Some horrible Tiara news today! The historic Cartier Portland Tiara, from the collection of the extinct Dukedom of Portland, was stolen from the Welbeck Abbey Estate on the evening of November 20th. It was the highlight of the magnificent Portland Collection on display at the Harley Gallery since 2016.
Commissioned from Cartier by the 6th Duke of Portland in 1902, for his wife, Winifred, who was a canopy bearer for Queen Alexandra during the Coronation of King Edward VII that year, the Cartier Portland Tiara featured diamonds provided by the Duke. The Duchess also wore the Tiara for her last portrait painted by De László in 1925. The Tiara was also cause for a mishap recounted by the Duke, from Geoffrey Munn’s Tiaras: A History of Splendor:
While my wife was dressing for dinner… I threw myself into an armchair. Both she and her maid gave a scream and so did I, for I had sat down upon the very sharp points of the diamond tiara. Naturally the tiara was broken to bits, while the lower part of my poor person resembled the diamond mines of Golconda, so full was it of precious stones.”
In the 1930’s, the 6th Duke of Portland was wounded by the enormous diamond headdress about to be worn by his beautiful wife, Winnie. He went to talk to her when she was getting dressed and sat on a nearby chair. The tiara was there first and he leapt up, impaled on the platinum spikes that held the precious stones. It was hopelessly broken. ‘Oh never mind,’ said Winnie, not bothering about her husband’s injured behind. ‘I’ll wear another one.’
After the Duke’s death in 1943, the Tiara was inherited by the next Duke and worn by his Duchess, Ivy, at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The 7th Duke and Duchess only had two daughters, and thus after he passed away in 1977, the Dukedom went to a distant relative before going extinct in 1990. The extensive Portland Estates, included Welbeck Abbey, and the magnificent Portland Collection went to their eldest daughter, Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, who became the 511th richest person in the United Kingdom and was once considered a possible bride for Prince Charles of Belgium though she never married after her parents refused her from marrying the Duke of Leeds. Meanwhile, the Dowager Duchess set up the Harley Gallery and Foundation in 1977, ‘to encourage creativity in all of us’.
After Lady Anne’s death in 2008, the Portland Estates and Collection were inherited by her nephew, William Parente, who sold off a plethora of historic family jewels (worn in the pictures of the Duchesses above) to pay off death duties in 2010. However, the Cartier Portland Tiara remained with the family, and was put on display at the Harley Gallery on the Welbeck Abbey Estate, where the Tiara were stolen, along with a brooch formed of clusters that could be used to heighten the Tiara. Police are ‘pursuing a number of lines of enquiry’, so we remain hopeful that this historic pieces will be found intact.
UPDATE: The Tiara was broken up with the diamonds sold in Istanbul.
‘Stolen during the burglary were two pieces of diamond-encrusted jewellery, the Portland Tiara and an associated brooch, with a combined value of approximately £3.75 million. It is difficult to overstate the importance and cultural value of these pieces of jewellery. They were displayed for the public’s enjoyment. Their theft is a shocking event and means that they will never again be seen in their original state.’
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