Today’s glittering Fringe Tiara was a Romanov Wedding Gift that went from Russia to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Romania, and Yugoslavia, before being eventually was sold in exile.
Made for Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1874 as a Wedding gift for his only daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, when she was married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria. Composed of diamond bars divided by diamond spikes, this tiara is fashioned on the traditional Russian court diadem, the Kokoshnik.
Upon her arrival in the United Kingdom, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna flaunted her ancestry and magnificent jewels, much to the dislike of Queen Victoria and her sister-in-laws. After a period in Malta, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh were the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a German sovereign state, in 1887. As Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Maria Alexandrovna wore her Fringe Tiara for official portraits as well the Coronation of her nephew, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, in 1896, along with her stunning Bolin ruby necklace, and the Coronation of another nephew, King George V, in 1911. Upon the Duchess’s death in 1920, the Fringe Tiara was left to the youngest of her four daughters, Princess Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera.
Princess Beatrice, known as ‘Baby-Bee’, had married Infante Alfonso, Duke of Galliera, a first cousin of then King Alfonso of Spain, in 1909. The Duchess of Galliera wore her mother’s Fringe Tiara at the grand Coronation of her sister, Queen Marie of Romania, in 1922 and at the Wedding of Princess Isabel Alfonsa of Bourbon-Two Sicilies in 1929, as well as an official portrait. In the 1930s, Princess Beatrice sold the Tiara, reportedly to buy a hospital and outpatient clinic during the Spanish Civil War.
Fortunately, the buyer was none other than her sister, Queen Marie of Romania, who was a widow by that point. Queen Marie wore the Fringe Tiara in two portraits by famous artist, Phillip de Lazlo, and at an Official banquet with her diamond sautoir, in 1936. After her death in 1938, the tiara was inherited by her second daughter, Queen Marie of Yugoslavia.
By 1938, Queen Marie of Yugoslavia had been a widow for four years. Living a relatively normal life in the United Kingdom, she had little occasion to wear the fringe tiara, which coupled with WWII and the subsequent exile of the Yugoslavian Royal Family meant that Queen Marie wasn’t photographed wearing the Fringe Tiara until she decided to auction the piece, along with an eagle corsage ornament, in 1960, when she wore it for promotional portraits.
Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna’s Fringe Tiara was sold for £ 10,800 on July 21, 1960 at Sotheby’s in London to art dealer Levy-Cohen, and hasn’t been publicly seen since. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
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