tiara time: the Alba Wedding Tiara

alba wedding tiara

Today we take a break from Danish Tiara November in honor of the Duchess of Alba who passed away early Thursday morning at the age of 88.

duquesa de alba en corona ducal duchess of alba in a ducal coronet

this photograph of the Duchess of Alba predates the invention of the cotton gin.

The stalwart of Spanish aristocrats, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart holds 46 other recognized titles on top of being the Duchess of Alba and is descended from royalty. The matriarch of one of the richest aristocratic families in the world  died at home at la Casa de las Dueñas in Seville, surrounded by her 3rd husband and her six children. The funeral will take place tomorrow and Infanta Elena will attend in King Felipe’s stead. Spain is in a national state of mourning with all the flags at half-mast.

The Duchess was also the owner of an impressive wedding tiara, now fittingly known as the Alba Wedding Tiara.

Alba Wedding Tiara

This enormous diamond and pearl affair was once owned by Empress Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, from whom the Duchess of Alba is a descendant. Seven inverted poiré pearls top seven diamond loops fashioned in the shape of laurels, these alternate with detailed floral spikes, each culminating in a huge twinkling diamond. The base is a chain of lover’s knots and forget-me-nots. Since the frame is made of platinum, not a popular medium during the French Empire, it was most likely reset over the years.

duchess of alba first wedding 1947

Cayetana wore the tiara for her first marriage in 1947 to Luís Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, the society event of the year. The entire affair was outlandishly luxurious and cost a fortune, especially for a post-war wedding. Leaving all preferences and prejudices aside, the Alba wedding was more talked about and eclipsed Elizabeth II’s wedding that took place one month later. [Since this was more than 30 years before your Blog Hostess was incarnated in this life, we’ll have to take the Internet’s word for it.]

first wedding duquesa de alba y Luis Martinez de Irujo

Her dress, though simple in design like most 1940s dresses, was made of white satin and Brussels lace by Flora Villareal. If that means nothing to us in the 21st Century, allow me to translate: cha-ching! Spain has its own lace, let’s put it that way. Ostentatious, shall we? [Then again, so is having 46 titles.]

She didn’t only wear it for her wedding. Check out the Duke & Duchess at the Imperial Ball, strangely held in New York. [Makes one wonder if it was mislabeled.]

duchess of alba in the pearl wedding tiara at the imperial ball in new york duchess of alba in the pearl wedding tiara at the imperial ball in new york2Back to the weddings…those gifs tend to give your Blog Hostess the feeling of an oncoming sneeze.

wedding of Francisco Rivera Ordoñez and Eugenia Martinez, daughter of the duchess of alba

The Duchess’ daughter, Eugenia, Duchess of Montojo by courtesy of her mom, also wore the historic tiara for her wedding in 1998.

alba wedding tiara eugenia 1998

It is one of three tiaras we know to be owned by the House of Alba but only a daughter of the house may wear it. When her sons married, then new daughters-in-law wore the “Russian tiara,” as they call it in Spanish. [I’m sure there’s another nickname for it in English.]

About ♔ la dauphiine ♔

Connecticut-based jewelry monger, history buff, Mets fan. On the hum-drum side, call me a lauded poet, novelist and ghost-writer. (That's right, I haunt prose.)
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22 Responses to tiara time: the Alba Wedding Tiara

  1. Angelyn says:

    This tiara looks really medieval on the Duchess of Montojo–or maybe it’s the veil.. Anyway, I hope you do a post on the tiara the Duchess is wearing pre-cotton gin.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She doesn’t look all that happy in the cotton gin tiara.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aubrey says:

    Doing my math (OK, I used a calculator) the photo was probably from the early 1950’s. The hair isn’t as…stringent as it would look in the 1940’s, anyway. Or in those heady days before the cotton gin. It’s an interesting photo…the ‘modernity’ doesn’t clash with the lovely tiara at all.

    ‘Society event of the year’…don’t you yearn for the days when that was actually a thing?


  4. Lady M says:

    Interesting note on the Pinheads of the newer generation! I really like the look of the tiara, but the proportions seem off to me. It is slightly and almost unnaturally large even on the Duchess of Alba. It sort of makes me wonder if A) Eugenia, The Original had a big honkin’ head or B) Did the commissioner and/or royal jeweler say “screw proportion, it is all about status!” and let Eugenia wear something we feel is fit for an Empress?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brava Lady M on a capital comment! La duquesa was petite by Spanish standards so that might explain how it looks on her noggin’ and her daughters. (To put it in perspective, I’m 5’2″ and am slightly above average height in Spain. Weird!)
      As for the “just go regal” slogan you’ve invented and should totally put on T-shirts, you actually hit the nail on the head. The empress for whom it was made was not of noble birth and in order to make up for it Napoleon III decked his darling in the most opulent jewels. Put enough tiaras on a gal she becomes royal? Maybe that’s the thought behind the surge in tiara sales at auction…hmm.
      Great comment! Gold star!


  5. Pretty. Pretty. I also love Duchess of Alba’s “Cotton Gin/Snow Flakes” tiara. Fabulous portrait. Great dress, to boot. Maybe the “Alba Wedding Tiara” just needs a little pouf? Some ratting and rolling here and there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone comments on that Spanish ducal coronet! It should be a conversation piece at cocktail parties. I just found a pic of her mother wearing one. [Hello easy post!]

      I really did “LOL” at the ‘rattling and rolling’ part. It just reminds me of “rocking and a-realin'” from that Beach Boys song ‘Barbara Ann.’ I’ll be singing it all day!

      Time to check you out—er, I mean your blog post! Hope you had a happy not-Thanksgiving in Paris!


  6. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/princess-mary-daughter-of-charles-i-33684.

    ^^ this is a painting by Anthony van Dyck of Princess Mary daughter of Charles I. It is currently housed in MFA Boston. Can you do your next piece on Princess Mary’s crown? It is so beautiful and I’d love to know if it really exists or not outside of that painting!


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  10. racurac2 says:

    It’s Montoro, not Montojo. And yes, she looked medieval. And the groom is a toreador! (they got divorced…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I was aware of their divorce, but this blog isn’t about royal gossip, it’s about when and for what occasion these diademas appear…unfortunately less and less. My sources on the “Montojo” were multiple articles in ABC and the registry of Spanish nobility. But Hell–I’ll double-check for you. I’m certain the Marqués de Zarco would know.
      Thank you so much for your comment, hope you’ll become a regular round here!


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  13. Princess Scooterpie/Moto_Diva says:

    You need serious tiara hair to wear this. She should have taken inspiration from Princess Margaret and the might Poltimore tiara . Her hair looks flat and the lace veil looks like a limp noodle. There should be a tiara wearing training school.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for all your comments, Princess! Hope you’ll become a regular. Yes, tiara training school sounds important. Reminds me of when proper young ladies would practice posture with a book on their heads.
      Agreed! the Poltimore and the Alba Wedding tiara practically mandate a beehive hair-do. See what I mean about a flexible base? Neither of those have one, so your options are far less for hair.


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