Today marks the 110th Anniversary of the Birth of Infanta María Cristina, Countess of Marone, who was born on this day in 1911! The Spanish Infanta, daughter of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie , who morganatically married Enrico Marone Cinzano, Italian businessman, industrialist and heir of the Cinzano Vermouth. ‘Crista’, as she was known by her close family and friends, possessed a splendid collection of jewels, full of heirlooms from her mother, grandmother and great-aunt, so to mark this Anniversary, we are featuring her Diamond Bow Brooch!
The Order of the Starry Cross is an imperial Austrian dynastic order awarded to Catholic high-born royal and noble ladies, being considered as the feminine equivalent of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The badge of the Order is meant to be worn suspended from a black ribbon on the left breast, although various members of the Habsburg family have worn it hanging from a diamond brooch in the shape of a bow. Queen Maria Cristina of Spain, who was born an Archduchess of Austria from the Teschen branch of the family, received the Order of the Starry Cross when she was a young girl. In 1879, on the occasion of her marriage to Spanish King Alfonso XII, she received from her own family a Diamond Bow Brooch, valued in 5.500 florins, to sustain her badge of the Order.
The Queen wore her insignia and Diamond Bow frequently, whichever orders and decorations were required by protocol, namely at the Wedding of her son, King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg in 1906, the Weddings of her daughters, the Christenings of her grandchildren but also when posing for portraits and formal photographs. When Queen Maria Cristina died, in 1929, her only son, King Alfonso XIII, inherited many of her jewels, including a lot of three diamond bow brooches, valued in 3.750 pesetas. It is highly probable that the Diamond Bow Brooch that was usually used to suspend the Order of the Starry Cross was part of this trio.
The King would later give the Brooch to her youngest daughter, Maria Cristina, who has also received her grandmother’s name, probably on the occasion of her marriage to Enrico Marone Cinzano in 1940. The Infanta was seen wearing her Diamond Bow Brooch on various family weddings, namely for her nephew, Prince Marco Alfonso Torlonia to Princess Orsetta Caracciolo in 1960, the one of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain to Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962 and the one of Princess Olimpia Torlonia to Paul-Annick Weiller in 1965.
The piece was worn, together with the beautiful emeralds that belonged to Infanta Isabel of Spain, at the Wedding ball of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Italy, in Cascais in 1955. The Infanta also wore the Diamond Bow Brooch at the Christening of Infanta Cristina of Spain, to whom she served as godmother. Nothing is publicly known about the fate of this piece after the Infanta’s death in 1996, although it likely ended up in the possession of one of her four daughters.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!