Today marks the Anniversary of the Birth of Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia, who was born on this day in 1886! Daughter of the Grand Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, she married the German Crown Prince Wilhelm, in 1905. The couple had four sons and two daughters, though the marriage was very unhappy, ending up in separation. Cecilie had a splendid jewellery collection, full of old family heirlooms and contemporary pieces. To mark this occasion, we are taking a look at the Prussian Ruby Demi-Parure!
This Demi-Parure, made of rubies and diamonds set in gold, consists of a necklace (ten oval clusters, intercepted by ten cross-shaped elements), a pair of long earrings, two cluster brooches, a second smaller choker-necklace and a bracelet. It was reportedly given by King Maximilian I of Bavaria to his daughter, Elisabeth Ludovika, on the occasion of her marriage to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, in 1823. Although there is a second version of the story, stating that the parure was made using rubies that were once part of the collection of Kaiserin Elisabeth Christine, who left them to her nephew King Friedrich Wilehm II.
Elisabeth Ludovika and Friedrich Wilhelm formed a very harmonious couple, but they were unable to produce an heir to the Prussian throne, being succeeded by Friedrich’s younger brother, Wilhelm, in 1861. During Elisabeth‘s widowhood, she established a close and strong relationship with Princess Victoria, the wife of her nephew, Prince Frederick, the first in line to the throne. “Vicky“ comforted the dowager Queen during that painful and lonely period. As a recognition for Victoria’s kindness, Elisabeth bequeathed the majority of her jewellery collection to her niece, an action that really upset her sister-in-law, Queen Augusta, who was expecting to inherit it:
I entrust it to the safe and I ask Princess Victoria, wife of His Royal Highness Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (who later became Crown Princess or Empress Friedrich) to regard it as hers and to wear it, being Princess Friedrich Wilhelm, Princess of Prussia, Crown Princess or Queen at my death, but without being able to inherit or sell it, because it should, as Jewellery of the House, remain undivided.“
Afters Empress Friedrich’s death, in 1901, these jewels were passed on to her daughter-in-law, Empress Augusta Victoria. The Kaiserin was portrayed wearing the Demi-Parure slightly altered, as the pendant portions of the earrings were converted into pendants to attach to the centre of the necklace and to one of the cluster brooches.
When Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schewerin married Crown Prince Wilhelm, in 1905, she received the Ruby Demi-Parure for her usufruct. She wore the suite for some of her first portraits as new German Crown Princess, pairing it with her Fabergé Diamond Tiara and with her large Diamond Loop Tiara, given to her as wedding gift by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire.
Crown Princess Cecilie wore the Ruby Suite on various occasion throughout her life, even after the abolition of the German Monarchy in 1918, most notably at the Wedding of her son, Prince Louis Ferdinand and Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia in 1938.
Despite the upheaval of the Prussian Royal Family during and after the Second World War, when they lost much of their wealth and property in East Germany, it seem the Ruby Parure survived and was worn by the aforementioned Grand Duchess Kira with the Prussian Clover Coronet in 1962.
Although the Ruby Demi-Parure has not worn in public in more than half a century, it seems that the family was able to retain at least the necklace as it is currently shown as part of the treasure of Burg Hohenzollern, which is owned by the Prince of Prussia. Lets hope we get to see it worn again soon!
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!