Today marks the 120th Anniversary of the Death of Victoria, Princess Royal and Empress Frederik, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria who married Emperor Frederik of Germany and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II . As expected, the Empresses possessed quite a remarkable jewellery collection, and since we have already featured her Pearl Corsage Brooch, to mark the anniversary today, we are taking a look at Empress Frederick’s Shell Tiara!
But first, lets learn about Empress Frederik! The first child and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Princess Royal grew up between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, and Osbourne House, where she was joined by eight younger siblings, including the future King Edward VII, and was given a liberal education by the Prince Consort. In 1858, the Princess Royal married Prince Frederick of Prussia, the second-in-line to the Prussian Throne, and the couple had eight children, including Kaiser Wilhelm II and Queen Sophia of Greece. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Prussia (and later of Germany) shared politically liberal views, which put them in opposition to the Royal Court particularly after the rise of the conservative Otto von Bismarck. Emperor Frederik only reigned for 99 days in 1888, until his untimely death of Cancer, and the Empress, in opposition to her son’s conservative views, built the Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg im Taunus, where she resided until her death in 1901, just a few months after Queen Victoria’s death.
When Victoria, the Princess Royal married Prince Frederick of Prussia, second-in-line to the Prussian Throne, in 1858, she received a Diamond Tiara as a wedding gift from his uncle and aunt, King Frederick William IV and Queen Elisabeth of Prussia, which was described as:
A lofty open coronet of diamonds, the design of which, with its thin spears of brilliants and open shell work between, probably one of the most chaste and graceful that has ever been executed.”
The Diadem was created by the Prussian Court Jeweller, Jean Démessieur, from a drawing made by Prince Albert, who designed many jewels, including Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet, her Emerald Tiara, the Oriental Circlet Tiara, and the Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara. The shells and rays from Princess Victoria’s Tiara could be removed and put together in various configurations to form brooches and hair decorations, while the the lower row of diamond could also be removed to be worn as a necklace.
One of the more notable occasions when Princess Victoria wore her Pearl Shell Tiara was for a Concert at Buckingham Palace in June 1859, when she was photographed from various angles wearing a gown trimmed with Brussels lace.
A few years later, the then Crown Princess of Prussia wore the Shell Tiara at the Wedding of her brother, the Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark at Windsor Castle in 1863, the first major state occasion in Britain after the death of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria into perpetual morning.
Despite the fact that the Crown Princess and later Empress would have worn the tiara and its elements at countless occasions, there are no public images or portraits that have emerged. It is likely that the Tiara was worn to the Wedding of her brother, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia in St Petersburg in 1874, and at numerous Prussian and later German Court events.
At some point, it seems the Tiara was broken up or refashioned because the piece was not publicly pictured on the Empress or any of her descendents. We think that some elements may have been refashioned into the Tiara worn by the ill-fated Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Landgravine of Hesse, the daughter-in-law of Empress Frederick’s daughter, Princess Margaret of Prussia, Landgravine of Hesse, but there is no evidence to back that claim.