Tag Archives: Belgian Royal Family

tiara time! the nine provinces tiara (or belgian empire tiara)

nine provinces tiaraBack to Belgium we go for today’s edition of Tiara Time. This wedding tiara goes by two names; the geographically-informative Nine Provinces tiara or mildly-anachronistic Belgian Empire tiara. We like the Belgian Empire tiara, personally. It has a more poetic flair, nostalgic and misleading. Guess it could be easily confused with the Luxembourg Empire tiara. Call it what you like.

queen astrid sports Nine Provinces Tiara in original form
queen astrid sports Nine Provinces Tiara in original form

The Belgian Empire tiara was a gift to Princess Astrid of Sweden in honor of her marriage to Crown Prince Leopold. This diamond bandeau was a gift from the Belgian people. Read: public taxes paid for a ton of diamonds to give to an incoming (foreign!) princess.

Created by Belgian jeweler Van Bever, the original version of the Nine Provinces tiara was a flexible meander bandeau in a stylized Greek key motif topped with 11 large diamonds on spikes. (In 1926, the meander/Greek key look was all the rage.) The 11 diamonds have a total carat-weight well over 100 and are removable. You know, in case you’ll be wearing your tiara in a bad neighborhood. Yeah. It’s best not to chance it.

nine provinces tiara bandeau
nine provinces tiara worn as bandeau; queen fabiola and queen astrid.

Mysterious nomenclature

Literally not adding up, why does the Nine Provinces have eleven spike-mounted diamonds? The nine provinces part is easy: Belgium is made up of nine provinces. I’m astounded too.  Back when the tiara was made, the Congo was also a Belgian province, so there’s ten. It’s the eleventh that is up for serious debate. Some say 11th represents the unity of the provinces or representing Belgium herself. Some say the eleventh diamond represents the royal family. Either way, the Belgian Empire tiara makes more sense mathematically and Nine Provinces more politically correct?

renovation and inheritance

A few years later, Princess Astrid added diamond arches to enclose the eleven “province” diamonds.  The design allowed for the arches to detach and just the bandeau to be worn. In 1934 Leopold was crowned and Astrid became queen. Poor Queen Astrid died in a car accident at the age of 29. She had been queen for less than a year, when driving along the twisty roads in Küssnacht am Rigi, Schwyz, King Leopold lost control of the car, plunging into Lake Lucerne, killing Queen Astrid.

full nine provinces tiara astrid, magrethe, fabiola, paola
full nine provinces tiara (L to R) astrid, magrethe, fabiola, paola

King Leopold remarried a commoner Lilian Baels in 1941. The couple married in secret and there was significant public chafing. Lilian was not approved of thus the king’s image suffered. Leopold dubbed her Princess de Réthy.  Symbolically, forever Princess Lillian–she was never named queen, the public wouldn’t stand for it–only wore parts of the Belgian Empire tiara but never the whole structure. It’s like being given a Mr. Potato-Head but never having all the eyes, lips and hair together at once. (Our similes are a bit loopy today.)

baudoin of belgium and fabiola weddingIn 1960, Baudoin married Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. The diadem was handed directly to Princess Fabiola from King Leopold. Thus establishing the tradition that the Belgian Empire tiara was property of the Queen of Belgium, handed from one queen to the next. (Sorry ‘Lil. Not all of us second-queen consorts get the golden Camilla treatment; some of us get snubbed.) The Nine Provinces was Princess Fabiola’s wedding tiara.

In keeping with strict tradition, Fabiola gave the diadem to Paola when Baudoin died in 1993.  When King Albert and Queen Paola ‘retired’ earlier this year, the tiara migrated on to the new queen. Queen Mathilde wore the bandeau solo for her first formal gala as queen consort to King Phillipe.

One multi-tasking tiara

Just like Fabiola’s Spanish Wedding Gift tiara, the Belgian Empire is an incredibly functional tiara, offering 7 different variations. Let’s run through them together, shall we?

  1. 1.     In its original form: the bandeau with spikes topped with the 11 diamonds
    2.     Original form 2: bandeau with spikes, diamonds removed
    3.     Full diadem with arches
    4.     Just the bandeau
    5.     The bandeau with the arches sans the 11 brillantes. Who really needs the headache of wearing over 100 carats?
    6.     As a bracelet
    7.     As a necklace

princess lilian of sweden in nine provinces tiara as bracelet and with loose diamondsLillian, never allowed to wear the whole schmear, got even more resourceful. She’s used the detachable 11 diamonds to top the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Bandeau. On the left she wears the Nine Provinces as a bracelet. (She’s wearing the Queen Elizabeth Diamond bandeau as a necklace.) She also hung them like 11 pricey pony beads from a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace (above, right.) Mixing-and-matching doesn’t count toward an official option in my mind. Many tiara/gem wealthy types do it.

Fabiola wears the arches sans diamonds and (right) Paola wears it as choker
Fabiola wears the arches sans diamonds and (right) Paola wears it as choker

Tiara Time! the Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara

queen fabiola belgium Spanish Wedding Gift tiara

To say the Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara is one bad-ass diadem is truly an understatement. This conveniently convertible coronet was a gift from the dictator. A dictator with whom I lamentably share the same surname. Even worse: it’s my maiden name! No blaming it on Mr. Blog Hostess. *heh, don’t ever tell him I called him that…* Interesting side trivia, this wasn’t the only tiara el Generalisimo gave away.

wedding portrait King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola

The Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara is about as literal a name We’ve seen in Tiara Time.  Baudouin of Belgium’s bride-to-be was Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón the fourth daughter of an achingly aristocratic family; her mother and father have no less than nine surnames between them, not including honorifics. Her father was the 4th Marques of Casa Riera and the 2nd Count of Mora. Her mother is the goddaughter of none other than Queen Victoria.

we go off the rails ever so briefly

Made around 1960, this fabulous halo was given to the future Queen of Belgium by none other than el Generalísimo! himself! Yes, Francisco Franco is here, with us, in the studio tonight to answer YOUR questions about the Spanish Wedding Gift tiara.

Now, hey, y’all might ask yourselves just why would el Generalísimo drag himself all the way down to Studio One, here at the rogue nation of Tiaras and Trianon. (Yes, We’ve taken leave of our senses and are running lean!)

madame franco gives the Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara to Queen Fabiola of Belgium
Would you turn down a tiara if it were a gift from a dictator? (morals weakening!)

Oh yes, now there of course we see Fabiola receiving her gift from Madame Franco in a wonderful pastiche of spontaneity; some private girl time on the couch. Your Blog Hostess scoffs but truly We appreciate the fact it’s unique. We particularly enjoy gawking at the heft of that velvet box. Drool. This tiara belongs exclusively to the Dowager Queen–like We’ve said before, Belgium is tiara-poor partly due to the lack of a foundation to keep the heirlooms in the country. It’s anyone’s guess what she intends to do with it. Ah, the glory of being Fabiola!

Nothing better than an ironically named tiara

King Baudoin of Belgium wedding to Doña FabiolaI should rephrase that. The tiara’s name is confusing; most people and the almighty Google search engine are under the impression that this was a gift given to the Spanish Royal family and currently resides there. Perhaps you’ve noticed that moniker “Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara” is quite a mouthful. Well, the word ‘gift’ is actually an absolute necessity because Doña Fabiola did not wear for the royal wedding in Laeken. Instead she wore the Nine Provinces Tiara, originally given to Baudouin’s mother Astrid of Sweden when she married King Leopold III in 1926. Click here to check out this fabulous Art Deco piece.

it’s not just a ship, it’s a transformer!

duquesa de alba en corona ducal duchess of alba in a ducal coronet
Legend has it, this photograph of the Duchess of Alba predates the invention of the cotton gin.
Fabiola in crown version of Spanish Wedding Gift tiara aquamarines
the “coronet mode” definitely resembles that of a Spanish ducal coronet. See la Duquesa de Alba in hers, right.

Reminiscent of Spaceball One transforming into the statuesque, *tiara-wearing* Mega Maid, the Spanish Wedding Gift has a few convertible spaceships of her sleeve as well. The SWGT has diverse looks for any occasion. First we have the traditional coronet look, most likely inspired by the ducal coronet of Spain.

mega maid spaceballs crown
Mega Maid’s tiara, before and after deployment. The left could be a kokoshnik or a less spiky fringe; right-hand Mega Maid showcases the sparse fringe look.
Queen Fabiola wear the Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara at a 1964 wedding in Greece
Queen Fabiola in tiara mode for the 1960 Grecian Royal Wedding.
Queen Fabiola in the Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara with Aquamarines
Create this look by folding the leaves inward!

Or if you’re not in a duchess mood tonight, you simply remove a base and there you’ve got that tiara! Stunning! Yes, stunning, your Grace! That’s right, Mortimer! Couldn’t you just die! Now those are real diamonds set in gold among those leafy flowers. And see those big center stones? Aquamarines!

Queen Fabiola of Belgium Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara Necklace formLast but not least, the necklace option! I know it’s just to die for! Here, somebody get a close-up of this can’t-miss necklace. [done in the BLANK style] I find it almost as enchanting as the and versatile like a fox! Yeah, you heard me…

But wait, there’s more!

Remember those unforgettable aquamarine center-stones?

queen fabiola coronet spanish wedding gift tiara

What would you say if Mort and I told you that these stones come with a  back-up corbielle of rubies and emeralds! All three collections of such terrific precious gems adds up to…three times the coronet accessorizing options! Nary a color photo to document the coronet or “large” form of the tiara with emeralds to be found. *so sorry* Thus We defer to the top-left, having tinged it green.

queen fabiola belgium spanish wedding gift tiara

Each set of stones fits the coronet, the tiara and the necklace for a total of not three, not four but nine different jewellery-911s!

queen fabiola belgium spanish wedding gift tiara
We prefer the emerald look for neckwear

Never again become the pariah of the Burke’s Peerage set, showing up to what you thought was a white-tie only event only to find its sandwiches and lawn archery! Oh, the humanity! We’ve all been there.

Personally, We prefer the necklace in emerald, as far as the tiaras–both coronet and “small”–frankly, We love them all. Thus we proffer these questions upon which We hope you’ll muse.

  1. Which stones [rubies, aquamarines or emeralds] and which ‘mode’ [large/coronet, small/classic tiara or necklace] of the SWGT do you find more appealing?
  2. What kind of Royal headgear do you think Mega Maid is wearing? Do you agree with my “kokoshnik & fringe” theory?
  3. If you were watching late-night home-shopping, do you think you’d get suckered in and buy a tiara? (Everyone’s credit card’s got room at 3 am. You know what I’m talking about.)
  4. I really enjoy looking at the different crowns and coronets for each rank and how they differ in appearance. Click for fun!
  5. Would you take a gift from Generalísimo Franco if it were this freaking awesome? *morals weakening*