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. Their son, Prince Christoper wrote:
My mother had some beautiful jewels. Her rubies were famous, for my father had delighted in collecting them for her, saying that of all stones they suited her white skin best.
Queen Olga notably wore her Ruby Parure for a series of Portraits around 1908, and 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 lady-in-waiting, Miss Baltazzi, managing to save her jewels from the Bolsheviks, who ransacked the Palace. Prince Christoper wrote:
To her intense relief she was able to get her jewels out of Russia through the clever muse of her lady-in-waiting, Miss Baltazzi. It was by no means easy, for jewels were being smuggled over the frontiers almost every week, either by escaping nobility and their friends (usually foreigners attached to one of the embassies) or by thieves, who worked in regular gangs.
Their method of getting hold of the jewels was most ingenious. They had spies whose business it was to keep a watch both on the great families known to possess beautiful jewels and on the various Commissariats. Thus they knew more or less who was under suspicion and they would wait their opportunity until the house was raided and arrests made. Then in the confusion one or two of their number would enter it disguised either as soldiers or servants and get possession of the jewels, whose whereabouts they had previously ascertained. It was a risky proceeding, for the punishment was death, but their organisation was so close that they went undetected for a long time. They generally worked in conjunction with professional smugglers, usually Poles or Finns, who were willing to take their plunder out of the country for a share in it. But after a while their activities were observed and a close watch was kept on every frontier.
My mother had to be particularly careful as her jewels, especially one magnificent set of emeralds, were known to be of great value and had therefore probably been marked down. The lady-in-waiting made a box for them herself, not daring to trust it to anyone else. One day a Greek student called at the house to see Miss Baltazzi with a package of books which were exactly the same size and shape as the box of jewels. When he left he still carried his package, but the box was in it and the books left behind.
He went straight to the Danish Legation and delivered over the jewels, which were sent to Copenhagen.
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, a Diamond Rivière to her granddaughter, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, 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 frequently loaned Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure to her daughters. In 1937, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia wore the Parure at the Coronation of King George VI, as well as for an iconic series of portraits by Cecil Beaton and on a controversial State Visit Germany in 1939.
Princess Olga also wore the Ruby Parure for the Wedding Gala of her son, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, and Princess Maria Pia of Italy in Portugal in 1955.
At some point between 1955 and 1956, much to the dismay of her daughters, Princess Nicholas gave 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 wore the Ruby Parure on a State Visit to Italy in 1959 and for the Wedding Ball of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and her daughter, Princess Sophia of Greece, at the Royal Palace of Athens in 1962.
The Ruby Parure was also worn for King Paul and Queen Frederica’s Silver Wedding Anniversary, at the Greek Monarchy Centenary Gala in 1963, and at a Gala Performance in London in 1963, during a State Visit to Britain, where Princess Marina was also present
A few months 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 debuted the Ruby Parure for a Pre-Wedding Dinner and Reception offered by the Greek Government at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, and then wore it for the Wedding of Prince Michael of Greece in 1965.
Queen Anne Marie also wore Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure for the Wedding Ball of Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands in 1966, and the Wedding Ball of Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein and Countess Marie Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau in 1967.
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. It was later 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 Crown Prince Haakon’s 18th Birthday in 1991, Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1992, King Harland and Queen Sonja’s Silver Anniversary in 1993, the Wedding of Prince Joachim of Denmark and Alexandra Manley in 1995, and Queen Margrethe’s Silver Jubilee in 1997.
Queen Anne Marie also wore Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure for Queen Margrethe’s 60th Birthday in 2000, Queen Margrethe’s Banquet at the Natural History Museum in London in 2000, Crown Prince Frederik’s Pre-Wedding Banquet in 2004, and King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 60th Birthday in 2006.
Queen Anne Marie wore the Ruby Parure for the Wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in 2010, Queen Margrethe’s 70th Birthday Gala in 2010, and the Sovereign’s Dinner at Buckingham Palace in 2012.
More recently, Queen Anne Marie wore Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure for 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. The most recent appearance of the Ruby Parure came in 2022, for Queen Margrethe’s Golden Jubilee Gala in Copenhagen, where we saw the Rubies in person. There is no doubt we will continue to see this splendid Royal Heirloom for years to come!
Queen Anne Marie of Greece and Princess Benedikte zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg arrive for their sister, Queen Margrethe II’s, Golden Jubilee Gala Performance!— The Royal Watcher (@saadsalman719) September 10, 2022
Learn More: https://t.co/PQVIMWEj6J pic.twitter.com/J5IMC4o6Db
Queen Anne Marie of Greece and Princess Benedikte zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg arrive for their sister, Queen Margrethe II’s, Golden Jubilee Gala Performance!
Learn More: https://t.co/PQVIMWEj6J pic.twitter.com/J5IMC4o6Db