Today marks the 170th anniversary of the Death of Queen Maria II of Portugal, who passed away on this day in 1853! The Regnant Queen who reigned for over two turbulent decades before her tragic death, Queen Maria II’s Sapphire Tiara was an iconic Jewel that was an Heirloom of the Hohenzollern Princely Family for over a century before being auctioned in 2021, and was on display at the Palácio da Ajuda in Lisbon!
But first, let’s learn about Queen Maria II of Portugal! Born in Brazil in 1819, Dona Maria da Glória was the first child of the future Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro I, and Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria. She ascended the throne at a turbulent time in the Portuguese history, marked by political instability and social unrest. Maria II became Queen at a young age due to her father’s abdication during the Liberal Wars, a conflict between liberals and absolutists seeking control over Portugal’s government. Her reign was characterized by efforts to stabilize the country politically and economically, supporting a Constitutional Monarchy. During her reign, Portugal saw the consolidation of liberal reforms, including advancements in education and the arts. However, political turmoil persisted, and the Queen faced several uprisings and conflicts throughout her rule. Queen Maria II was married twice and had 7 children who survived into adulthood from her second marriage to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Her Majesty left a complex legacy as a ruler who navigated a challenging period in Portuguese history, striving to modernize and stabilize the country amid political turbulence, but passed away in childbirth at the age of 34 in 1953.
Commissioned in the 1840s, this striking Sapphire and Diamond Tiara was part of a demi-parure that included a brooch and, at least, a matching bracelet. This piece, featuring the Portuguese national colours of that time, white and blue, appears on several of Queen Maria’s portraits and engravings, being the most iconic the oil portrait by the Austrian artist Ferdinand Krumholz, kept at the Throne Room of Ajuda Palace in Lisbon. The Queen wore it frequently as a closed crown, placed on the back of her hair, a style which was also much favoured by her friend and confident, Queen-Empress Victoria.
After the Queen’s early death, in 1853, the Tiara was valued at 2.000$000 réis (2 contos de réis) and described as :
“a tiara formed by nine detachable elements set with a total of 1415 brilliant-cut diamonds and five sapphires of fine colour”.
The appraiser specifically noted that all the larger diamonds were of fine quality, clean and well cut. When the late Queen’s marvellous jewel collection was divided, the Sapphire Tiara was inherited by her eldest daughter, Infanta Antónia. In 1859, the Infanta married Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern. The future Fürst and Fürstin of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen were the parents of three children, including Ferdinand, future King of Romania. Unfortunately, no depiction of Princess Antónia wearing the Sapphire Tiara is publicly known.
The Tiara would be seen again in public adorning the head of Princess Margarethe Karola of Saxony, the wife of Princess Antonia’s grandson, Prince Frederik of Hohenzollern-Signmaringen. Princess Margrethe was also a descendant of Queen Maria II herself, as she was a granddaughter of Infanta Maria Ana, the Queen’s youngest daughter, with an early notable appearance at the Wedding of Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony and Princess Elisabeth Helene of Thurn and Taxis in 1923.
The Princess was often depicted wearing the jewel, either with the frame wide opened and placed at the forehead, as bandeau, perfectly fitting the 1920s fashion, or with the frame closed, like in 1961 during her son, Prince Johann Georg, Pre-Wedding Ball with Princess Birgitta of Sweden at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. On that occasion, the Furstin paired it with the historic Hohenzollern Sapphire Parure.
As mentioned before, the Tiara’s nine main elements can be converted into brooches and worn separately. The base can also be worn alone, as a small bandeau.
In 1967, Queen Maria II’s Sapphire Tiara was seen in public for the last time when Princess Birgitta wore it with the Hohenzollern Sapphire Parure for the Wedding of her cousin, then heir to the Danish throne and today Queen Margaret II of Denmark in Copenhagen.
In May 2021, Queen Maria II’s Sapphire Tiara was sold by the Hohenzollern Princely Family at the Christie’s Geneva’s ‘Magnificent Jewels’ Sale with a starting bid of 170.000 CHF. It ended up being sold for 1.770.000 CHF to a private collector, after a failed attempt to buy from the Portuguese State, who lost the bid.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!