Today marks the 95th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Olga of Greece, who died on this day in 1926! The Russian Grand Duchess who married the first Greek King and was the grandmother of the Duke of Edinburgh among Royals from Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, Romania, Serbia, and Italy, Queen Olga possessed many magnificent jewels as Queen Consort for almost five decades. To mark the anniversary of her death, we are featuring the splendid Greek Ruby Parure, which remains one of the Royal Family’s most spectacular Heirlooms!
Every year, King George I of Greece bought a rare pigeon-blood red ruby for Queen Olga on their anniversary which were eventually incorporated into a Parure consisting of a Tiara composed of diamond olive leaves and ruby clusters, the olive wreath design echoing the wreaths of ancient Greece; a necklace of ruby and diamond clusters of flexible length with detachable pendants; a pair of earrings; and two brooches, one with a pendant and one without.
Queen Olga notably wore her Ruby Parure for a series of Portraits in the 1910s, after being widowed, for a Laurits Tuxen painting in 1914, as well as for a painting by Georgios Jakobides made around 1915, likely inspired by the official portrait. Queen Olga spent much of the First World War in her native Russia, at her brother’s Pavlovsk Palace, making a tumultuous escape, with only the swift actions of her companion, Anna Egorova, managing to save her jewels from the Bolsheviks, who ransacked the Palace.
After Queen Olga’s death in 1926, she left her Emerald Parure to her grandson, King George II, her Turquoise Parure to her youngest son, Prince Christopher, her Pearl Corsage Brooch to Prince George, and the Ruby Parure to her second son, Prince Nicholas, who was married to Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, who herself possessed a substantial jewellery collection. Princess Nicholas was notably pictured wearing the Ruby Parure in an Official Portrait in the late 1920s, the Wedding Gala of Crown Prince Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover in 1938, and at the Wedding Gala of Prince Aimone, Duke of Spoleto and Princess Irene of Greece in Florence in 1939.
Princess Nicholas more frequently loaned the Ruby Parure to her daughters. In 1937, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia wore the Parure at the Coronation of King George VI. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent wore the Ruby Parure at the State Opening of Parliament in 1937, and for a portrait published in 1949. Princess Olga also wore the Ruby Parure in a famous series of portraits by Cecil Beaton and on a controversial State Visit Germany in 1939. Later, Princess Olga wore the Parure at the Wedding Gala of her son, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, and Princess Maria Pia of Italy in 1955.
At some point in 1955 or 1956, much to the dismay of her daughters, Princess Nicholas either gave or sold Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure to her nephew, King Paul of Greece, and it was first worn by Queen Frederica on a State Visit to France in 1956, and then on a State Visit to Germany the same year. Queen Frederica also wore the Ruby Parure at the Wedding Ball of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962, the Greek Monarchy Centenary Gala in 1963, and a Gala Performance at Covent Garden in 1963, during a State Visit to Britain, where Princess Marina was also present.
After the death of King Paul in 1964, Queen Frederica gave Queen Olga’s Emerald Parure and the Ruby Parure as a wedding gift to Princess Anne Marie of Denmark when she married King Constantine II of Greece, when it was displayed with their other wedding gifts in Athens.
Queen Anne Marie first wore the Ruby Parure for a Pre-Wedding Dinner and Reception offered by the Greek Government at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, and then for the Wedding of Prince Michael of Greece in 1965, and the Wedding Ball of Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands in 1966.
When the Greek Royal Family fled into exile in December 1967, Queen Anne Marie said that they only packed for a few days, but it seems jewels were included because the following month, she wore the Ruby Parure at the Wedding of her sister, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, and Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. UPDATE: It was clarified that the Jewels were retrieved from Tatoi Palace ahead of the Wedding:
“We went to Tatoi to get a few things with the approval of the president of the government. But first of all I had to get a small handbag containing jewels, which the Queen, in her departure fury, forgot near the staircase. At the palace we met the three-member committee of the army. When we got to the suitcase and they asked me to open it, the big difficulties began. First, they argued that there should be a special authorization. Then, that the army photographic service had to be called in to photograph the jewels one by one. Finally, that they had to be assessed and recorded in great detail. I didn’t want the photo shoot to take place for any reason. Then a new kind of negotiation began. That is, that now that the suitcase has been opened, we cannot keep it and you must take it. Finally, the committee agreed to hand over the suitcase to me after a rough record, eg 2 earrings with blue stones, a ring with a red stone, etc. (Kostas M. Stamatopoulos, The chronicle of Tatoi)”
While not as much of a favourite like the Emerald Parure, Queen Anne Marie has worn Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure for a plethora of occasions during her exile, including Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1992, the King Harland and Queen Sonja’s Silver Anniversary in 1993, the Wedding of Prince Joachim of Denmark and Alexandra Manley in 1995, Queen Margrethe’s Silver Jubilee in 1997, Crown Prince Frederik’s Pre-Wedding Dinner in 2004, and King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 60th Birthday in 2006.
More recently, Queen Anne Marie wore the Ruby Parure for the Wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in 2010, Queen Margrethe’s 70th Birthday Gala, the Sovereign’s Dinner at Buckingham Palace, and King Harald and Queen Sonja’s 80th Birthday Banquet in 2017, as well as some pieces for Princess Benedikte’s 75th Birthday Dinner in 2019. There is no doubt we will continue to see this splendid Royal Heirloom for years to come!