Today marks the Anniversary of the Birth of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, who was born not his day in 1872! Queen Victoria’s Hessen Granddaughter who became the tragic last Empress of Russia, the Tsarina possessed a splendid personal jewellery collection as well as a spectacular collection of jewels from the Imperial Vaults, which included Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara!
A spectacular Tiara composed of large diamond pendeloques, including a heart-shaped diamond set atop a diamond sunburst shape, topped with upright pear-shaped and brilliant diamond, this piece was created by the famed Russian Court Jeweller J. Duval for Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1803.
The Dowager Empress seems to have either given or loaned the Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara to her daughter-in-law, Empress Elizabeth Alekseevna, who was depict wearing the piece in a miniature and also for a portrait by George Dawe made around 1825, the year before she passed away.
Later, since it was not mentioned in Crown Jewel Inventories, it is believed that Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik likely became a part of the dowry of one of the Grand Duchesses, likely Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna who became Queen of Württemberg, eventually ending up in the collection of her niece and adopted daughter, Duchess Vera Konstantinovna of Württemberg. While she was not photographed in the Tiara, this was said of her by her nephew, Prince Christopher of Greece:
My mother’s sister, the Duchess Vera of Wurttemberg, was at the wedding [of Andrew of Greece and Alice of Battenberg] and, as usual, my brothers and I teased her unmercifully. Her appearance was irresistibly funny in our eyes, for she was small and dumpy, with a fat, round, spectacled face and, in the days when the shingle was unknown, she wore her hair cut short. Her hats and even her tiaras were always secured to her head by bands of elastic.
At the family dinner after the wedding my brother George sat next to her and, at a pause in the proceedings, snatched off her tiara and put it on his own head. Everybody laughed, Aunt Vera included, though she vowed vengeance on the culprit.
Her turn came, as she thought, a little later, when the bride and bridegroom started on the honeymoon. We were all gathered at the door throwing rice after them when someone knocked off poor Aunt Vera’s glasses, which were smashed to atoms on the stone steps. She turned around quickly and, guessing, although she was unable to see clearly without her spectacles, that George was to blame again, dealt a mighty box on the ear of the person standing immediately behind her.
Unfortunately, it was not George, for he had taken care to slip out of range, but the British Admiral, Mark Kerr, who was the recipient of it!
In 1908, Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara was bought by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia from his cousin, Duchess Vera, and it was notably worn by Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna for a series of splendid Official Portraits taken in 1911.
As property of the Imperial Treasury, Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara was not among the Jewels taken by the Imperial Family into exile, and was instead left in St. Petersburg. In 1922, the Tiara was photographed for the Soviets, but since then it has disappeared without a trace. It may have been broken up and sold separately or the tiara may be one of the pieces still in the vaults of the Kremlin.