The Dukedom of Wellington was given to the victorious hero who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, and the family, originally from Ireland, has been in the heart of British and European Society for the past two centuries, also becoming the Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo in Spain, the Prince of Waterloo in Belgium and The Netherlands, and the Duke of Victoria in Portugal. The current Duke owns Strathfield Saye House, Apsley House in London, and the La Torre estate in Granada, and this magnificent Tiara is a suitably grand heirloom for this illustrious family!
Featuring a series of elaborate scroll design, with a variety of large diamonds in a circlet that wraps around the head, the Tiara dates from at least the 1850s, and was first pictured on the Lady Elisabeth Hay, who became the 2nd Duchess of Wellington. As the famous 1st Duke was estranged from his wife, and was later a widower, his daughter-in-law was the family hostess and the Tiara was probably made for her. The Duchess was the Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria from 1861 to 1868, and again from 1874 to 1880, and notably wore the Wellington Tiara in a series of portraits and engravings, including one by Francis Holl published in 1859, as well as the Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. The 2nd Duke and Duchess had an unhappy marriage and had children, so after his death in 1884, the Dukedoms, and the Tiara, passed to his nephew, while the Dowager Duchess survived for exactly 20 more years.
The 3rd Duchess was not pictured wearing the Tiara, but Kathleen, wife of the 4th Duke of Wellington, was often pictures wearing the Wellington Tiara, most notably for a series of portraits in 1906, as well as one in Spanish dress, probably taken at the Wellington family’s Spanish estate, and in a sketch on the cover of a newspaper. The magnificent diamond necklaces, earrings, and ornaments worn by the 2nd and 4th Duchesses also still remain in the family.
None of subsequent Duchesses were depicted wearing the Wellington Tiara until Princess Antonia of Prussia wore it at her wedding to the Marquess of Douro, heir to the 8th Duke, in 1977. After becoming the Duchess, Princess Antonia wore the Tiara at a recreation of the famous Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House to mark the Bicentenary of the Waterloo, with the Duke and Duchess’ friends, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, as the guests of honour. The Duchess probably wore the Tiara for the Spanish State Banquet in 2017, though she wasn’t pictured, and most recently wore it at the 2019 State Opening of Parliament. This is not the only Tiara the Duchess has access to, but there is no doubt we will continue to see this magnificent family heirloom worn for years to come!
h/t Mallu from RJWMB!