Today marks the anniversary of the death of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, who died in 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. To mark the day, we are featuring one of her most important Tiaras, which was worn by the daughter-in-law of King George III, the mother of Queen Mary, and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria!
Composed of a plethora of diamond wheat ears to be worn in a variety of versatile multiple settings, this tiara was probably 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, with her Circles Necklace and Sapphire Stomacher, 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. After the Duchess of Teck’s death in 1897, the Diamond Ears of Wheat Tiara, and the Teck Sapphire Stomacher, was inherited by her younger son, Prince Alexander of Teck, while the other sons inherited the Teck Crescent Tiara and the Cambridge Emeralds.
In 1904, the Tiara was given to Princess Alice of Albany, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, when she married Prince Alexander. Princess Alice wore the Tiara at her Wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and at the Coronation of her cousin and sister-in-law, King George V and Queen Mary, in 1911. After the abandonment of German titles in 1917, Prince Alexander became the Earl of Athlone, while Princess Alexander became Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, retaining her title of Princess 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. Princess Alice also wore the Ears of Wheat Tiara for the Belgian State Visit to the Britain in 1922, at the Coronation of her nephew, King George VI, in 1937, the Coronation of the Queen in 1953, and a plethora of Royal Events throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in a variety of versatile ways (h/t to Beth from HRJ). Princess Alice was also the sister of the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and a first cousin of Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands among many others, and continued to attend Royal Events until her death in 1981 at Kensington Palace. She was survived by her daughter, Lady May Abel Smith.
In 1957, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone loaned 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, and she had also loaned the Tiara to a cousin, the Marchioness of Carisbrooke, for a Gala Performance in 1950. The Tiara belongs to the descendents of Lady May Abel Smith, and was worn by Marcia, wife of Richard Abel Smith, by Jill Nesbit when she married Ian Liddell-Grainger, and Helen Bright when she married Malcolm Liddell-Grainger (h/t to Royal Musings), as well as being exhibited a few times.