Today marks the 90th Anniversary of the Death of Crown Princess Thyra of Hanover, Duchess of Cumberland, who passed away on this day in 1933! The Danish Princess, the sister of two Kings, an Empress and a Queen, who married into the illustrious Hanoverian Royal Family, Crown Princess Thyra wore some splendid jewels, but among the most important were the Hanoverian Crown Pearls!
But first, lets learn about Crown Princess Thyra! The third daughter and fifth child of King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel, Princess Thyra was the sister of King Frederick VIII of Denmark, King George I of Greece, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. The family grew up in simplicity in the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen, before her father ascended the Danish Throne in 1863, and in her youth, Princess Thyra had an affair with Lieutenant Vilhelm Frimann Marcher, which resulted in a pregnancy, with a daughter being born in relative anonymity in Athens, being given to a Greek Family. In 1878, Princess Thyra married Crown Prince Ernest Augustus, the 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, son of the deposed King George V of Hanover, who resided in exile at Schloss Cumberland in Gmunden. The couple had six children, including Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick, Princess Marie Louise, the Margravine of Baden, and Princess Alexandra of Hanover, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The couple remained close to the Danish Royal Family and their relatives from around Europe, though the Hanoverian Monarchy was not restored and they lost their British Titles in 1917, though those continued to be used until her death in 1923, followed a few months later by the Crown Prince.
Each composed of a spectacular massive pear-shaped pearl suspended from a diamond frame and a small pearl framed in diamonds, the provenance of these pearls is certain as they could have either been acquired by the Electors of Hannover at some point before their succession to the British Throne in 1714, and would have then been among the Jewels inventoried by King George II as residing in Hannover in 1851, having been sent there in 1745 due to the Jacobite uprising.
Those jewels were brought to England upon the accession of King George III in 1760, and, when were combined with other heirlooms initially claimed by and then purchased from his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, for £54,900, were reset and presented to his bride, Queen Charlotte in 1761.
Queen Charlotte was depicted wearing various Pearl Earrings in numerous paintings and engravings, though it is not known which, if any of them, were the Hanoverian Crown Pearl Earrings. In her will, Queen Charlotte left the jewels presented to her upon her marriage to:
to the House of Hanover, to be settled upon it, and considered as an Heirloom, in the Direct Line of Succession of that House as established by the Laws and Constitution of the House of Hanover.’
The Hanoverian Crown Jewels passed to King George IV in 1818, then his brother, King William IV, in 1830, and finally to Queen Victoria, in 1837, when the dual monarchy ended, and the Kingdom of Hannover was inherited by her uncle, the former Duke of Cumberland, who soon filed a claim for:
the ‘Ancient Hanoverian Jewels’ bequeathed by George I to the Electorate, and jewellery bequeathed by Queen Caroline to Hanover.”
However, while commissioners were appointed to look into the King of Hannover’s claims in 1843, Queen Victoria continued to wear the Hanoverian Crown Jewels and also had various stones used in other jewels like her Regal Circlet and her Oriental Circlet Tiara, though since she had her own pair of Pearl Earrings, she was not depicted in the Hanoverian Crown Pearls. Eventually, in 1857, the commission ruled in favour of the King of Hannover, now her cousin, since her uncle had passed away, and while personally devastated, Queen Victoria sent the Hanoverian Crown Jewels to Hannover.
The Hanoverian Crown Jewels passed into the possession of Queen Marie of Queen Marie of Hannover, who seems to be wearing Queen Charlotte’s Pearl Earrings in a portrait patented by Friedrich Kaulbach in 1860, and they could also be the pearls worn by Queen Marie in another portrait from that time, as well as those worn for a Costume Gala at Windsor Castle in 1863.
In 1866, the Kingdom of Hannover was annexed by Prussia and the Royal Family fled into exile in Austria. However, the Hanoverian Crown Jewels, which had initially been buried for fear of having them confiscated, were smuggled by a Countess Kielmannsegg back into London, to be deposited into the Bank of England, as recounted by Queen Mary:
After reading the enclosed story about the saving of the Hanoverian Crown Jewels in 1866, I remembered that my Aunt the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz had told me that when she was coming to England on a visit in 1870, when she arrived at Calais to embark in her special steamer (in those days every member of the royal family was given a special steamer for crossing the Channel), a Hanoverian lady she knew met her and asked whether the Grand Duchess would give her a passage to England because she had the Hanoverian crown jewels sewn into her dress and that the crown was inside her hat, she was to deposit them in the Bank of England in London for safe keeping. Of course the Grand Duchess consented readily.
Eventually, the Crown Jewels made their way to the Hanoverian Royal Family in Austria, where they resided at Schloss Cumberland. Queen Marie’s daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Thyra, did not have her ears pierced and thus wore Hanoverian Crown Pearl Earrings suspended from a string of pearls on her corsage in a portrait with Queen Charlotte’s Diamond Riviere, Diamond Cross and Diamond Bow Brooches. She also seems to have worn the Pearls suspended from a string of pearls and a brooch for another portrait.
Crown Princess Thyra’s daughter-in-law, Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, the Duchess of Brunswick, does not seem to have worn the Hanoverian Crown Pearls, and since she never passed on heirlooms to her daughter-in-law, Princess Ortrud, they seem to not have been publicly worn for almost a century, especially as the current Princess of Hanover, Princess Caroline of Monaco, is estranged from her husband and has not worn Hanoverian Jewels in years.
However, in 2018, Hereditary Princess Ekaterina of Hanover wore massive Pearl Earrings, which we believe are the Hanoverian Crown Pearls, for the Wedding of Princess Eugenie of York at Windsor Castle, a fitting return of the Hanoverian Crown Pearls to their former home. It is often claimed that the Hanoverian keep some old heirlooms, like the Crown Jewels, in a Bank Vault in the United Kingdom rather than in Germany, and that may be why the Jewels had not been publicly worn in over a century though lets hope we see these illustrious heirlooms worn again soon!