Romanian Greek Key Tiara

Originating from a British-German Princess who became a Romanov Grand Duchess before being sold in exile to her sister, this splendid Tiara became a wedding gift for the Greek Princess who became the Romanian Queen Mother, before being worn by another Romanian Queen in exile and finally ending up with the current Custodian of the Romanian Crown, who wears the Romanian Greek Key Tiara as symbol of the generations of powerful women who never let their dire circumstances hinder their ability to fulfil their duty!

Featuring large diamond ‘Greek Key’ motifs joined by diamond ‘batons’, the Tiara was originally set on a Kokoshnik, and worn by Grand Duchess Victoria Melita in a portrait in 1913 with her two daughters,  Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna, later the Princess of Leiningen and Grand Duchess Kira, later the Princess of Prussia. During the Russian Revolution, the Grand Duchess’ jewels were smuggled out of Russia hidden within the stuffing of her daughters’ dolls, and faced with harsh financial difficulties in exile, she decided to sell her jewels.

Luckily for Grand Duchess Victoria Melita, a buyer was close at hand, Queen Marie of Romania, her sister, who had lost her jewels in Russia during WWI. Queen Marie wrote to their mother, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna:

I spoke to Ducky about some of Aunt Miechen’s jewellery that Ducky wants to sell as these pieces represent the only fortune the family has left – thank God that the jewels of the old lady are fabulous! She was an extraordinarily greedy woman and she received, throughout her entire life, more than her share of anything. Nando gave me a generous sum of money to buy jewellery, since mine are lost forever… It is however a horrible feeling to take these treasures from a person I love more than anything in the world. But at the same time I know that I am a gift from God to her, as I am ready to pay for the pieces in full and right away without negotiating the prices. Oh, and heaven, these jewels are wonderful, as seldom one can find!”

Queen Marie bought the Vladimir Sapphire Kokoshnik for herself, the Greek Key Tiara for Princess Helen of Greece, the soon-to-be Romanian Crown Princess, and a Cartier Sapphire Sautoir for her eldest daughter, Princess Elisabeth, who was about to marry Princess Helen’s brother, King George II of Greece, all around this time exactly 100 years ago. However, Queen Marie spoke about her indignation with her cousinQueen Sophia of Greece:

Tino and Sophie have sent no wedding present to Lisabetha! Not the smallest tiniest little item of anything! – nothing! I confess to feeling indignant! Sophie has all her jewels, while I lost all mine and yet we made tremendous efforts to send her daughter a beautiful diadem! Oh!—if only I had my jewels, with what delight I would have given one of my diadems to Lisabetha! Now I have given a diadem to my daughter in law, while my own daughter has none!”

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After wearing it at her Wedding in Athens in 1921, Crown Princess Helen wore the Greek Key Tiara for a plethora of royal occasions and portraits though the 1920s, notably the Coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania in 1922 and the Wedding of her cousin, Prince Philipp of Hesse, and Princess Mafalda of Savoy in 1925, before she and Crown Prince Carol got divorced and gave up his rights to the throne, making their son succeed to the throne as King Michael of Romania in 1927. The now Queen Mother Helen wore the Greek Key Tiara for official portraits with King Michael in the late 1920s, though after her former husband’s return to Romania, she was exiled from Romania, settling in Tuscany. Queen Helen retained the Tiara and wore it at a Gala Performance at the Florence Opera House in 1939 and the Wedding Gala of her sister Princess Irene to Prince Aimone, Duke of Spoleto in 1939. After King Carol’s exile in 1940, she went back to Romania, wearing the Greek Key Tiara for portraits and events, also wearing it at the Wedding Ball of her cousin, Prince Phillip of Greece, to Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth in London 1947, just a few weeks before the Romanian Monarchy was abolished and King Michael, with Queen Helen, went into exile.

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In 1947, just a few months into exile, Queen Helen loaned the Tiara to Princess Anne of Bourbon Parma, along with Queen Marie’s Diamond Sautoir, when she married King Michael at the Royal Palace of Athens. Queen Anne borrowed the Tara again Wedding Ball of King Baudouin and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón at the Royal Palace of Brussles in 1960.

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The sister of King Alexander, King George II, and King Paul of Greece, Queen Helen was a frequent guest in Athens during her years in exile, and wore the Greek Key Tiara, usually with her Russian Sapphire Brooch or her Fleur-de-Lys Brooch, for King Paul’s 60th Birthday Banquet in 1961, the Wedding Ball of her niece, Princess Sophia, to the future King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1962, the Greek Monarchy Centenary Gala in 1963, and the Wedding Ball of King Constantine of Greece and Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark in 1964. Queen Helen retained the Greek Key Tiara until her death in 1982, when it was inherited by King Michael and Queen Anne.

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Queen Anne was not pictured wearing the Greek Key Tiara in later years, but loaned it to her daughter, Princess Marie, for her wedding to Casimir Mystkowski in 1995. The following year, the Tiara was form by her elder daughter, Crown Princess Margareta, for the King of Sweden’s 50th Birthday. By the 1990s, the Royal Family were allowed to reenter Romania and were returned the ownership of some of their former properties in 1997.

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At some point in the 1990s, Queen Anne passed the Greek Key Tiara to her eldest daughter, Crown Princess Margareta, who has worn the Tiara regularly at foreign royal events, as well as official portraits and gala occasions at home in Romania, including the Wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in 2010, the Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2011, the Wedding Gala of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume in 2012King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 70th Birthday Banquet in 2016, and the Wedding Ball of Crown Prince Leka of Albania in 2016. Since King Michael’s death, Her Majesty Margareta, Custodian of the Crown of Romania has had a semi-official role in Romania, undertakes public duties for and with the Romanian Republic, residing in the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest. There is no doubt we will continue to see the Greek Key Tiara worn for years to come!

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