Queen victoria emerald diamond diadem Kensington Palace Historic Royal Palaces Duke of Fife

Queen Victoria’s diamond-and-emerald diadem, which goes on display in Victoria Revealed at Kensington Palace (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

Kensington Palace is getting some blockbuster tiaras to star in their reimagined exhibition about its most famous resident, Queen Victoria. When Victoria Revealed” reopens on March 30, 2018, it will showcase not one, not two but three spectacular examples of royal gifts as well as dazzling examples of Victorian jewellery design. They form a glittering centerpiece for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that runs the unoccupied part of Kensington Palace that are open to the public.

QUEEN VICTORIA’S DIAMOND-AND-EMERALD DIADEM

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert often designed gifts for each other, often for precious moments in their too-short marriage. This extraordinary diadem is believed to be the only known example of a tiara designed by a consort for a monarch. Designed by Albert, it was created by the Queen’s jeweller, Joseph Kitching. The nearly circular headpiece is “set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats,” Historic Royal Palaces explains.

Victoria was entranced by her husband’s gift, given in 1845, writing in her journal about the ‘lovely Diadem of diamonds and emeralds designed by my beloved Albert,” who had “wonderful taste.”

The diadem was designed to complement jewellery already given to Victoria by Albert, including a necklace “formed of 9 oval emerald clusters, each set within a border of cushion-shaped diamonds, its accompanying pendant earrings and an impressive 20-carat emerald and diamond brooch,” said HRP. Together the collection is known as a parure, a matching suite of jewels. The  parure, to be displayed at Kensington Palace, was showcased in two Franz Xavier Winterhalter’s portraits, one from 1846 and another from 1859.

Queen Victoria's emerald-and-diamond necklace, brooch and earrings (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

Queen Victoria’s emerald-and-diamond necklace, brooch and earrings (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

The entire parure is on long-term lone from the estate of the 3rd Duke of Fife, great-grandson of Queen Victoria, who died in 2015.

PRINCESS LOUISE’S KOKOSHNIK TIARA

Princess Louise's diamond fringe tiara (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

Princess Louise’s diamond fringe tiara (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

One of the most famous styles of tiaras came from Russia. Called a kokoshnik, named after headdresses from the Romanov court, the tiaras are constructed of graduated rays of diamonds. The one on display at Kensington Palace was created for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise. The diamonds are pavé-set in white and yellow gold. A gift from her parents, the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, it can be worn two ways—as a tiara and as a necklace. Louise loved its simplicity and versatility, wearing it frequently at family gatherings.

It wouldn’t have been the only such Russian-style tiara there. Given her cousins were both emperor and empress of Russia, her family owned more than a few kokoshnik tiaras. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth has several versions of the Russian-style tiara, including a famous one made for the future Queen Alexandra in 1888 that is inspired by those of her sister, Dagmar, who would become Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia.

Like the emerald-and-diamond parure, this tiara is on long-term loan from the 3rd Duke of Fife, the only son of Princess Maud, and the grandson of Princess Louise, who married the 1st duke of Fife.

Princess Louise's Fife diamond tiara (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

Princess Louise’s Fife tiara (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)

FIFE TIARA

The royal tradition of giving jewels to mark important events continued for generations. Such is the case of the Fife tiara. It is one of the most spectacular Victorian tiaras ever created. Attributed to Oscar Massin, it was a wedding gift in 1887 for Princess Louise from her groom, the 1st Duke of Fife. As The Graphic described at the time, “The tiara is in a very uncommon and beautiful design, composed of hundreds of stones, ranging in weight from one carat to ten, the larger, being what are technically known as briolettes—that is cut on both sides and turning on pivots so that they will flash with every movement of the head.”

Though worn by successive generations of Fife women, it was rarely seen at glittering royal events. Then, in the Arts Council annual “Cultural Gifts Scheme & Acceptance in Lieu” report for 2017 was a tantalizing mention of the Fife tiara. As the Arts Council explained, “The tiara is of extraordinary beauty and given the huge carat weight of diamonds and the importance of the largest pear-shaped stones, it is a miracle that such a jewel has been preserved in its original form.”

“It is designed as a graduated band of scroll and leaf motifs each set at the centre with a swing-set pear-shaped diamond drop and surmounted by pear- and cushion-shaped diamond finials. The base is set with a line of cushion-shaped diamonds. The carat weight of the tiara is almost 200 in total,” the Arts Council detailed.

Valued at 1.4 million pounds (around CAD$2.5 million), it was accepted by the government in lieu of inheritance taxes from the Fife estate and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces for “retention and display at Kensington Palace in accordance with the condition attached to the offer.”

Now everyone can enjoy the tiaras of Queen Victoria and her granddaughter, Princess Louise.

Queen Victoria Revealed Historic royal Palaces Princess Louise diamond emerald tiaras parure

The Victoria Revealed display of the tiaras and parure of Queen Victoria and Princess Louise at Kensington Palace (Photo courtesy Historic Royal Palaces)