Today marks the Centenary of the Death of Princess Anastasia of Greece and Denmark, who passed away on this day in 1923! The wealthy American widow who married the youngest son of the first Greek King, Princess Anastasia possessed a spectacular jewellery collection, the highlight of which was her spectacular Cartier Diamond Tiara!
But first, lets learn about Princess Anastasia! Born as May Stewart into a wealthy family in Ohio, she was first married to George Ely Worthington for five years, before marrying the wealthy William Bateman Leeds, known as the ‘Tin King’, in 1900. The couple had one son, William Bateman Leeds, Jr., before his death in 1908, leaving massive fortune of 35 million dollars. Mrs Nancy Leeds settled in France, where she met Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark, the youngest son of King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, to whom she got engaged in Capri in 1914, though the wedding was delayed due to family opposition and the outbreak of the First World War, which ended with the Greek Royal Family in the first of their many exile. Eventually, Nancy Leeds and Prince Christopher got married in Switzerlands in 1920, the year before her only son married her husband’s niece, Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia. Through her husband, she became the aunt of King George II, King Alexander and King Paul of Greece, Queen Helen of Romania, the Duchess of Aosta (the short-lived Queen of Croatia), the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margarita, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Princess Cecile, Grand Duchess of Hesse, Princess Theodora, Margravine of Baden, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Princess Paul of Yugoslavia, Princess Sophie of Greece and Hanover, Princess Eugenie of Greece, and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia. Shortly after her wedding, the Princess was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away at the age of 45 in London in 1923, being buried with her parents in New York City.
In 1913, Mrs Nancy Leeds commissioned this striking Pearl and Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara from Cartier in Paris which was composed of alternate pear-shaped diamonds and pearls suspended in interlinked diamond and pearl hoops, in a style inspired by the legendary Vladimir Tiara., which had been left at Cartier in Paris for repairs and later inspired the design of several notable Tiaras like Princess Paley’s Cartier Diamond Tiara and even Queen Victoria Eugenie’s Aquamarine Tiara.
Mrs Leeds was most notably depicted wearing her Cartier Tiara in an iconic portrait by society painter Giovanni Boldini, which was made around the time of her long engagement to Prince Christopher of Greece.
Later, Mrs Leeds wore the Cartier Tiara for a series of portraits around 1917, when they appeared in the cover of Tatler Magazine on this day in 1917, recognising the future Princess’ donations to the war effort. Since the Greek Royal Family went through periods of restoration and exile through the years of her marriage and she was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the wedding, Princess Anastasia did not have any opportunity to be photographed wearing the Tiara for royal events.
After her death in 1923, Princess Anastasia’s property was inherited by her only son, William, and her husband, Prince Christopher, and the fate of all of her jewels remains unknown, except that in 1926, Cartier were commissioned by the executors of the Princess’ Estate to sell her jewellery, with a number of emeralds being bought by Lady Deterding.