Princess Paley’s Pearl Corsage

Today marks the Anniversary of the Death of Princess Paley, who passed away on this day in 1929! The noblewoman who had an affair with a widower Grand Duke and later became his morganatic wife, Princess Paley possessed some spectacular jewels, which included this splendid  Cartier Pearl and Diamond Corsage!

When Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, daughter of King George I and Queen Olga of Greece, married Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, the son of the Tsar Alexander II, she received many spectacular wedding gifts including an elaborate Pearl and Diamond devant-de-corsage that featured three large button pearls and three large pear-shaped pearls in an elaborate diamond frame, which were likely heirlooms of the Romanov Family. 

After Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna’s death in childbirth with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, her jewellery was inherited by her widower, Grand Duke Paul, though some pieces were given to their daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. Not long afterwards, the Grand Duke began an affair with the married noblewoman Olga Karnovich, and she scandalously wore heirloom royal jewels for a Ball at the Winter Palace, from which she was escorted out. Eventually, the couple fled to Paris and married, with Olga morganatically being given the title of Countess von Hohenfelsen from the Bavarian King. The couple had three children and were only allowed to return to Russia in 1908, when Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna’s Pearls and Diamond Corsage was remade by Cartier into a Corsage for the soon to be Princess Paley, a title granted to the Princess and her children by Tsar Nicholas II.

Princess Paley was notably pictured in her Cartier Pearl and Diamond Corsage at a Ball hosted by Madame Yrtub in Paris in 1912, wearing the Corsage as a head ornament while her Cartier Diamond Tiara was worn as a Corsage along with other jewels from Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna and Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

During the Russian Revolution, the Grand Duke and her son, Prince Vladimir Paley, were both executed by the Bolsheviks, though she retained most of her Jewels (which she had sent away with a diplomat, though any heirlooms in the bank were seized) in exile in Paris in the 1920s. The Corsage was auctioned at some point after her death in 1929, by her two daughters, Princess Irina and Princess Natalia, and its current location is unknown.  


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