Today marks the 110th Anniversary of the Birth of Princess Cecilie, Grand Duchess of Hesse, who was born on this day in 1911! The Duke of Edinburgh’s sister who married the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and died in a tragic plane crash, Princess Cecilie possessed some splendid jewels, the most prominent of which was the Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara, but today we are revealing exclusive information about the spectacular Hesse Star Tiara!
The provenance of the Pearl and Diamond Stars in the tiara is unknown, but Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, a daughter of Queen Victoria, received a ‘blue enamel bracelet with three pearl and diamond stars’ from her Prince Henry, Princess Anna, and Prince William of Hesse as wedding gifts when she married their brother, Prince Louis of Hesse, in 1862, which could be connected to this piece. A few years later, Princess Alice was pictured wearing six-pointed diamond stars with pearl centres, first in her hair for a Winterhalter Portrait around 1867, echoing Winterhalter’s famous portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and then later on top of a tiara base, for a portrait in the 1870s.
After Princess Alice’s tragic death in 1878, the Pearl and Diamond Star Tiara was inherited by her only son, Grand Duke Ernest, and pictured on his second wife, born Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, in the mid-1900s. The design of that version of the Tiara was similar to a Pearl and Diamond Star Tiara owned by Princess Alice’s elder daughter, Princess Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven, a version of which now belongs to Earl and Countess Mountbatten.
In 1931, ahead of the Wedding of their son, Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus of Hesse, and Princess Cecilie of Greece (a granddaughter of the aforementioned Princess Victoria), nine of the Pearl and Diamond Stars were put into a structural diamond scroll kokoshnik designed by Koch in Frankfurt and created by Kreuter & Co.. Hereditary Grand Duchess Cecilie wore the Tiara for a series of portraits in the early 1930s, with Princess Alice’s Pearl and Diamond Corsage Brooch, and later wore the Tiara for portraits taken around the time of the Coronation of King George VI in London in 1937, soon before the death of Grand Duke Ernest. Later that year, the family were returning to London for the wedding of Prince Louis of Hesse to the Hon. Margaret Geddes, when the heavily pregnant Grand Duchess Cecilie apparently went into labour during the flight, leading the plane to crash into a factory chimney while trying to land in dense fog in Belgium. The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, along with Grand Duchess Eleonore, their two sons, and members of their suite all died. It is unknown if the Star Tiara was taken on the journey but the Strawberry Leaf Tiara and other family jewels survived in a strongbox.
Prince Louise became the next Head of the House of Hesse and by Rhine, taking the title of the Prince of Hesse and by Rhine. Princess Margaret was pictured wearing the frame of the Star Tiara, with a button pearl element likely from Princess Alice (possibly the one worn in her necklace in the Winterhalter portrait above) placed instead of the stars, at the Wedding of Duchess Donata of Mecklenburg and Alexander von Solodkoff in 1987, many years after the death of the Prince.
The childless couple adopted his distant cousin, Prince Moritz, the Landgrave of Hesse, and in 1968, the Tiara was either loaned to his sister-in-law, Princess Madeleine of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Countess zu Solms-Laubach (who was also married to a great-nephew of Grand Duchess Eleonore) for the Wedding of her brother, Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg to Princess Benedikte of Denmark, or that lady was Princess Yvonne of Hesse (married to a nephew of Grand Duchess Cecilie). The Tiara now belongs to the “Hessische Hausstiftung”, the Foundation of the House of Hesse, which manages the family assets, including the Art, Castles, and Jewels still owned by the family, but unlike the other family jewels, has neither been worn nor exhibited. Lets hope it makes an appearance soon!