Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Queen Isabel II of Spain, who was born on this day in 1830! Isabel was the eldest surviving daughter of King Fernando VII and his wife and niece, Maria Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. She became Queen of Spain at the early age of 3, after the death of her father. The reign of the “queen of sad fates” was marked by a great political turmoil that ended in the queen’s Parisian exile in 1868, after the Glorious Revolution. To mark this anniversary, we are taking a look at her Tiara of Castillos y Leones.
This piece was commissioned by Queen Isabel II to Manuel de Diego y Elvira, diamantista and crown jeweller, in 1862. Despite being a piece of negligible economic value, when compared to other pieces in this Queen’s massive jewellery collection, this tiara has a very meaningful design for a Spanish monarch. Made of gold and enamel, it represents lions, towers and fleur-de-lys, the symbols of the old Kingdoms of Castilla and León and the heraldic symbol of the Borbon dynastic house. It features eight rubies, seven emeralds and 24 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds.
Queen Isabel took this piece with her when she went into exile in 1868, and it was one of the few that escaped from the historic auction of her jewellery collection in 1878. The Queen was photographed wearing this tiara in her exile in Paris, together with a lace veil with the same heraldic motifs embroidered and the emerald suite that ended up in the possession of the Countess of Barcelona and Infanta Pilar.
After the Queen’s passing, in 1904, this tiara, piece number 45 in her jewellery inventory, valued in 3.500 francs and described as:
“Une jolie couronne en or mat ciselé tours et lions avec fleurs de lys et brillants et une éme-raude, bandeau émeraudes rubis et brillants”
It bequeathed to her youngest daughter Infanta Maria de la Paz, Princess Ludwig of Bavaria. In 1906, on the occasion of the marriage of King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Infanta Paz, the groom’s aunt, decided to offer this tiara as a wedding gift to the new Queen of Spain. Queen Ena was never photographed wearing this piece, that she probably had dismantled to create other pieces of jewellery that matched her taste.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!
Sources: “El reparto de joyas tras la muerte de Isabel II, un proceso problemático” by Nuria Lázaro Milla