Today mark the Anniversary of the Birth of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, who was born on this day in 1896! The twice-divorced American for whom a King gave up his Throne, the Duchess possessed a massive jewellery collection of sumptuous modern pieces, which included this Van Cleef & Arpels Tiara!
While Wallis Simpson had said to Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: ‘A tiara is one thing I will never own’ shortly before the abdication crisis, and the former King Edward VIII commissioned this tiara-like jewel from Van Cleef and Arpels as Wedding Gift in 1937, which was described as:
A hair ornament. Set exclusively with diamonds, it was accompanied by a set of clips, large and small, that could be attached to the armature to make it more imposing or be worn separately
The new Duchess of Windsor did not receive spectacular Heirloom Tiaras as Wedding Gifts from Queen Mary like her sisters-in-law, so was photographed wearing her striking Van Cleef & Arpels Tiara for several striking portraits taken by Cecil Beaton for Vogue soon after her Wedding to the former King in 1937.
The Duchess of Windsor’s poses and the striking asymmetrical Tiara were in sharp contrast to the portraits taken by Cecil Beaton of her sisters-in-law: Queen Elizabeth, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, wearing their royal heirlooms in a traditional setting, which served to highlight the difference in their roles.
True to her original intentions, the Duchess of Windsor was not keen on wearing a Tiara and this piece was not publicly seen following the 1930s. One can imagine the Duchess wearing it while the Duke served as the Governor of the Bahamas during the Second World War, but it was likely broken up to create other jewels long before many of the Duchess’ jewels were stolen in 1946.