Today marks the Anniversary of the Birth of Queen María Cristina of Spain, who was born on this day in 1858! The Austrian Archduchess, from the Habsburg-Teschen branch, who become the second wife of King Alfonso XII before serving as Spain’s Regent for 17 years after his premature death, ‘Doña Virtudes’ was known for her strong religious beliefs, austerity and staidness. Despite that, she had a great interest in jewellery, possessing a splendid collection that comprised, among many other things, several tiaras with naturalistic motifs, so to mark her 165th birthday today, we are featuring all of Queen María Cristina’s Floral Tiaras!
Wedding Gift Tiara
When Maria Cristina married King Alfonso XII, he gave her a superb lot of eight pieces of jewellery made of gold, silver and diamonds. As the press pointed out,
“Gallant and splendid, like a good Spanish and as King, HM. Don Alfonso XII has given her handsome consort magnificent wedding gifts, worthy of whom offers them and of the elevated person to whom they were intended. Among them are in the first place the jewels made by Mr. Marzo, HM’s diamond cutter.”
This lot comprised, among others, a splendid Strawberry Leaf Diamond Coronet, a massive Diamond Devant-de-Corsage Brooch, and an elegant Diamond-set Tiara with flowers, leaves, and branches. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any pictorial record of Queen María Cristina wearing it.
We do believe that, years later, she passed it on to her youngest daughter, Infanta María Teresa, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Ferdinand of Bayern, in 1906. This was the Tiara that the Infanta wore on her wedding day, and that, years later, her own daughter, Infanta María de las Mercedes, Princess of Bayern, wore for her wedding to Prince Irakli Bagration-Mukhrani in 1946. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
Diamond Floral Tiara
Since the early years of her marriage, “Crista” was frequently portrayed wearing a delicate Diamond Tiara with an intricate composition of branches and leaves. This piece might have been one of the jewels that the Archduchess brought from her native country when she travelled to Spain to marry King Alfonso XII. It may correspond to one of the “diamond tiaras” given to her by her Habsburg relatives and mentioned by the press. It is highly probable that Queen María Cristina had it dismantled in a later date to created more modern pieces.
Emerald Floral Tiara
This tiara is composed of five graduated diamond flowers centred by a large emerald and intercepted by leaves set with old cut diamonds. Unfortunately, we do not know when it was created for HM nor were able to find any photograph of the Queen wearing this jewel.
When the Doña María Cristina died in 1929, this piece was part of the batch of jewels inherited by her granddaughter, Infanta Maria de las Mercedes Teresa, Princess of Bayern (valued in 22.000 pesetas). As previously mentioned, Mercedes of Bayern married Prince Irakly Bagration, head of the Royal house of Georgia. There is a very blurry picture where she is probably wearing this emerald tiara.
The piece was worn by Princess Maria de la Paz Bagration in 1968 on the day of her marriage to José Luis Blanco y Briones in San Jerónimo el Real Church in Madrid, and again in 1976 by Doña Carmen Ulloa y Suelves on the day she married Prince Bagrat Bragation. In 1983, the jewel was put on sale at Christies Geneva.
The tiara currently belongs to a private collector who lent for an exhibition called “Tiara: Dignity and Beauty – the story of the tiara”, held in the Bunkamura Museum of Art in 2007 (h/t to Monica from the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board).
Diamond and Pearl Leaf Tiara
The Queen also possessed a Tiara representing three large diamond-set leaves intertwined with ribbons and bows with several pearls dropping. This was one of Doña María Cristina’s favourite tiaras and one of her most frequent picks for portraits and family events. When she died, this piece, valued in 12.500 pesetas was inherited by her only son, King Alfonso XIII. As it was not given by the King to his daughters or daughters-in-law, it might have been sold or dismantled during his exile.
Diamond and Pearl Daisy Tiara
Another naturalistic-inspired piece that was once part of Queen María Cristina’s collection is a tiara with seven daisies set with diamonds and centred by pearls. It is assumed that this piece was made by the Ansorena around the time of the Wedding celebrations of King Alfonso XII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. The Queen could use it with both grey or white pearls set in the centre of each flower, as there is a mechanism that allows them to be exchanged, as can be seen through a photograph published in the book written by Fernando Rayón and José Luis Sampedro. To help holding the piece in her hair, Doña María Cristina also commissioned a hairpin in the shape of a similar flower, which was placed below the central element.
When the Queen died, her son, King Alfonso XIII, inherited the tiara and the hairpin, valued in 14,500 and 2,500 pesetas, respectively. In 1935, the King gave the tiara to his eldest daughter, Infanta Beatriz, when she married Prince Alessandro Torlonia. Unfortunately, the Infanta barely wore this piece publicly. However, it seems that she had one of the flowers adapted to be worn as a bracelet and the rest were turned into brooches. Currently, these flower-shaped brooches are still in the possession of her descendants.
Diamond Floral Tiara
On March 4th, 1935, Infante Don Jaime married Doña Emanuela de Dampierre, daughter of the Viscount of Dampierre and Princess Vittoria Ruspoli. The religious ceremony was held in San Ignacio de Loyola’s church in Rome. As Doña Emanuela recalls in her memoirs:
“my wedding dress was of white and silver lamé, with a long train; I wore a wide, flowing tulle veil held up by a diamond tiara. It had been made by the Italian designers Sorelle Botti, my favorites for their sober yet elegant style”.
Her bridal tiara, representing flowers and leaves studded with diamonds, was one of the wedding gifts she received from her father-in-law, King Alfonso XIII. The piece also came from the jewellery collection of his late mother, Queen Maria Cristina. In the inventory and share of her jewels, it is described as “a tiara with fifteen flowers adorned with diamonds” and is valued in 11,000 pesetas.
The only other record we found of this tiara in use corresponds to a splendid portrait of the Duchess of Segovia taken some time after the wedding. On this occasion, she wears some other family jewels that King Alfonso gave to her. We do not know what happened to this piece, but we suppose that, as was the case of some of her other jewels, it was sold on a later period of her life.
Although it has never been proven, Queen Sofia possesses a diamond-set Floral Tiara, which might originates from Queen María Cristina as well. This piece of vegetal and floral inspiration, made of brilliant- and old-cut diamonds set in silver and gold, was given by the Dictator Francisco Franco to Doña Sofía on the occasion of her marriage with Don Juan Carlos in 1962.
It has always been speculated that this piece had a previous royal provenance. In fact, some years ago, the Royal Family issued that
“it was commissioned by King Alfonso XII from English firm J.P. Collins in 1879 for his fiancée, Archduchess Maria Cristina of Habsburg. The jewel left the family in a later date, re-joining when the Dictator bought it for the Princess”. More here.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!