The magnificent Royal Heirloom that was a sentimental gift to a German Empress, before being given as a wedding present to her Hanoverian daughter, who gave it as a wedding present to her Greek daughter-in-law, and despite being sold, it remains in royal possession, being owned by the former wife of the pretender to the Austrian throne, the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara certainly has a distinguished royal history.
A graduated bandeau of diamond laurel leaves set with 13 cabochon emeralds, the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara was made in 1905, as a Silver Anniversary present from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to his consort, Empress Augusta Victoria, who wore the piece as a tight cluster nestled in her massive hairdo.
In 1913, the Empress gave the Tiara as a wedding gift to her only daughter, Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia when she married Prince Ernst August of Hanover, the Duke of Brunswick, one of a series of wedding gifts which included the Brunswick Tiara from the people of Brunswick, the Prussian Diamond Tiara from her parents, the Kaiser and Empress Augusta, and a Diamond Necklace/Tiara from the groom. Princess Viktoria Luise, when Duchess of Brunswick, wore the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara in the bandeau style in a 1920s portrait with her youngest son, Prince Welf Henreich.
In 1946, Princess Sophie of Greece and Hesse, the widow of Prince Christoph of Hesse, married Prince George William of Hanover, the second son of Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia. Princess Sophie frequently wore the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara for royal events through the 40s, 50s, and 60s. A Greek Princess who was also the sister-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Frederica of Greece, Princess Sophie wore the Tiara at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and the Wedding Ball of her brother-in-law, Prince Ernest Augustus, and Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg in 1951.
She also wore the Tiara during King Paul and Queen Frederica’s Visit to Germany, King Paul’s 60th Birthday Banquet at the Royal Palace of Athens in 1961, the Wedding Ball of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962, the Wedding Ball of King Constantine II of Greece and Princess Anne Marie of Denmark in Athens in 1964, and the Queen’s State Visit to Germany in 1965. However, in 1974, Prince George William and Princess Sophie had to sell the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara at Auction, and went into a private collection.
However, the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara appeared at Auction again in the 1990s, when it was bought by Baron von Thyssen-Bornemisza for his daughter, Baroness Francesca, who was married to Archduke Karl von Habsburg, pretender to the Austrian throne. Archduchess Francesca wore the Emerald Laurel Wreath Tiara at the Wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 2004. She also wore it as necklace to the 2008 Philharmoniker Ball in Vienna, where she allowed her friend, philanthropist Gery Keszler, to try on the piece. The Tiara is still owned by Baroness Francesca, who has just announced her divorce the Archduke