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British Royals

The tiara that became symbolic of Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign

There were a few pieces in the jewellery vault of Queen Elizabeth II that she wore time and time again throughout her reign. The Grand Duchess Vladimirovna Tiara remained one of her favourite pieces and it is this tiara that features in the portrait chosen by King Charles III to mark the first anniversary of his mother’s death.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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

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It became one of the most symbolic jewels of her historic reign, worn in countless portraits and at many State Banquets, notably in 2014 when Irish President Michael D. Higgins visited. On that occasion, she fittingly wore the tiara in the emerald setting.

On September 8th 2023, His Majesty chose a portrait to release to mark the first anniversary of his mother’s death. The photo, taken by Cecil Beaton, shows Her Late Majesty in the robes of the Order of the Garter and wearing the Grand Duchess Vladimirovna Tiara in its pearl setting.



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