auction block.
On the auction block is this hardstone, enamel and diamond pendant made by goldsmith and jeweler Robert Phillips. It was probably commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1878 in memory of her daughter, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (the grandmother of Earl Mountbatten). It was a terrible shock to Queen Victoria to lose her daughter in 1878. She was Victoria’s first child to die and was only 35 years old. Alice left behind her husband and five children. (Another child died of the same illness, diphtheria, right before Alice.)
It makes sense to me that Queen Victoria commissioned an object to commemorate her second daughter. The back of the pendant has a locket which contains hair, probably Princess Alice’s. The engraved date is Alice’s death. (Sadly, Alice’s family would endure more tragedy forty years later when two of her daughters, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and Tsarina Alexandra, were killed by the Bolsheviks.) Sotheby’s estimates the pendant might fetch between £2,000 and £3,000, but my guess is a higher number.
Also on the auction block is this elegant 18th century brooch brought into the family via the Knatchbulls. The center stone is a cushion-shaped yellow diamond. Sotheby’s estimates the sale to be between £40,000 and £60,000.
This lovely gem and diamond necklace dates from the 1950s. It’s set with carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires and circular cut diamonds. It’s not by Cartier, but it’s in the style of the firm’s famous Tutti Frutti jewelry. Sotheby’s estimates the jewel to sell between £40,000 and £60,000.
Also up for auction is a pair of gem set and diamond clip brooches in the Tutti Frutti inspiration, circa 1930s. The clips match the necklace perfectly, don’t you think? Sotheby’s estimates the sale to bring in between £10,000 and £15,000.
In the portrait by François Gérard, Grand Duchess Stéphanie von Baden is wearing her emerald and diamond necklace and earrings. It’s safe to assume that her necklace and earrings were part of a larger, grander parure, which would have included the bracelets and tiara seen in the Gérard portrait.
The emerald parure was a wedding gift to Stéphanie from Napoleon and his consort Joséphine. Stéphanie’s arranged marriage to Carl von Baden took place in 1806. Therefore the parure was probably made around 1806 by the court jeweler, Nitot et Fils.
The stones are set in gold and silver. The briolette emeralds dominate the necklace but otherwise the parure is fairly streamlined and simplistic in style, as was typical of the fashion in Napoleon’s court.
It’s not clear how the jewels were passed down through the generations. Stéphanie had three daughters who survived her. Perhaps one of them inherited the parure. Or perhaps the set stayed in Baden with the successive Grand Dukes.
The Grand Duchy of Baden ceased to exist in 1918. However, sometime after Stéphanie’s death in 1860 and before World War II, the emerald parure must have been broken up because only the earrings and necklace came into the possession of new buyers, Count and Countess Tagliavia.
Later, Countess Tagliavia donated the demi-parure to the Victoria and Albert Museum where the necklace and earrings remain on permanent display. I was able to view the emeralds in person and I can confirm they are stunning.
If you follow royal news, you may have noticed a recent royal engagement. Grand Duke George of Russia, a direct descendant of Tsar Alexander II, asked his long-time girlfriend, Rebecca Virginia Bettarini, to marry him. Though Russia no longer has a monarchy, let’s take a look at Grand Duke George’s imperial lineage.
Tsar Alexander II married Maria Alexandrovna in 1841. They had eight children together. Their third son, Grand Duke Vladimir (younger brother to Alexander III) married Maria Pavlovna in 1874.
Vladimir and Maria Pavlovna’s eldest son, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia, married Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1905. They had two daughters and one son. After the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, Grand Duke Cyril, as the senior surviving male-line descendant of Alexander II, declared himself emperor-in-exile.
Their only son, Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia, married Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani in 1948. They had one child together, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia (born 1953). In 1976, she married Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia. Before they divorced in 1985, they had one son, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, born in 1981.
Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna considers herself the rightful heir to the throne, should it ever be restored. Her son, Grand Duke George considers himself the Tsarevich and heir apparent to the throne, after his mother. However, Maria Vladimirovna’s claim is disputed by other members of the Romanov Family. Though I’m not sure the dispute matters since the monarchy in Russia will probably never be restored. Either way, it’s wonderful to have a royal wedding to look forward to later this year.
After claiming the throne of France, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned the creation of a coronation crown. He referred to it as the “Crown of Charlemagne.” Perhaps, in his ambition to rule all of Europe, he envisioned himself as a modern-day Charlemagne. The medieval-style crown lacks gemstones, but is made of gold, shell cameos and carnelians. It’s topped with a small gold globe and a cross.
In 1887 the French Third Republic sold most of the crown jewels in the hopes that it would prevent a return of the monarchy. However, they kept a few items, such as Napoleon’s coronation crown, for historic purposes. Today it’s on display in the Louvre Museum.
For all the tiaras at her disposal, Queen Elizabeth II turns to the Vladimir Tiara for tiara events more often than not. It’s beautiful and suits the Queen very well. But it’s more than just a well-suited piece of jewelry. The tiara, acquired from the collection of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, has a storied past.
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, born Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was already engaged to a German prince when she met Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, second son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She promptly ended her engagement with the German prince. After several back-and-forth negotiations, such as her wish not to convert to the Russian Orthodox faith, she married Grand Duke Vladimir in 1874.
That same year, the happily married couple moved into their newly-built palace, Vladimir Palace, situated near the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. There they lived a life of splendor where they entertained lavishly and cultivated the arts. They had five children together, though only four survived to adulthood: Grand Duke Alexander (1875-1877), Grand Duke Cyril (1876-1938), Grand Duke Boris (1877-1943), Grand Duke Andrei (1879-1956) and Grand Duchess Elena (1882-1957). By all accounts, the family had a happy home life.
Perhaps understanding her prominent new role in the imperial court, her father-in-law, Tsar Alexander II, generously provided her with a magnificent emerald parure as a wedding gift. This was only the beginning of her love affair with jewelry. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna maintained a working relationship with Chaumet and Cartier, who provided her with new jewelry on a continuous basis. She often provided them with her own gemstones. She made frequent trips to Paris where she met with her jewelers. One of her favorite pieces of jewelry, which she wore frequently, was the Vladimir Tiara, a kokoshnik-shaped tiara believed to be made by court jeweler Bolin in 1874, the year of her wedding. It’s made of fifteen intertwined diamond-encrusted circles from which fifteen perfect pendant pearls hang. The Grand Duchess also had the option to wear the versatile tiara without the pearls.
Sadly, Grand Duke Vladimir died unexpectedly in 1909. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna carried on, acting as the matriarch to her now-grown children and their families. Later, she survived the Russian Revolution and was the last Romanov to escape Russia. In 1920, under the protection of the White Russian Army, she departed on a boat to Italy. Luckily, most of her jewels, including the Vladimir Tiara, were already smuggled out of Russia by a trusted British friend, the Honorable Albert Henry Stopford. After arriving in Italy, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna made her way to Switzerland before finally settling in France.
The Grand Duchess didn’t live much longer after her escape from Russia. She died in September 1920 at the age of 66. After her death, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her daughter Grand Duchess Elena. To finance their new lives in exile, her children sold most of the jewels. Grand Duchess Elena sold the Vladimir Tiara to Queen Mary in 1921.
After Queen Mary purchased the Vladimir Tiara she took it to Garrard, the court jeweler, for repairs. The tiara wasn’t necessarily in the best of shape. Garrard updated the frame to include a special mechanism that allowed the wearer to switch from pearls to a different set of gemstones, in this case, emeralds.
After Queen Mary died in 1953, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II wears the Vladimir Tiara often. She has worn it with both the emerald and pearl settings, but also without either drops. After almost 150 years it’s safe to say the Vladimir Tiara has a permanent home.
Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly
Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi
Fabergé was not the only firm creating colorful and imaginative eggs. This enameled easter egg was made in Moscow by the Firm of Khlebnikov for the Russian Imperial Family.
Khlebnikov was founded in 1865 by Ivan Khlebnikov in St. Petersburg, but later moved its headquarters to Moscow. After Khlebnikov’s death in 1888, his four sons ran the successful firm. Known for its silver and decorative arts pieces, the firm held an imperial warrant from 1879 until the Russian Revolution when it ceased to exist.
Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post, an American socialite and business woman, purchased priceless decorative arts pieces and jewelry when she joined her diplomat husband, the second US ambassador to the USSR, in Moscow. She returned home to Washington, D.C. not only with this egg, but countless other treasures such as the Russian Nuptial Crown worn by the last Russian tsarina.
The Firm of Khlebnikov was prolific and from time to time you may find the firm’s silver or other decorative arts at auctions around the world.
If you like reading about royal history, then you may enjoy listening to podcasts about royals. There are a number of excellent podcasts I subscribe to that I think you might find of interest.
The Exploress Podcast is incredibly well-researched and a fun way to learn about ancient historical women. The recreations of historical dialogue are entertaining and a must-listen. Though there are many episodes on historic noble women, some of the women featured are commoners. It’s still an entertaining resource and I highly recommend the outstanding four-part series on Cleopatra. Plus, the website has a page devoted to book recommendations. Enjoy!
Noble Blood is a podcast about the footnotes of royal men and women; the histories we don’t learn in school. It’s well-researched and told in a narrative style, as if a good friend is sitting near you and whispering a gossipy tale. The episodes are about tyrannical royals, murdered royals and tragic princesses. Very entertaining. I can’t recommend it enough.
The History Chicks is run by two very good friends who enjoy talking about historical women. They began the podcast ten years ago because they couldn’t find any podcasts devoted entirely to women. Though a good number of royals are featured, they are not the main focus of this podcast. However, it’s worth perusing their catalog since it features many episodes of interest to royal history fans. I recommend their episodes on Gilded Age Heiresses, Catherine the Great and Empress Sisi of Austria.
Last but not least, if you enjoy royal fashion, then you may enjoy listening to Dressed. The two hosts are experts in fashion and textiles and are a joy to listen to. Their well-researched episodes feature everything from the history of haute couture to Oscars fashion and feature a good amount of interviews with experts.
We’re chatting about another emerald treasure today.
Today’s emerald and diamond diadem was designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. It was made by Joseph Kitching in 1845 for £1,150. Queen Victoria was very happy with her gift and wrote in her diary about Prince Albert’s “wonderful taste.”
Later, the emerald and diamond parure was inherited by Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise. Princess Louise, daughter of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, married the Duke of Fife in 1889. Perhaps, after Queen Victoria’s death, Edward VII inherited the jewels and then passed them on to Princess Louise.
The parure is still in the ownership of the descendants of Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife and is on a long-term loan to Kensington Palace.
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn