Princess Irene’s Diamond Tiara

Given as a wedding present from Queen Victoria to her eldest daughter, who eventually became Empress of Germany, in 1858, this magnificent tiara was later given to her third daughter, eventually the Queen of Greece, who left it to her second daughter, the Duchess of Aosta, and it was sold at auction after her death.

Queen Victoria gave her eldest daughter, Victoria, the Princess Royal a ‘diamond “corsage” to be worn as a necklace or head ornament’ when she married the Crown Prince of Germany in 1858. Featuring diamond spikes topped with diamonds on a base of large diamond collets, the diamonds are either Indian or Brazilian. After the wedding, the couple had to wait years before eventually Emperor and Empress of Germany, though only for three months, as Emperor Frederick died of cancer. They were succeeded by their eldest son, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who eventually started WWI.

Empress Frederick gave the Tiara as wedding gift to her third daughter, Princess Sophia, at the time of her Wedding to Crown Prince Constantine of Greece. In 1896, the Crown Princess’ personal maid, who had accompanied Princess Sophia wrote the Empress a message about the Princess’s lack of jewels at the Wedding of her cousin, Princess Maud of Wales, and Prince Charles of Denmark, after which the Empress wrote to her daughter;

Emma gave me your message that you thought you had fewer jewels than the others at the wedding. I cannot quite agree, you may have fewer diamond brooches but such a set of turquoise as you have very people possess, and also such a set of rubies, and the diamond diadem I gave you is very valuable as the stones are old. Cape diamonds may be much more effective and large and showy, but not so good and fine. Indeed I wish I had more to give you, but you must wait until I die, or am older and need no longer wear jewels, then I can give you a few more, and be pleased to see them on your dear neck.”

Queen Sophia notably wore the Tiara for a portrait with her grandson, King Michael of Romania, and on her profile on a stamp. Never a favourite like her other diamond tiara, Queen Sophia managed to retain the piece during frequent periods in exile.

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On Queen Sophie’s death in 1932, she left the Diamond Tiara to her second daughter, Princess Irene, who had earlier worn the Tiara at the Wedding of Prince Philipp of Hesse and Princess Mafalda of Savoy in 1925, and in a couple of portraits in the 1930s, around the time of the Wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece in 1934. Later, Princess Irene wore the Tiara at the Christening of the Prince of Naples in 1937, and the Wedding Gala of Crown Prince Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover, 1938.

Princess Irene famously wore the Diamond it at her 1939 wedding to Prince Aimone, Duke of Spoleto, a cousin of the Italian King, who succeeded his brother as the Duke of Aosta in 1942, and died in South America in 1947. Their son became the Duke of Aosta, and remains so to this day, despite the end of the Italian Monarchy in 1946. As a member of the Italian Royal Family, and the short-lived Queen Consort of Croatia, Princess Irene wore the Tiara at a variety of Royal Events, and while she was interned by the Nazis during the Second World War, the Tiara was wrapped in a newspaper and lay under the bed of her chauffeur in Rome.

Princess Irene, Duchess of Aosta retained her Diamond Tiara throughout frequent exiles and many trials, wearing it at the Wedding Ball of her cousin, Prince Phillip of Greece, to Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth in 1947, the Wedding Ball of Archduke Robert of Austria and Princess Margherita of Savoy-Aosta in 1953, the Wedding Gala of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Italy in 1955,

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Princess Irene also wore the Tiara for 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 Greek Monarchy Centenary Gala at the Royal Palace of Athens in 1963, a Gala in Athens in 1963 and the King Constantine and Princess Anne Marie’s Wedding Gala at the Royal Palace of Athens in 1964.

After Princess Irene’s death in 1974, the tiara was inherited by her son, the Duke of Aosta, who auctioned it at Christie’s in 1979. The current fate of the Tiara is unknown.

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