Today marks the 95th Anniversary of the Death of Empress Charlotte (Carlota) of Mexico, who died on this day in 1927! The fourth child and only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians, and Princess Louise of Orléans, who become an Archduchess of Austria, after marrying Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg-Lorraine. The couple was eventually invited to became the short-lived Emperor and Empress of the Second Mexican Empire. Throughout her long life, Charlotte amassed a considerable fortune and a splendid jewellery collection that was left to her Belgian Family, as she didn’t have any children of her own, so to mark the anniversary, we are featuring Empress Carlota’s Diamond Stomacher!
This massive brooch consists of a foliate design, centring a diamond cluster within an open work surrounded of acanthus and ivy leaves, suspending five articulated pendant drops, set with cushion, pear-shaped, circular and rose-cut diamonds. By family tradition, it first belonged to Queen Marie Caroline, the wife of King Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies. The piece was then left to Caroline’s daughter, Queen Marie Amelie, married to King Louis Philippe of the French. From Queen Marie Amelie, it came to Queen Louise-Marie, the second wife of King Leopold I of the Belgians.
Princess Charlotte of Belgium inherited the brooch from her mother, probably after her death in 1850, and took the Diamond Corsage Brooch with her when she married Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1857. The couple eventually become Emperor and Empress of Mexico but the Imperial adventure proved to be rather disastrous, ending up with the assassination of the Emperor. Meanwhile, Empress Charlotte returned to Europe seeking for help for her Mexican cause and then went mad with grief after learning of the assassination. The Dowager Empress was first house-imprisoned by her Austrian relatives, who were worried about keeping her fortune for them, but then went to live in Brussels, next to her brothers and sisters-in-law. For many years, she lived secluded from public life, demonstrating some mental health issues. When she died in 1927, some of her jewels (including the Diamond Corsage Brooch) were left to her niece-by-marriage, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.
Queen Elisabeth was photographed wearing the impressive Diamond Corsage Brooch on at least one occasion, pairing it with her Diamond Bandeau, likely also wearing the upper portion during a visit from Prince and Princess Takamatsu of Japan in 1930.
When the Queen died, in 1965, she left the Diamond Corsage Brooch to her daughter, Queen Marie José of Italy, with the indication that it should be sold to get funds to continue the late Queen’s works in the Artistic Fund. Queen Marie José auctioned off the brooch in 1969, fletching £10,215. The piece once again reappeared at auction at Sothebys in 2007, being sold for £92,900.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!