You’ve been patient…it’s been awhile. You deserve it…especially one with diamonds!
It can be easily argued that the Luxembourg Empire Tiara is the granddaddy (grand mommy?) of them all. It simply towers and glowers in bling. (Yes, I said “glowers”. It is so imposing it would seem to be staring back at you, How dare you gawk at me, peasant! If tiaras had voices, this one would be old-school haughty.)
This monument to all that glitters first appeared in 1919 when reigning Grand Duchess Charlotte (of Luxembourg, it’s a duchy, remember?) married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma. In order to create this rampart of diamonds, it is generally believed that two sets of jewels from two different parts of the family were pooled to construct it.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia was the first wife of Charlotte’s grandfather. When she came to Luxembourg to marry, she brought many Romanov jewels with her. But over-the-top opulence has never been associated the Romanovs, wherever did they get that idea? [Ironic cough.] Another possible source is Aunt Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden, who left an assortment of jewels to Charlotte and her sisters. [One of those sisters, also named Hilda, wore the tiara for her wedding too. Above right.]
Personally I believe they took both Elizabeth and Hilda’s gems and reconstructed them into the Luxembourg-Empire-Strikes-Back because there is no record of the tiara prior to the 1919 royal wedding.
Grand Duchess Charlotte wore the tiara on important occasions during her reign, up to and including the day she abdicated the throne. She turned the throne over to her son, Jean, and the tiara over to daughter-in-law Joséphine-Charlotte, the new grand duchess.
Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favor of his son Henri in 2001, but the tiara did not transition with the title “grand duke” quite as obviously this time. The new Grand Duchess didn’t wear the Empire-Strikes-Back tiara until after Dowager Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte’s death. Just like the provenance of the tiara itself, there are two possible explanations. It’s quite possible that Joséphine-Charlotte had compunction of sorts about handing down the opulent family heirloom to the new Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. (Not everybody, regardless of how saintly or well brought-up, gets a roses-and-champagne reception from her mother-in-law. Sad but true.)
In Happyland, those girls whose mother-in-laws adore them and are given possession of the Empire Tiara upon becoming Grand Duchess, the second possibility is evident. Out of respect for her beloved mother-in-law, Maria Teresa waited out of respect for Joséphine-Charlotte until she wore it.
Maria Teresa only wears the Empire-Strikes-Back for the most important occasions: a fashion choice with which I agree. She first wore it for state visits to Belgium and the Netherlands, fellows in the Benelux economic union and family to boot. King Albert of the Belgians is Grand Duke Henri’s uncle, and Queen Beatrix and the Grand Duke both descend from the House of Nassau. Maria Teresa also wore the Luxembourg Empire Tiara to Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding in Sweden in 2010 (above left) and naturally she donned the diamond pinnacle for the painting of her official state portrait. (Wouldn’t you?)