For the third time only since We started this chucklehead rag, royal hardware and Marie Antoinette intertwine. Today We truly are tiaras and trianon. *strange beam of pride*
Again, the (fictional) Tiara Nomenclature Council disappoints, damn them! So it’s up to your Blog Hostess to make the call. Easy choices would be the “Duchesse d’Angoulême Emerald Tiara”, “Marie Thérèse’s Emerald Tiara” or simply the “Angoulême Emerald Tiara.” I’m definitely between the two first ones. Guess we’ll flip a coin. The Duchesse d’Angoulême Emerald and Diamond Tiara. What a mouthful.
Not only is Marie Thérèse’s Emerald Tiara beyond striking, it’s exceptionally rare as it survived the French Revolution, Restoration and both installations of the Empire for almost nothing did. (Remember Wednesday’s post? Marie Thérèse’s favorite tiara? Adios!) Its survival puts it in the category of Marie Antoinette’s Court Dress now on display at the Toronto museum. (Most of M@’s closet was torn to shreds by the mobs.)Evrard and Frederic Bapst, brothers who shared a family business: French Royal Jewelers. The Brothers Bapst created this “masterpiece of early 19th Century French Jeweler craftsmanship“ in 1819. The tiara was commissioned by Louis Antoine, the duc d’Angoulême, for his wife and first cousin: Marie Thérèse. Between September 1819 and July 1820, the brothers detailed a delightfully symmetrical tiara mounted with more than a thousand diamonds set into silver and 40 emeralds set in gold. (Yes. More than a thousand diamonds. I’ll let you fester.) The view from the back (above) shows the two metals in halo harmony. Scrolls and twisting foliage surround 14 of the largest emeralds in the Royal Collection. The centerpiece stars a drool-worthy, cushion-shaped emerald surrounded by 18 brilliant-cut diamonds. The bros Bapst then sifted on an extra 26 smaller of the kerry-green gems, totaling Marie Thérèse’s tiara with a total of 79.12 carats in emeralds. (From festering jealousy to the grinding of clenched teeth.)
The tiara actually curves up in the center to fit the contour of the wearer’s head. A tiara with ergonomics. Lavish. Although it was commissioned by the duc d’Angoulême, all of the stones and precious metals belonged to the State. (Basically 100% of the tiara.) Marie Thérèse surrendered this shimmering halo along and the honorific Madame la Dauphine when she left for to live in exile. The duchesse d’Angoulême returned her eponymous emerald tiara to the state in 1830 before departing for England.
The emerald-and-diamond diadem has had an interesting journey since the former Madame Royale handed it in. Until 1848, it collected dust in some vault of the State Treasury, packed away and mostly forgotten, not unlike the Arc of the Covenant in “Raiders.” Thankfully Napoleon returned (where are you gonna hear that again?) and the tiara came out to play once more.
During the Second French Empire, Empress Eugénie, Napoleon III’s empress consort, frequently wore Marie Thérèse’s Emerald Tiara to formal events. Famed as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, Eugénie de Montijo was the second daughter of an Andalusian Grandee of Spain with more titles than you can shake a stick at. With fair skin and red hair, Empress Eugénie felt the green-and-brilliant white of Marie Thérèse’s diadem set off her complexion. It became one of her favorite pieces of jewelry. (Who could say ‘boo’ to a tiara? Seriously.)
Like its first owner, its second also set off to live in exile in Britain, returning the tiara like an overdue library book. Back to the warehouse it went until the Prussian Invasion in 1870. The crown jewels were moved to the northwestern naval base and port in Brest. In 1872, the Emerald and Diamond Tiara was moved to Paris: the vaults in the Ministry of Finance.
The tiara had a few PR stints: the 1878 Paris Worlds Fair and again at the Louvre in 1884. Then the fateful day came; a decision that eventually lands something glittery, jewel-laden and circular in a private collection. Auction. (Groan.) The Republican National Assembly saw the crown jewels of France as abhorrent royal reminders of the Bourbons and the Bonapartes. The Assembly feared an aspiring monarchist to incite a future upheaval could use these symbols of monarchism. The artistic and historic significance had no bearing on the unanimous vote to sell, sell, sell. The auction took place in May of 1887 and Marie Thérèse’s Emerald Tiara went home with an unknown jeweler. He was most likely British as the tiara resurfaced in Ol’ Blighty, eventually ending up in the Wartsky Jewellery Firm. Supposedly it had sat in a vault for 30 years at the very least, nobody aware of its historic pedigree.The Duchess of Angoulême Emerald and Diamond Tiara spent 1982 to 2002 on display at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. In 2002, the owner decided to put the emerald-diamond obra majestra on sale. In order to keep the tiara in the UK, the Minister of the State of the Arts (look into an acronym, people!) put a temporary ban on the tiara’s export. Despite the months of red tape and museum fundraisers, the Victoria and Albert Museum could not find a wealthy benefactor to help secure the circlet for the permanent collection. The export ban expired and the owner was free to choose his seller. A deal was accorded with the Louvre Museum, the seller got a TON of cash and the tiara went home. Fitting that a rare tiara to survive the French Revolution, owned by the only surviving member of the French Royal Family finally resides in Paris.
- Trivia Toinette #14: Marie Thérèse had 5 Different Titles in her Life. (tiarasandtrianon.com)
- tiara time! the Noor-ol-Ain Coronation tiara (tiarasandtrianon.com)
- tiara time, part II: the Portland Tiara (tiarasandtrianon.com)