25 May 2017

Tiara Thursday: The Manchester Tiara

Wealthy Cuban-American Consuelo Yznaga (1853-1909) married George Montagu, the future 8th Duke of Manchester, in New York City in 1876. She was one of the first of the so-called Dollar Princesses, the eligible American heiresses who married fortune-seeking aristocrats in matches designed to provide titles for the women and funds for the men. The Duchess of Manchester's goddaughter and namesake was Consuelo Vanderbilt, whose marriage to the Duke of Marlborough was among the most famous of these Gilded Age arrangements. Consuelo Montagu was also good friends with Edith Wharton, who chronicled matches like hers in The Buccaneers.

The Manchester Tiara
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The tiara Consuelo, then the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, commissioned from Cartier in 1903 is as much a symbol of her era as her marriage was. The Belle Epoque design features seven graduated flaming heart motifs of diamonds set in gold and silver. Each heart has three dangling diamonds at the center and is topped by a detachable scroll motif and single collet diamond. The Dowager Duchess provided over 1,000 brilliant-cut diamonds and over 400 rose-cut diamonds for the tiara; Cartier provided additional rose-cut diamonds to make up the design as well as a few paste (glass) stones for the C-scrolls at the ends.

Helena, Duchess of Manchester
The motif is shared with others made around the same time, such as Princess Thyra's Sapphire Tiara, which is now worn by Princess Elisabeth of Denmark, and the Edward VII Ruby Tiara, now worn by Queen Silvia of Sweden. The massive scale of the tiara was definitely set up for the large hairstyles of the time. It was overwhelming even for Consuelo's daughter-in-law Helena, a fellow American who wore the tiara to the 1911 coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. In his book Tiaras: A History of Splendour, Geoffrey Munn notes that Helena "was said to have supported this enormous jewel with an air of permanent misgiving."

The back side of the tiara
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The family's wealth and estates were basically gone by the time the 12th Duke, who spent some time in prison for fraud, took the title. The Manchester Tiara was accepted by the British government in 2007 in lieu of inheritance taxes following his death, and the diadem was allocated to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It's on display in the jewelry gallery, which is excellent news because you can visit it anytime you like. And such a beautiful and grand piece deserves to be examined up close and personal.

Which flaming heart tiara is the one for you?

24 May 2017

Tiara Watch of the Day: Sparkle in the Netherlands & Luxembourg

Kids, the day we all knew was coming has finally arrived: Queen Máxima's gone all in and decided that a business casual dress code should include tiaras too!

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima hosted a gala reception for the Diplomatic Corps yesterday.
...or not. As entertaining as the couple are in their mismatched outfits here, that's just them arriving at the Royal Palace for the dinner. They don't actually live at the Royal Palace, you see; the Queen gets ready at home and is all set to go on arrival, while others (including the King, Princess Beatrix, and Princess Margriet) toss on their formal best after arriving. Willem-Alexander was properly white tie attired on the way out of the event. I'll have to keep the dream of business casual tiaras alive for another time.

Anyway, Máxima topped a ten-year-old Natan dress with the Württemberg Ornate Pearl Tiara, plus diamond and pearl earrings and a diamond and pearl strawberry leaf brooch from Queen Sophie (1818-1877). Some color would have been nice here, though? Even just a bit? Mega tiara appearances shouldn't be this blergh, is what I'm saying.

Princess Beatrix joined her daughter-in-law in pulling from the family stash of pearls and diamonds. The Pearl Button Tiara is getting around these days, having made its debut on Princess Mabel earlier this month.

And finally, Princess Margriet was looking saucy in sparkly green, with the Dutch Emerald Parure on top and hubby Pieter van Vollenhoven (see? White tie) by her side.

But wait! There's more! Tiaras were also on parade in Luxembourg yesterday.

Grand Duke Henri, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie hosted a state banquet for the President of Portugal during his state visit to Luxembourg.
SIP/Charles Caratini
Go ahead and give Maria Teresa alllllll the structured metallic dresses you've got, please and thank you. And let's hope she continues to accessorize them with massive diamond collet necklaces and the Belgian Scroll Tiara.

Despite her valiant effort to match her sash from Portugal's Order of Merit without looking like a bumblebee, Stéphanie's look suffers one major setback: her tiara. This modern diamond butterfly motif tiara (see it closer here, from another occasion) is never going to convince me it wasn't a clearance rack find at Claire's in another life, and that's that.

23 May 2017

Royal Event of the Day: Windsors at the Chelsea Flower Show

There are things that happen with a soothing regularity, such as: the Windsors will turn up en masse for their annual trip to the Chelsea Flower Show, and they will be the epitome of springtime fashion while they're at it. Yesterday's show was indeed a soothing array of spring.

Royal Family
The Duchess of Cambridge joined the royal party in a pleated silk floral print midi dress. You know, I have several cracks at the ready about florals for flower shows being, well, groundbreaking...
Dress by Rochas (per Japanese Ginger on Twitter)
...but an easy, breezy silk dress and a jaunty ponytail is the perfect choice for this event. Just ask the Queen! (Minus the ponytail part.)

Royal Family
The Queen led the family charge wearing - what else? - a nice floral dress and jacket, plus - what else? - a nice floral brooch (the Chelsea Iris Brooch, her usual pick for this event since the organizers gave it to her. More, as always, at the Vault).

Royal Family
Princess Alexandra hopped on the floral train in a more subtle way with a diamond flower brooch. The Queen has a dead ringer for this brooch in her own collection. It's a pretty common design.

Royal Family
Stepping out of the obvious theme, we asked the Countess of Wessex to give us another chance to see this Valentino dress in action, and she delivered! I can report that I still love it. And yes that is a Mary Berry alert to the side; she also joked around with the Duke of Edinburgh, and I decided over at the Vault that the pair should have their own cooking show. Make it so.

Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie were also at the flower show. (This pic is actually from another event they attended yesterday in the same outfits, so just use your imaginary green screen and throw some flowers in the background.) Just a few days after I reminded everyone how much I enjoy their unconventional shoe choices, we have another perfect example on Princess Beatrice:
French Sole "No Place Like Home" taupe velvet embroidered shoes inspired by gentlemen's opera slippers (per Polka Poppins on Twitter)
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't immediately decided I needed a pair of these myself. Mind you, I really have no idea how they came to be paired with this particular outfit, or for this particular event. But who doesn't need a happy little shoe?

22 May 2017

Royal Outfit of the Day: Máxima's Double Duty Dress

What was it I said when Princess Madeleine wore a blush pink Roksanda Ilincic with massive sleeves to Prince Oscar's christening last year? Ahem: "I imagine Madeleine has already been fielding inquiries from Queen Máxima about this dress – no way does a sleeve this dramatic slip past our Dutch queen."

Queen Máxima and Qatar's Sheikha Mozah attended a seminar on Protection and Education In Conflict Zones in The Hague last week.
Forgive me, but: CALLED IT. Queen Máxima chose a more vivid color for her version of the dress, an iris hue, and it's really quite fabulous on her - a better choice than the rest of the bell sleeves in her closet. (You know she has a whole section.) In a full length it would have been fabulous on Sheikha Mozah too, whose sleek style is uncharacteristically buried under all those pleats.

Máxima's dress by Roksanda
What's interesting about Máxima and this dress is how she made it pull double duty. The same day, she joined the King for a state event. An added hat was a must, of course; this being Máx, she also threw in a jewelry switch up.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima formally welcomed the President and First Lady of Mozambique to the Netherlands.
While Sheikha Mozah warranted tanzanite drop earrings and a pair of modern diamond bow brooches, the official welcome called for diamond earrings and a large brooch probably from the depths of the royal vault. I'm having visions of a vault wall filled with a complicated flow chart dictating appropriate jewelry levels for appropriate events...though any chance for double the jewelry is a chance our Máx will take, truly.

20 May 2017

A Wedding for the Weekend: Pippa Middleton Gets Married

It might not technically be a royal wedding, but we're not ones to complain about a little extra bridal glamour, are we? We are not. Let's have a little looksee - just a brief one - at the bride of the weekend and her royal guests...

Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, married James Matthews at St. Mark's Church, Englefield Green, England. 
The bride's dress comes from Giles Deacon. It features a high neckline and cap sleeve with hand appliquéd bespoke silk cotton lace designed to create the illusion of a no seam dress. The corseted bodice is embroidered with pearls and the underskirt has layers of organza and tulle.

With her pearl-embroidered tulle veil by milliner Stephen Jones, Pippa wore a Maidenhair Fern tiara and matching headpiece from Robinson Pelham, the jewelers who also made her earrings; the earrings are the same ones she wore to her sister's royal wedding in 2011 and are companions to Kate's wedding earrings. I can't say I follow Pippa's style at all, and yet this feels just right for her, doesn't it?

The Duchess of Cambridge was on hand to wrangle the train and the wee bridal party, which included Prince George and Princess Charlotte (in bespoke outfits from Pepa & Co.). Kate chose Alexander McQueen for her blush pink dress, Jane Taylor for her matching hat, and Kiki McDonough for her earrings (yup, another new pair!). It's a lovely and understated look, with many comparisons to similar pieces she's worn in the past - something I'm sure will win her much praise for not overshadowing her sister. I think I might have preferred a sleeker hat, but if I'm honest, those percher hats she adores are a hard sell for me in the first place.

My wedding guest swoons for the day belong to Princess Eugenie, who looks faaaaabulous! The perfect dress shape for her (it's from Paule Ka, per Polka Poppins on Twitter), and she's keeping the York sisters love of interesting shoes alive with a little added color. LOVE.

I'll also never miss a sighting of Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Wearing her usual picks - Catherine Walker with a Philip Treacy hat - she's really got the old world royal elegance down pat.

Happy wedding gazing and happy weekend, all!