Sunday, July 02, 2017

Tiara of the Weekend

Instead of a heroine this weekend, I'm taking a look at a tiara that has belonged to several queenly heroines, Queen Alexandra's kokoshnik.  The Order of Sartorial Splendor site (one of my my very favorites, and a must-read for anyone obsessed with royalty like I am!) called it a "straight-up wall of diamonds."  If you know me at all, you know how much I am bound to LOVE that!  In fact, I loved it so much I had to put it in a scene of my new WIP last week, when Alexandra has a walk-on role.  (the new book is set in Paris during the Exposition of 1889, when the Prince and Princess of Wales made an "incognito" visit to take in the sites.  She only has a cameo role, but of course that required an afternoon of heavy research to decide on her jewels!)

In 1888, Queen (then Princess of Wales) Alexandra and her husband celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary, which called for some heavy-duty gifts.  A committee called the Ladies of Society, led by 2 marchionesses and 2 countesses, raised a collection for a present of jewels, and Alexandra requested a tiara in the style of a kokoshnik, like those worn by her sister, Empress of Marie of Russia.  The Ladies commissioned royal jeweler Garrard, who designed the tiara, like Marie's, in a style of individual pave-set bars of diamonds (77 bars, with 400 diamonds in total), which could also be worn as a necklace.  The cost was 4400 pounds, and the royal family has since gotten their money's worth out of it.  It's been a favorite piece of 3 queens, with hopefully many more to come.


The tiara had its first big outing in 1893, when Alexandra wore it to the wedding of her son George to May of Teck.  When she passed in 1925, May became Queen Mary, and inherited her mother-in-law's gems.  She didn't often wear pieces from Queen Alexandra, being a first-class jewel magpie of her own, but the kokoshnik was a favorite of hers, too.  In 1953, the current queen inherited her grandmother's collection, and has often worn the kokoshnik to state banquets, foreign tours, and the theater (it's second only to the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara in terms of wears).  I would love to see it on the Duchess of Cambridge one day!  It's a "wall of diamonds," but it also has a lightness and elegance about it, a timelessness, that's hard to beat.