Marlborough Tiara

Today marks the 145th Anniversary of the Death of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, who was born on this day in 1877! The Vanderbilt Heiress who married the illustrious but impoverished Duke of Marlborough, the Vanderbilt fortune helped restore the magnificent Blenheim Palace before their divorce in 1921. While the Duchess brought some magnificent jewels into the Spencer-Churchill Family, this piece is most significant: The Boucheron Pearl and Diamond Tiara!

But first, lets learn about Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough! The daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt, a New York railroad millionaire, and Alva Erskine Smith, a Southern belle and suffragist, Consuelo Vanderbilt grew up in an abusive and harsh childhood at 660 Fifth Avenue and Marble House in Newport. While secretly engaged to an American, Winthrop Rutherfurd, she was forced to marry the 9th Duke of Marlborough, gaining a title and place among the British Aristocracy while the Duke used her large dowry to save Blenheim Palace, the family seat. The couple had two children, the 10th Duke and Lord Ivor, and although she became a popular and influential Duchess the couple mainly lived separately until their divorce in 1926, becoming a prominent example of the marriage of a ‘Dollar Princess’. The former Duchess married Lt. Col. Jacques Balsan, a French Pilot and textile manufacturing heir, continued her charitable endeavours and residing between France, Florida, and New York, where she passed away in 1954.

Bought by William Kissam Vanderbilt for his wife Alva in 1890, the Boucheron Pearl and Diamond Tiara was originally in the style of a coronet. The Tiara was retained by Alva after their divorce in 1895, and was given as a wedding present, along with two massive ropes of pearls, to their daughter, Consuelo, when she married the Duke of Marlborough that year. According to Vincent Meylan, the Tiara was taken back to Boucheron in 1913, to transform it into a more open bandeau style, through the Duchess does not seem to have been photographed wearing the piece in either format.

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When the Duchess’ elder son, the Marquess of Blandford, married the Hon. Alexandra Mary Cadogan, a granddaughter of the 5th Earl Cadogan, in 1920, the Boucheron Pearl and Diamond Tiara was among the Wedding Gifts, along with a strand of the Vanderbilt Pearls. The Marchioness of Blandford was often pictured wearing the Boucheron Tiara at society events and at the State Opening of Parliament. The Tiara remained her principal jewel after becoming the Duchess of Marlborough in 1934, being worn to Coronation of King George VI in 1937 and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, where her daughter, Lady Rosemary, served as a maid of honour, usually paired with many massive emerald brooches.

   
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After the Duchess’ death in 1961, the Tiara was not seen on her successor nor the first two wives of her elder son, the 11th Duke of Marlborough. The Boucheron Pearl and Diamond Tiara reappeared in the 1990s on his third wife, the Swedish Countess Rosita Douglas-Stjernorp, the sister of Princess Elisabeth, Duchess in Bavaria, who often wore it to Royal Events, including the Wedding Ball of Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein and her niece, Duchess Sophie in Bavaria, in 1993 and King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50th Birthday Banquet in 1996.

After their divorce in 2008, the Boucheron Pearl and Diamond Tiara remained unworn until 2018, when it was worn by Camilla Thorp to marry the current Marquess of Blandford, Heir to the Dukedom, which gave us unprecedented look at the Tiara in the couple’s wedding video. There is no doubt we will continue to see this splendid Heirloom for years to come!

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While this is a lovely tiara, it is definitely not the only one in the family’s possession. Both Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, sister of the current Duke, in 1980 and Rebecca Few-Brown, the first wife of the current Duke and mother of the Marquess of Blandford, wore a Floral Diamond Tiara for their Weddings, which may likely be another family heirloom.

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2 thoughts on “Marlborough Tiara

  1. This is such a beautiful tiara! I normally don’t like pearls-or any stone- propped up like a lollipop, but the proportions here are so perfect that they don’t look like lollipops at all. It’s substantial without overwhelming the user and it’s sublime as a wedding tiara! Lucky the lovely Ms. Thorp who got to wear it for her wedding!

  2. This tiara in it’s coronet state reminds me of the little pearl and diamond coronet that Tsar Nicholas 2 purchased at Windsor as an engagement present for the future Empress Alexandra

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