tiara time! La Ruse of Híjar: the Alba Saidian Art Deco Tiara

ruse deco tiara or the alba saidian tiara or LA RUSA in Spanish

This turn-of-the-century kokoshnik has more names than Euros were paid for Gareth Bale

Happy Saturday Coronet Crew! We know this is far out of character, your Blog Hostess not lounging like a19th Century aristocrat on a weekend, but this post took days longer than We thought. At first, this second tiara once belonging to Cayetana [the 18th Duchess of Alba’s preferred nomenclature] was just a shoulder-shrug. A few photos and no information outside of two weddings and a horse. Yeah, you read that right. With each click, new information popped up…don’t you just love it when a case unfolds? tiara time investigates!

we’re using all the monikers dammit!

There are so few official names for royal headgear. The George IV Diadem comes to mind as irrefutable while what we call “the Dagmar” has been dubbed “Princess Marie’s Diamond Floral Tiara” by most other angloparlante tiara websites. Well buckle the fuck up, this kokoshnik tiara has a sackful of sobriquets. yeah, we swear on Saturdays.

alba saidian art deco kokoshnik

wedding of 17th Duke & Duchess of AlbaThis stylistic kokoshnik has been referred to as the Ruse Art Deco Tiara or la Rusa de Híjar. We’ve even seen it called the Alba Saidian Tiara though at first we were unsure as to why. As it was made during the Art Deco craze and kokoshnik-inspired, that first name holds water but la Ruse of Híjar is much more befitting. The tiara was absorbed into the FitzJames-Stuart legacy when the only daughter and heir of the Duke and Duchess of Híjar married Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba. (Wedding picture left. No tiara!) The bride’s name is a mouthful María del Rosario Falcó y Guturbay, Marchioness de San Vicente del Barco, by courtesy.

two tiaras from two empresses? 

ruse art deco tiara casa de albaThe myth enshrouding how this platinum-framed, diamond-laiden corona came into her mother’s ducal house is a yarn Cayetana frequently enjoyed spinning. She tied la Rusa de Híjar back to the mother of Tsar Nicholas II: Empress Maria Feodorovna. Good ol’ Dagmar…Assuming that this tiara really did belong to the mother of a such a historically significant Tsar and the stones are of the quality one would expect from the Russian Imperial Family, la Rusa would be fetch between 35 and 90 million euros at auction.

Purportedly, Cayetana’s maternal grandmother, María del Rosario de Gurtubay y Gonzales de Castejon, the 17th Duchess Consort of Híjar bought the Ruse Art Deco directly from the Dowager Empress sometimes in the 1920s when the exiled Dagmar began to sell off

maria fedorovna russian kokoshnik spike tiara

Maria Fedorovna not wearing La Rusa

her jewels before her death. Sentimental history aficionada that we are, Cayetana’s story is one we’d love to embrace but there is little proof of the tiara’s provenance, just like the Empress Eugénie Diamond and Pearl Wedding Tiara Cayetana and daughter Eugenia wore for their weddings.

When J.L. Rábago, a biographer/historian expressed interest in Cayetana’s jewelry collection, he inquired if any documents of transaction, miniatures or photos of either Empress wearing either tiara existed. The Duchess gave him the run-around. Sent to a huge library of archives, Rábago was met with a stone-faced librarian who denied access to the athenaeum, ignoring the written permission from the matriarch herself. The only proof that the diamond and pearl diadem belonged to Eugenie is that her sister was married to the 15th Duchess de Alba. It is a rather high-falutin’ halo to have never appeared in a portrait. Hmmm. Well, if something ain’t rotten in Denmark…or the Lirio Palace, rather. As far as la Rusa, Rábago elucidates:

On “La Rusa” there’s nothing either. The curator is highly-educated, familiar with the documentation for which he is responsible and very prepared to keep people like me out of them. He told me that business of this nature is handled personally by the Duchess herself.

The only dossier we are allowed on “La Rusa” is the legend the Duchess chose, two daughter-in-laws forced to wear it and whatever the press captures on film. That neither proves or refutes the Alba folklore.

that’s why you call it “la Rusa”

Yes, let’s throw another cognomen on the tiara…hey! you were warned. In Spain, the Híjar princess maria in la rusa alba tiara Tiara is typically called “the Russian” aka La Rusa, as exemplified in numerous ABC articles and the above quotes. Using this name works as a straightforward description, as the word “kokoshnik” is rarely used outside of tiara buff-circles. Even better this honorific lends credence to the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna story.  La Rusa. Great name, huh? It sounds like a diva spy who announces herself before entering a room à la Diana Ross, tears off her sequined evening gown then round-houses your ass in a cat suit. If tiaras had personalities. Did we ever mention that we have a runaway imagination? 

Besides, doesn’t it make sense to use the language of the tiara’s country of residence? Just like the Spanish aristocrats to whom the tiara belonged, the full name is lengthy: la Diadema Rusa de la Casa de Híjar. [There’s another tiara out there called “the Russian” and disambiguation is appreciated.] Just a warning, the 100% correct Internet has also labeled it the “Prussian Diadem of Híjar” but whomever came up with that is a dumbass. This tiara has nothing to do with Prussian truths or lies.

Personally, We can’t imagine an ex-Tsarina wearing a kokoshnik like this. There is not enough bling and too much empty space. It doesn’t look like something a member of the Russian Imperial family would be caught dead in. These grainy photos of Cayetana don’t do it much justice either.

cayetana 18th duchess of alba in the La Rusa Art deco tiara

Cayetana, 18th Duchess of Alba wearing “La Rusa,” family tiara of the Casa of Hijar.

Surely provoking a pinched nerve in both photos, regardez-vous the hefty satouir, comprised of none other than the Napoleonic Imperial Emeralds, more bauble hand-me-downs belonging to Great-Grandma Empress Eugénie de Montijo. When the Empress died, she left some of her jewels to her sister, Francisca, 15th Consort-Duchess of Alba. The new 19th Duke of Alba also “oversees” the Alba Diamond and Pearl Tiara, one of the heftiest pieces of headgear the Dodge Ram ever went toe-to-to with. [What’s with the transportation metaphors this week?]

no wait…an even better name?

Your Blog Hostess has decreed that the official English moniker for “la Rusa” shall be the In-Law Tiara, as a daughter-in-law brought it into the family and it has graced the head of two Fitz-James Stuart daughter-in-laws upon marrying into the family.

wedding boda aliaga

Princess María de la Santísima Trinidad de Hohenlohe-Langenburg de la Cuadra wears the La Rusa Tiara of the House of Híjar against her will for her wedding to Alfonso Martínez de Irujo y FitzJames Stuart, 16th Duke of Aliaga. Welcome to the Alba clan, Mary!

On July 1977, María de la Santísima Trinidad, daughter of the Prince and Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg wore the La Rusa when she married Alfonso, 16th Duke of Aliaga, alba ruse art deco tiara Maria hohenlohe langenburgCayetana’s second son. Perplexingly, wearing La Rusa was called a tradition though none of the prior brides had worn the kokoshnik. Even more disconcerting, the tradition was forced upon the incoming brides rather than offered. In her memoirs, the Duchess of Alba recalls the kokoshnik of Contention.

My second son, Alfonso had decided to marry. I should have been happy but it wasn’t so. Before the wedding, my son and I had our arguements…then the tiara incident happened. I’d inherited [la Rusa] from my grandmother Híjar. It was a beloved jewel and very symbolic of the House of Alba…But [Maria] didn’t want to wear it and I couldn’t understand why. I’d offered it wholeheartedly, honoring her with such a tradition. Finally, she agreed to wear it, grudgingly

Meow, your Grace! Is it me or was the Duchess treading the line with hubris? It’s a bit backwards for a princess to wear the tiara of her future in-laws’ house in lieu of her family tiara.  Lady Diana wore the Spencer tiara in 1981. The fact that Elizabeth II’s wheelhouse teems with far older, historically significant and symbolic coronas doesn’t mean they outrank the Spencer tiara. Stephanie de Lannoy wore her family tiara when she married into the Grand Ducal House of Luxembourg-Nassau. So what if Princess Maria wanted to wear–let’s say– this tiara, it’s her last act as a Hohenlohe-Langenburg de la Cuadra. That’s surely symbolic of something as well. Or are we totally off our skates here? [Another transport metaphor!]

alba ruse art deco tiara 1988 weddingOn June 18 1988 Matilde Solis y Martinez Campos [damn these Spaniards and their compound names!] daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Motilla married Cayetano’s first-born, 18th Duke of Huéscar, now Duke of Alba, Carlos FitzJames Stuart y Martínez de Irujo. [Don’t ask us why each sibling’s conga-line of a surname is in ahola magazine wedding duke of aliaga different order.]

Naturally, Cateytana chimed in on the In-Law Tiara anew, “Matilde Solis, future wife of Carlos…had no problem wearing La Rusa.”

It seems all FitzJames Stuart weddings are the wedding of the year. This was an especially grand affair as both the ducal families are sevillano nobility and the Duke of Huéscar was heir to the Alba Money Machine. Though your Blog Hostess can’t imagine eating gazpacho in formal wear, she’s certain the mothers wore peinetas whilst flamenco tones and barefoot dancing celebrated all that makes the southerners proud. Oh wait, there was dancing. Below is a very fashion-forward Cayetana cutting the rug at her heir’s reception banquet.

remember we said “two weddings and a horse?”

alba dancing at huescar wedding

cayetana dancing at the duke of husker’s wedding

Get ready for this one. You’re not gonna believe it. La Rusa, the tiara of the House of Híjar, purported property of a now-Sainted member of the Imperial Russians was sold to buy a horse for Cayetana’s son, Cayetano. [We’ll let you fill in your own snarky quips/puns/explicative outbursts of disgust.]

How could she do that to a defenseless tiara! The same symbolic kokoshnik that caused such cacophony with the Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg just relinquished like a sack of rancid turnips?  What the fuck kind of magic horse is this? The Alba estate cashes in at a modest $4.4 billion. [Yep. With a ‘b.’ We know.]

The big dealy-O is how she sold it on the DL instead of at auction where the hype of Maria Fedoronova’s kokoshnik would have fetched beaucoup de drachmas. This behavior and the absolute fault of data seems to indicate that the Dowager Empress story is hogwash. Without historic significance it would most likely be broken up and used for parts like an ’01 Honda Civic.

where “la Ruse de Híjar” ended up.

The tiara is currently owned by Joseph and Ariel Saidian, the father and son of Saidian and SonsFine Jewelry and Objets, as it reads on their business card. They were not the purchasing party when doña Cayetana parted ways with la Ruse, they did acquire it later. On a similiar note, Joseph Saidian also sold the Manchester Tiara when it switched hands.



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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6 Responses to tiara time! La Ruse of Híjar: the Alba Saidian Art Deco Tiara

  1. I like this tiara! I love kokoshniks and this is rubbing my art deco loving side in all the right ways. Yes please. Whomever bought it can just Fedex it right over. I’ll wait.


  2. Angelyn says:

    Boy, some dealy-o! I think the Prussian mixup came from reading too much into the reluctant tiara-wearer’s “Hohenlohe” name–and it wasn’t her tiara to begin with!


    • I tried to research that particular princely house but it seems there are many branches This particular house of Hohenlohe-Langburg are ex-pat Germans who live in Spain but I suspect they’ve got cousins elsewhere. Almighty Wikipedia is surprisingly useless on the subject, unless you speak German. (You don’t, do you?)


  3. Pingback: tiara time! our favorite tiaras (for the moment) | tiaras and trianon

  4. Hi! Not sure if you still check on this blog at all, but I have a couple of questions for you about this post. Could you let me know if you have a moment? Thanks!


it's not just a love-affair with my own voice

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