Portuguese Star Tiara

Today marks the 110th anniversary of the death of Queen Maria Pia of Portugal, mother of King Carlos I and grandmother of King Manuel II, who died on this day in 1911. Born a Princess of the House of Savoy, daughter of Italy’s unifier, Victor Emmanuel II, she married King Luis I of Portugal at age 15, and served as the Queen, Queen Mother, and Queen Grandmother of Portugal. The Queen was known for her temperament, for being extravagant and a huge spender, famously saying “If you want a Queen, you have to pay for her!”, but also for her charitable works. To mark the day, we are taking a look at her Diamond Stars Parure!

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The Portuguese Royal Tiaras

An extensive parure consisting of a tiara with nine five-pointed stars, a necklace, a brooch, two shoulder pins, sixteen pins to apply on dresses and hairstyles, a pair of earrings, a bracelet and a comb, totaling 69 stars all set with the best Brazilian diamonds mounted in gold, it was commissioned by Queen Maria Pia to the Portuguese jeweller Estevão de Sousa and delivered to her between the years 1864 and 1866. The stars in the tiara are set en tremblant, meaning that they slightly twinkle as the wearer moves. The stones were sourced from pieces that were already part of the Royal Treasure. The Queen used many diamonds from a large tiara that her husband had inherited from her mother, Queen Maria II, as well as a large diamond from a bejeweled walking stick and other loose stones, most notably the yellow ‘Maria Pia’ diamond.

There are no published photographs of Queen Maria Pia wearing her stars, but there are various press reports making reference to her wearing them, and a fantastic portrait from 1871 that today belongs to the Museo del Prado collections, in which the Queen, in a long white dress and ermine mantle with the throne and the royal crown behind, is wearing the tiara, the earrings, the bracelet and one of the brooches from the set.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

When King Luis I died, in 1889, Queen Maria Pia gave the so-called State Jewels to his daughter-in-law, the new Queen of Portugal, the born Princess Amelie of Orléans. Included in this lot of jewels was the Star Parure. Queen Amelie was portrayed plenty of times with the tiara and the brooches pinned on her hair and dresses, and usually paired it with the diamond rivières and the sapphires from the Royal Treasure or with her Diamond Fence Choker. Although she was never seen with the necklace, bracelet nor the earrings (the Queen never had her ears pierced). During Amelie’s tenure as Queen, the Star Tiara underwent several changes. First, a diamond rivière necklace was added to its base. Second, two more rows of stars were added between the large “original” ones. She was never portrayed with this larger version, as the alterations occurred right before the murder of her husband and eldest son in 1908.

With the fall of the monarchy in 1910, the family went into exile and these jewels, being considered property of the State, remained in Portugal until today. In the 1950s, the Crown Jewels were restored and the Star Parure was reduced only to Tiara and Necklace. In November 2021, there will be the awaited opening of the new Royal Treasure Museum, at the Ajuda Palace, in Lisbon. The Tiara and Necklace will be shown together with around a thousand pieces that once adorned the men and women of the House Bragança.

The Portuguese Royal Tiaras

This article written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!

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