Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara

This brilliant diamond Tiara has adorned the heads of several glamorous ladies with tragic endings. Designed by the consort of Queen Victoria, the piece grazed the heads of the Grand Duchesses of Hesse, descendants of his daughter Alice. Throughout the years, the Grand Duchesses had unhappy marriages and tragic deaths.

Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara | Hesse Star Tiara | Hesse Turquoise and Moonstone Tiara | Hesse Medieval Emerald Tiara

In 1861, Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, designed a  Tiara “composed of a rich bandeau, with foliage, strawberry leaves, spires, etc., from Messrs. Garrard” for the upcoming wedding of their second daughter, Princess Alice, to the future Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Sadly, Prince Albert died a few months before the wedding, but the Tiara was gifted to Princess Alice by her grieving mother, Queen Victoria, and after a rather macabre ceremony at Osbourne House, the couple set off for Darmstadt, with her new Strawberry Leaf Tiara.

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As Prince Louis was the nephew of the reigning Grand Duke and only second-in-line to the Grand Duchy, the couple frequently travelled between Germany and the United Kingdom, where Princess Alice wore the Tiara at a plethora of events, including the Wedding of her brother, the Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, a Drawing Room at St James’ Palace in 1867, and a plethora of Official Portraits, especially after becoming the Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine in 1877. Princess Alice tragically passed away the following year, after nursing her family from diphtheria and the death of her youngest daughter. Her surviving children included the last Grand Duke of Hesse and by RhineVictoria, Marchioness of Milford HavenTsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, making her the grandmother of Princess Alice of GreeceQueen Louise of Sweden, and Lord Mountbatten, and great-grandmother of the Duke of Edinburgh.

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The Strawberry Leaf Tiara became a family heirloom and was next worn by Princess Alice’s niece, Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who had married Grand Duke Ernest, Princess Alice’s only son. The Grand Duchess wore the Tiara for the Coronation of her cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and sister-in-law, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, in 1896, the Silver Anniversary of her parents in 1899, and a series of portraits with her only daughter, Princess Elisabeth, right before the couple divorced, soon after the death of Queen Victoria, who had orchestrated the match. Princess Elisabeth died tragically of typhoid in 1903, and a few years later Princess Victoria Melita married another first cousin, Grand Duke Kyril of Russia, with the couple just having returned from banishment at the start of the First World War, when the Russian Revolution caused them to lose everything, though the Grand Duke became the Head of the House of Romanov and the Emperor in exile.

Grand Duke Ernest remarried to Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich in 1905, and the new Grand Duchess wore the Strawberry Leaf Tiara for a variety of portraits. It was retained after the end of the monarchy in 1918, and couple, along with their two sons, Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus and Prince Louis continued to reside at the magnificent Schloss Wolfsgarten, where Grand Duke Ernest passed away in 1937.

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A few months earlier, Grand Duchess Eleonore had loaned the Strawberry Leaf Tiara to her daughter-in-law, Hereditary Grand Duchess Cecilie, born a Princess of Greece and a sister of the eventual Duke of Edinburgh, for the Coronation of King George VI in London, when it was also worn at a Concert and a series of portraits. Just a few weeks after inheriting the Tiara, it packed up to be taken back to London, this time for the wedding of Prince Louis to Margaret Geddes. However, the Grand Duchess was heavily pregnant and apparently went into labour during the flight, leading the plane to crash into a factory chimney while trying to land in dense fog in Belgium. The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, along with Grand Duchess Eleonore, their two sons, and members of their suite all died, but the Tiara and other family jewels, survived in a strongbox.

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Prince Louise became the next Head of the House of Hesse and by Rhine, taking the title of the Prince of Hesse and by Rhine, and after hastily marrying, the Prince and new Princess traveled to Belgium to reclaim the bodies, and also the Strawberry Leaf Tiara. The couple also adopted Princess Johanna, the surviving daughter of the late Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, who sadly she died two years later of meningitis. Princess Margaret was never pictured wearing the Tiara, though if she did wear it, it was probably at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, which the couple attended as special guests of the British Royal family, remaining close with them throughout their lives. The Prince and Princess had no children and at his death in 1968, he was succeeded by a relative, the Mortiz, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, uniting the Houses of Hesse. Schloss Wolfsgarten and the Strawberry Leaf Tiara also went to the new Landgrave of Hesse, after the Princess’ death in 1997. The Tiara now belongs to the “Hessische Hausstiftung”, the Foundation of the House of Hesse, which manages the family assets, including the Art, Castles, and Jewels still owned by the family. It has been exhibited in recent years, including at the famous ‘Tiaras: A History of Splendor’ exhibition in London in 2002, but has yet to be worn by the current Landgravine of Hesse.

Many people say that the Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara is cursed. It was made by Prince Albert for Princess Alice, who died of diphtheria, her niece and daughter-in-law, Princess Victoria Melita, had an unhappy marriage and lost her young daughter, while her two successors as Grand Duchess both died in that tragic plane crash. The Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara represented how fragile their gilded cage was. No matter how rich and powerful you are, fate has a way of finding you in the end!

Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara | Hesse Star Tiara | Hesse Turquoise and Moonstone Tiara | Hesse Medieval Emerald Tiara


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