Today marks the 36th death anniversary of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, who died on January 3rd 1981. The last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria, and the Vicereine of both South Africa and Canada, Princess Alice lived through the reigns of six british monarchs. In her honour, we will feature one of her lesser known tiaras, worn by the daughter-in-law of King George III, the mother of Queen Mary, and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Composed of diamond wheat ears to be worn in multiple settings, this tiara may have been a wedding gift to Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, youngest daughter-in-law of King George III, in 1818. She was seen wearing a “headdress ornamented by diamond wheat ears” at a reception at Marlborough House in 1863. Her daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide, was seen wearing a “wreath of silver wheat ears” in 1857. Princess Mary Adelaide, later the Duchess of Teck, was depicted in the diamond Ears of Wheat Tiara (and the Teck Circles Necklace) in a 1882 portrait by Hermann Schmiechen. The Duchess of Teck was the mother of Princess May, later Queen Mary, who was the grandmother of the present Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1904, the diamond Ears of Wheat Tiara was given by the Duchess of Teck to Princess Alice of Albany, granddaughter of Queen Victoria through her youngest son, when she married her son, Prince Alexander of Teck. Princess Alice wore the tiara at her Wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and at the Coronation of her cousin and sister-in-law, King George V and Queen Mary, in 1911. She also wore the Ears of Wheat Tiara at the Coronation of their son, King George VI, in 1937 and during the Belgian State Visit to the UK in 1922. After the abandonment of German titles in 1917, Prince Alexander became the Earl of Athlone, while Princess Alexander of Teck became Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, retaining her title of Princess of Great Britain and Ireland as a granddaughter of Queen Victoria in the male line. The Earl was the Governor-General of South Africa in the 1920s and 30s, and the Governor-General of Canada during WWII. As a granddaughter of a Queen, and related to many other monarchs (her cousin was Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands through her mother’s side and her brother was the reigning Grand Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha), Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone continued to attend Royal Events until her death in 1981 at Kensington Palace. She was survived by her daughter, Lady May Abel Smith.
UPDATE– Here is a picture of Princess Alice wearing the Tiara in another variation at a Gala Performance in 1950.
In 1957, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone lent the Teck Ears of Wheat Tiara to her granddaughter, Anne Abel Smith, for her wedding to David Liddell-Grainger at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. It is said to have also been worn by Marcia, wife of Richard Abel Smith. The Tiara probably belongs to one of the descendents of Lady May Abel Smith
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