Today marks the 125th Anniversary of the Birth of Mary Somerset, the Duchess of Beaufort, who was born on this day in 1897! The former Teck Princess, a nice of Queen Mary, who married the illustrious Duke of Beaufort, the Duchess, who was an accomplished equestrian, possessed some spectacular jewels, the highlight of which was this spectacular heirloom Diamond Tiara!
But first lets learn about the Duchess! Born Princess Mary of Teck, the second child of the Duke of Teck and Lady Margaret Grosvenor, she was the niece of Queen Mary, and descended from the Württemberg Royal Family and King George III. In 1917, the family dropped their German Titles and became Lady Mary Cambridge after her father was created the Marquess of Cambridge. Lady Mary married the Marquess of Worcester, Heir of the Duke of Beaufort, who became the 10th Duke the following year, but the couple remained childless. During the Second World War, the Duchess’ aunt, Queen Mary, was evacuated to Badminton House, taking over most of the house and creating many changes, including removing ancient ivy from the walls. Both keen equestrians, the Duke and Duchess began the Badminton Horse Trials in 1947, during which the Royal Family used to stay with them. Close to the new Duke and Duchess after the Duke’s death in 1983, the Duchess continued to reside at Badminton House, occasionally sitting in the state rooms to answer questions from tourists, until she passed away in 1987.
Composed of a series of elaborate scrolls in an antique deign, this spectacular Tiara likely dates from the 19th-century and is likely an heirloom of the Dukes of Beaufort. Not included in the gifts Lady Mary Cambridge received for her wedding, it was probably among the jewels received the following year when he succeeded to the Dukedom. One of the earliest occasions that the Duchess of Beaufort was pictured wearing the Tiara was at the Coronation of her first cousin, King George VI, in 1937, when the Duke and Duchess sat in the Royal Box and were also included in the royal group picture.
The following year, the Duchess of Beaufort was pictured wearing the Diamond Tiara for the State Opening of Parliament in 1938, along with a spectacular Diamond Stomacher. During the Second World War, Queen Mary was evacuated to Badminton House, making many changes to the house and since there are reports of her sitting bolt upright in the air raid shelter wearing a tiara, it is quite likely she made her niece wear a Tiara every night for dinner too.
The Duchess of Beaufort continued to wear the Diamond Tiara after the Second World War, including for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, when she was again included in the royal group photo, and also in a portrait taken in the 1950s, after which the fate of the Tiara is unknown. The Duke and Duchess had no children and the Dukedom, and Badminton House, passed to a distant cousin upon his death in 1983, and while the Duchess was close to the new Ducal Couple, it appears that the Duchess’ jewels were not in the family by that point (the Diamond Stomacher was sold at auction at some point), as they have not been seen on any ladies of the Family, who have instead worn another tiara.
A huge thank you to the wonderful History Famous Jewels for sharing the information and images!