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The sapphire tiara that became the favourite of an historic queen

Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf

Queen Silvia, who has been consort of Sweden longer than anyone else in the country’s history, is rather fond of the sapphire tiara belonging to her family’s dynasty. She’s worn it on many important occasions, including a string of Nobel Prize ceremonies and at the wedding of her only son, Prince Carl Philip. But the tiara, which is part of a particularly impressive parure, has a long history that links Silvia to a famous, fallen, self made emperor.

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The sapphires began life as a wedding present. The bride in question was Augusta, daughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. The groom was Eugene de Beauharnais, the stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte who had declared himself Emperor of France. Napoleon is thought to have presented the sapphires to Augusta for her marriage. Several years later, the King of Bavaria presented the title of Duke of Leuchtenberg to Eugene. The name also stuck to the wedding jewels which have been known as the Leuchtenberg sapphires for many years.

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They ended up in Sweden thanks to a queen who shared her name with Eugene’s mother, the Empress Josephine. When he and Augusta had their first child, in 1807, they named her after his mama. The younger Josephine would go on to marry the future King Oscar I of Sweden and so the sapphires from an emperor ended up in the royal vaults of Stockholm. They were passed between family members before Queen Victoria, consort to King Gustaf V, decided they should become part of the official gem collection and so never leave royal possession.

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Queen Silvia has made great use of the gems since becoming consort in 1976 and it’s easy to see why. It’s a striking tiara with diamond floral motifs topped by eleven large sapphires, each surrounded by more little diamonds.

The sapphires don’t stop there. There’s also a large necklace with fourteen huge sapphires, a pair of earrings and a brooch. Queen Silvia usually wears them all together.

The Queen of Sweden chose the tiara for the gala dinner given for Nobel laureates at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in December 2023.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.