Today marks the 180th Anniversary of the Birth of Victoria, Princess Royal and Empress Frederik, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria who married Emperor Frederik of Germany and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II, so to mark the anniversary, we are taking a look at Empress Frederick’s Pearl Corsage Brooch, almost identical to a Brooch being auctioned at Christie’s in 2022.
But first, lets learn about Empress Frederik! The first child and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Princess Royal grew up between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, and Osbourne House, where she was joined by eight younger siblings, including the future King Edward VII, and was given a liberal education by the Prince Consort. In 1858, the Princess Royal married Prince Frederick of Prussia, the second-in-line to the Prussian Throne, and the couple had eight children, including Kaiser Wilhelm II and Queen Sophia of Greece. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Prussia (and later of Germany) shared politically liberal views, which put them in opposition to the Royal Court particularly after the rise of the conservative Otto von Bismarck. Emperor Frederik only reigned for 99 days in 1888, until his untimely death of Cancer, and the Empress, in opposition to her son’s conservative views, build the Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg im Taunus, where she resided until her death in 1901, just a few months after Queen Victoria’s death.
Featuring an ornate diamond element with a large round pearl, from which any of one, three, or five pearls can be suspended, the Pearl Corsage Brooch has an unknown provenance, though it probably originates from the Pearl and Diamond Corsage Brooch given as a Wedding gift from Queen Elisabeth of Prussia. Empress Frederik was pictured in the brooch in a series of portraits in the 1890s, after being widowed.
After her death in 1901, Empress Frederick’s Pearl Corsage Brooch was inherited by her daughter, Queen Sophia of Greece, who was frequently pictured wearing the Brooch with her Diamond Tiara and Diamond Circle Tiara in the 1900s and the 1910s, though it was not publicly worn after the Greek Royal Family went into their frequent exiles in 1917 and later in 1922.
It is unknown what happened to Empress Frederick’s Pearl Corsage Brooch after Queen Sophie’s death, but its quite likely that it may have been acquired by either Queen Mary (cousin), Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Princess Nicholas of Greece (her sister-in-law) or Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent (niece) from the Greek Royal Family anytime between the 1920s and the mid-1950s, when an identical Pearl Corsage Brooch began to be worn by Princess Alexandra of Kent.
The Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra has been a hardworking member of the Royal Family for over 65 years and prominently wore the Pearl Corsage Brooch with the Kent Festoon Tiara when she presided over the Nigerian Independence Celebrations in 1960, and was frequently worn, with three and five pendants, in the 1960s and the 1970s, though it has been rarely seen in recent years, with the American State Banquet last year, when she wore her Ogilvy Tiara, being the last appearance to date, but that gives us hope that we will continue to see Empress Frederick’s Pearl Corsage Brooch for years to come!
In December 2022, Christies in Paris is Auctioning a Pearl and Diamond Corsage Brooch as ‘formerly the property of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria’, which has an almost identical diamond frame, but the pearls are not the same so it is unlikely that the piece is Empress Frederik’s Pearl Corsage Brooch. (h/t to David Rato | Spanish Royal Jewels)