Queen Letizia of the Spain will be celebrating her 50th Birthday tomorrow! Having access to the Spanish Jewellery collection, Queen Letizia has worn many pieces from sizeable personal collection of her mother-in-law, Queen Sofia, as well as a variety of heirloom jewels, so to mark her birthday, we have been featuring the most prominent of those Jewels, ending with the Spanish Fleur-de-Lys Tiara!
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This tiara was one of the many gifts that King Alfonso XIII gave to his British-born wife Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg to celebrate their marriage in 1906. It was designed by Ansorena, Spanish court jeweller since 1860. Featuring three large fleur-de-lys, filled with large round diamonds, and connected by swirls and scrolls, all mounted in platinum. The main elements of the tiara, the fleurs-de-lys, were a very symbolic choice as they are the heraldic symbol of the House of Borbon, the Spanish reigning dynasty.
Queen Victoria Eugenie topped her elaborate bouffant with this Diamond Tiara on her wedding day. It was paired with several other wedding gifts received from her new husband. The Fleur-de-lys Tiara also features on the couple’s first official portraits as husband and wife and Spanish sovereigns.
The piece was originally set to be used in a closed way, more like a crown, fit for the hairstyles that were fashionable in the Edwardian Era. We also believe that the fleurs-de-lys could be detached and worn as large corsage brooches, as it can be seen during one of the times the Queen has attended the opening of the Cortes Generales, paired with her Diamond Coronita and Diamond Earrings.
As fashion changed, Ansorena was commissioned to create a new structure for the piece, so it could be worn in a more open setting, as a diadem and bandeau. The Fleur-de-lys Tiara remains one of the most recognisable pieces of jewellery in Queen Ena’s portraits and photographs throughout her almost 25-year-tenure as Queen of Spain.
When the Spanish Royal Family went into exile, the Queen was able to retain every single piece from the massive jewellery collection she was able to build. She kept wearing this Diamond Tiara, which was considered her best one, La Buena, as her daughter-in-law would later baptised this piece, for the many society events she still attended, namely one of the Pre-Wedding Celebrations of the then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in 1947.
I think that the tiara of the fleurs-de-lys, which Alfonso XIll gave to Aunt Ena for the wedding, I only wore once in England for the coronation of the Queen, which was in June 1953. When we were going to leave for Westminster Abbey, I had my small tiara on, and then Queen Victoria said to me: No, you have to wear the one with the fleurs-de-lys. And I obeyed. But as soon as it was all over, I gave it back to her. They had given it to her as a gift and the logical thing is that she would have it as long as she lived. Later, when she died, they gave it to me, but I passed it on to Sofia. Aunt Ena continued to wear it for important events and for some precious photographs”.
Queen Victoria Eugenie kept wearing her Fleur-de-lys Tiara until her final years. It was her most worn tiara, one of the last that she was able to retain, together with her Chaumet Tiara and her Cartier Tiara, after dismantling, selling and presenting others to her children. It was worn by the Queen during one of the Balls held at the Royal Palace of Athens ahead of the Wedding of her grandson Prince Juan Carlos to Princess Sofia of Greece in 1962 and for the Pre-Wedding Ball of her granddaughter, Infanta Pilar, in 1967.
When Queen Ena died, this tiara became part of the “Joyas de Pasar”, a collection of jewels reserved for the use of the Spanish Queens. As officially there was no King nor Queen on that period, the lot of jewels was kept by the head of the family and pretender to the throne, Don Juan. Some years after the Restoration of the Spanish Monarchy in 1975, the Count and Countess of Barcelona passed las Joyas de Pasar to Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofia.
After debuting the Fleur-de-lys Tiara during a Swedish State Visit to Spain in 1983, Queen Sofia was often seen and portrayed wearing it. However, this piece was treated by the Queen as her most important tiara, all its appearances were carefully chosen, with the intention of giving the right emphasis to a certain occasion.
The piece was mainly used for events such as State Visits to/from monarchies, notably during a Danish State Visit in 1983, a Dutch State Visit in 1985, a State Visit to Britain in 1986, the British State Visit in 1988, and a Norwegian State Visit in 1995.
The Queen made two exceptions to her “golden rule” by wearing La Buena during two State Banquets held in honour of two Republican Presidents. The first occasion took place in 1984, when the Spanish Sovereigns received Greek President Karamanlis, a tense situation for Queen Sofia. Learn more. During that banquet, and according to Princess Irene’s words “my sister Sofia showed him that he doesn’t play games with us.” In a very different environment and happier situation, in 2014, in a Banquet held in honour of Mexican President Peña Nieto at the Royal Palace of Madrid, Queen Sofia wore this tiara for the last time, days before her husband’s abdication.
With the accession of King Felipe to the throne, the lot of Joyas de Pasar passed to his wife, Doña Letizia, in accordance with Queen Ena’s last wishes. The new Queen Consort wore the tiara for the first time in 2017 for the Argentinian State Visit to Spain before wearing it at Buckingham Palace during a State Visit to the United Kingdom later that year.
We’ve seen Queen Letizia wearing La Buena in Japan for Emperor Naruhito’s Enthronization Banquet in 2019, for the couple’s new Official Portraits and during the most recent State Visit to Sweden in 2021. There is no doubt we’ll continue to see Queen Letizia wearing the Fleur-de-Lys Tiara in the future!
Spanish Fleur-de-Lys Tiara | Prussian Diamond Tiara | Spanish Floral Tiara | Cartier Pearl Tiara | Queen Maria Christina’s Loop Tiara | Mellerio Shell Tiara | The Joyas de Pasar | Queen Victoria Eugenie’s Diamond Earrings | Queen Victoria Eugenie’s Diamond Bracelets | Spanish Royal Tiaras | Spanish Royal Jewels
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!