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The dramatic story of a tiara worn by the most historic monarch of all

There are a few pieces of jewellery that became completely symbolic of the historic reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The tiara known as the Grand Duchess Vladimirovna remained one of her favourite pieces throughout her 70 years as Monarch.

The tiara originally belonged to one of the most sociable members of the Romanov court, Grand Duchess Vladimir or Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin before she married in 1874. Known as Miechen in the family, she was a popular member of the court who was a prominent member of society. 

In The Queen’s Jewels, Leslie Fields explains that she commissioned a “diamond tiara of fifteen interlaced circles, with a swinging oriental pearl suspended in each” in 1890.

With the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Grand Duchess was forced to escape to the Causcaus, and then in 1919 was finally forced to flee to Zurich. Many of her jewels had been hidden in a safe in the Vladimir Palace in St. Petersburg. An Englishman, Bertie Stopford, broke into the palace to rescue her jewels and sent them on to London disguised in Gladstone bags. 

In 1920, Miechen died in Paris, with the war and revolution taking its toll on her health. Her jewels were divided up amongst her children, with her daughter, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna inheriting this tiara. 

Elena had married in the Greek royal family in 1902, and she and her husband, Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark were badly in need of funds to raise their three daughters. In 1921, she sold the Grand Duchess Vladimirovna Tiara to Queen Mary. 

Queen Mary held a significant store of jewels herself. In 1924, she commissioned court jeweller Garrard to create a third setting for the tiara to use fifteen of the Cambridge Emeralds. 

Her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, inherited the tiara upon her grandmother’s death in 1953. Her Late Majesty often wore this tiara in both the pearl and emerald settings, although rarely wore it widowed (without either). 

Queen Elizabeth II wore worn this tiara at countless public events and state occasions. It became forever associated with her and remains one of the most emblematic gems of her record breaking reign.

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