Today marks the 55th Anniversary of the Death of Princess Maria Francisca of Orléans-Braganza, the Duchess of Braganza who passed away on this day in 1968. The daughter of Prince Pedro de Alcântara, the Heir Apparent to the Brazilian Imperial Throne, who renounced his succession rights to marry a Czech Countess, Elisabeth Dobrzensky of Dobrzenicz, Maria Francisca was a younger sister of the Countess of Paris and Prince Pedro Gastão. In 1942, she married Duarte Nuno of Braganza, a Pretender to the defunct Portuguese Throne, so to mark the occasion, we are featuring her versatile Diamond Bandeau!
Of relatively small size, this piece features seven floral cluster elements interspersed with six twisted diamond bands. Its design is reminiscent of the final decades of the XIX century. It is set on a flexible structure, allowing it to be worn either in a more open or closed way. However, many questioned whether the piece was created to wear as a bandeau or not.
I am pleased to disclose a bit more of this piece’s history: Princess Maria Theresia of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, who married Dom Miguel Januário of Braganza in 1893, was photographed wearing it as a choker, most notably when her stepson, Dom Miguel de Bragança, Duke of Viseu married the American Anita Stewart in 1909. It was probably given to her as a wedding gift, either by her own family or by her husband’s family. The couple used the title of Duke and Duchess of Braganza, as claimants to the Portuguese Throne. Dom Miguel was the eldest son of Portugal’s King Miguel I, who went into exile after losing a Civil War against his elder brother, King Pedro IV. The war lasted from 1832 to 1834 and opposed the Liberals, that supported King Pedro, against the Absolutists, that supported King Miguel. The latter lived the rest of his life in exile, in Germany, where he married and had vast offspring. His daughters contracted brilliant marriages into several prominent royal families.
This piece might have been inherited by Maria Theresia’s third son, Duarte Nuno, upon her death in 1935. On the 15th of October 1942, he married Princess Maria Francisca of Orléans Braganza in a ceremony in the city of Petrópolis, Brazil. This marriage reunited the two branches of the family that clashed during the Civil War, as the Princess is a great-great-granddaughter of King Pedro IV. The new Duchess of Braganza might have received it as a gift from her husband, as she wore the Diamond Bandeau to secure her old lace veil on the day of their wedding.
As the Diamond Bandeau was the only headpiece the Duchess actually possessed, it became her signature piece, being worn for all her tiara occasions, as well as various official photographs and portraits.
The Braganzas’ close family ties to the majority of the European Royal Families meant that the couple often attend those high-profile gatherings and lavish weddings. Duchess Maria Francisca notably wore her Diamond Bandeau for the Wedding Gala of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Italy in 1955, for King Baudouin’s Wedding Ball in 1960, for the Wedding Ball of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962, for the Wedding Ball of King Constantine of Greece and Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark in 1964, and for Infanta Pilar’s Wedding Gala in 1967.
After the Duchess’ sudden death at the age of 53 in 1968, the Diamond Bandeau was inherited by her eldest son, Dom Duarte Pio but it took a few decades for it to be seen again gracing the head of the next Duchess of Braganza. Dom Duarte married Dona Isabel Herédia, a Portuguese Aristocrat, in 1995. Unlike her mother-in-law, she decided not to wear the Diamond Bandeau on her wedding day, but rather the larger Queen Amelie’s Diamond Tiara, which the Duke had inherited from his godmother.
After becoming Duchess of Braganza, Dona Isabel began wearing this bandeau very often. Being a light and delicate piece, it is a very practical option to take more discreetly when travelling abroad. She has notably worn it at the Wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 2004, at the Wedding Ball of the Prince of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Isenburg in 2011, at the Wedding Gala of Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2011, at the Wedding Gala of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume in 2012, and more recently at the Wedding Gala Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia in 2021.
When a foreign Monarch travels to Portugal on a State Visit, the Duke and Duchess are always invited to be present at the State Banquet offered by the President of the Portuguese Republic. Of the four tiaras Dona Isabel has at her disposal, the Diamond Bandeau has been one of her more recurrent choices. It was recently worn for the State Banquet given at the Ajuda Palace in honour of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg in May 2022. There is no doubt we’ll continue to see it for years to come!
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!