Happy Birthday to the 13th Duke of Manchester, who turns 60 today! The controversial holder of the illustrious peerage, the Duke’s grandfather sold the Family Seat of Kimbolton Castle and the Tandragee Castle in Ireland in the 1950s, but the family jewels remained in their possession until quite recently, the most prominent being the Cartier Manchester Tiara!
In 1903, Consuelo Yznaga, the Dowager Duchess of Manchester supplied over a thousand brilliant-cut diamonds and more than 400 rose-cut diamonds to Cartier in Paris, which were combined with further rose-cut diamonds and paste stones to create a Tiara of graduated flaming hearts and C scrolls, inspired by the 18th-century ironwork and architectural ornaments in Paris and Versailles.
Consuelo Yznaga, the Dowager Duchess of Manchester was a Cuban American Heiress, one of the first ‘Dollar Princesses’, who married the 8th Duke of Manchester, son of the ‘Double Duchess’ of Devonshire, and became a noted society hostess, being photographed wearing her Cartier Tiara in a portrait shortly before her death in 1909, along with a Diamond Garland Choker and a Corsage Brooch.
After the Duchess’ death in 1909, the Cartier Manchester Tiara was inherited by her son, the 9th Duke, and worn by his wife, Helena Zimmerman, the Duchess of Manchester, for the Coronation of King George V in 1911, along with the Garland Choker, Corsage, and an Emerald Necklace which was a wedding gift to her mother-in-law in 1876. According to Geoffrey Munn, the Duchess:
was said to have supported this enormous jewel with an air of permanent misgiving.”
The Family got into periods of financial difficulties though the 20th century, and had to sell the family seats of Kimbolton Castle and the Tandragee Castle, but the Tiara and the Family Jewels remained in their possession and were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1988 to 2006. Meanwhile, both the 12th Duke and the 13th Duke served time in jail for fraud, bigamy and attempted burglary.
After the death of the 12th Duke, the death duties mandated that the Family Jewels had to be sold, so in 2006, the Antique Emerald and Diamond Necklace, the Diamond Garland Choker, and the Diamond Corsage were sold at Auction at Christie’s in 2006. Of them, the Emerald and Diamond Necklace was sold again, this time at Sotheby’s, in 2020.
In 2007, the Cartier Manchester Tiara was accepted by the British government in lieu of inheritance tax, and was then allocated to the Victoria & Albert Museum where it cremains on display and where we saw it earlier this year.