Today marks the 120th Anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria, who died on this day in 1901! While we have already covered her Top 20 Jewels, we still have a few to go, so to mark the anniversary today, we are taking a look at Queen Victoria’s Oriental Circlet Tiara, one of Queen Victoria’s most prominent jewels!
Prince Albert designed this magnificent Tiara that features lotus flowers within seventeen mughal arches set in 2,600 diamonds from Garrards in London for around £860 in 1853, which originally contained opals, one of Prince Albert’s favourite stones, which was accompanied by an opal necklace, earrings, and brooch commissioned by Queen Victoria after receiving the Oriental Circlet.
The Queen prominently wore the Tiara with the Earrings and Brooch for a portrait but after royal jewels were successfully claimed by her cousin, the the King of Hanover in 1858, Queen Victoria broke up a few old jewels and had to buy new diamonds to replace those taken from the Oriental Circlet Tiara.
Despite not wearing it during her long widowhood, Queen Victoria designated the Oriental Circlet Tiara as an Heirloom of the Crown upon her death in 1901, “to be worn by future Queens in right of it”. The following year, her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra, thinking of opals as unlucky, replaced them with rubies from various Indian Jewels given to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII by Indian Princes. The seventeen mughal arches were reduced to eleven, and parts of the tiara were made removable to be replaced with “large single diamonds” for “when a lighter and more simple tiara is required”, though that version has never been publicly worn. Despite the changes, the Tiara does not seem to have been a favorite of Queen Alexandra nor her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary, and remained publicly unworn until 1937, though Queen Alexandra may have worn the Tiara and Parure during the German State Visit to Denmark in 1903.
In 1937, when King George VI came to the Throne, the new Queen Elizabeth had relatively small Tiaras, and despite getting Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara, most of the prominent royal jewels still belonged to Queen Mary, and were a part of her personal collection. At that time, the Oriental Circlet Tiara came out of the vault and was deemed to be a suitably grand Tiara for a Queen-Empress, being first worn for the Debutante Presentation Court at Buckingham Palace in May 1937, just a few days before the King’s Coronation, following which the Tiara was also worn as the Royal Couple waved to crowds from the Palace Balcony. Later, the Oriental Circlet was taken on a State Visit to France in 1938, worn on a Tour of Canada in 1939, and at a Gala Performance.
The Oriental Circlet Tiara was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, being worn for State Visits, Royal Tours, Gala and Film Performances, State Openings of Parliaments, and Official Portraits during the King’s Reign, becoming one of the first Tiaras to be worn after the Second World War, as the Royal Family waved to crowds from the Balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day and VJ Day.
Despite it being an Heirloom of the Crown that should have passed to the Queen upon her accession in 1952, the Queen Mother retained the Oriental Circlet Tiara and the Crown Ruby Parure, which she wore for a plethora of events for like the Coronation Gala at Covent Garden in 1953, on a visit to New York City in 1954, the University of London Ball in 1958, the Belgian State Visit to Britain in 1963, the Italian State Visit to Britain in 1969, the Japanese State Visit to Britain in 1971, the Swedish State Visit to Britain in 1975, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Gala in 1977, her 80th Birthday Gala in 1980, and the Dutch State Visit to Britain in 1982 among a host of many other important occasions. Despite its large size, the Oriental Circlet Tiara was one of only two Tiaras, the other was the Greville Tiara, that continued to be worn by the Queen Mother up until her death in 2002, when it finally passed into the Queen’s possession.
The Queen, faced with a loss of a Ruby Tiara, for which she had to commission her Burmese Ruby Tiara, never asked for the Oriental Circlet Tiara or the other jewels, saying ‘Mummy will give them back’. Eventually the Queen wore the Oriental Circlet Tiara for the first and only time at a Banquet in Malta in 2006. While it is not necessarily the Queen’s style, we feel the Oriental Circlet would look fabulous on the Duchess of Cornwall someday!