Friday, 17 June 2016

Pearls for June: Norway

Princess Martha Louise of Norway in her family's pearl tiara

June is all about pearls and just about every reigning house in Europe has a stunning set of those to show off. Norway's regal jewellery box holds an impressive and intricate tiara featuring pearls which has a history that takes in the foundations of a new monarchy and an armed robbery. This one isn't just about sparkling pictures.


The pearl tiara didn't start life as one intended for a queen. It first belonged to Maud, youngest daughter of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and it was given to her by her parents on her wedding day. So far, so very Victorian.  Edward and Alexandra were still Prince and Princess of Wales and Maud's husband was a Danish prince called Carl who had very little hope of ever becoming a king. They wed in July 1896 and settled down to life in Denmark and Norfolk with Princess Maud keeping this pearl and diamond sparkler tucked away from court occasions. And then everything changed.

Maud, Queen of Norway, in her tiara
(photo Wiki Commons)

In 1905, the Norwegian Parliament ended the union with Sweden which meant the country needed a new monarch and they chose Prince Carl of Denmark. Carl, Maud and their son, Alexander, arrived in Norway at the end of 1905 and became King Haakon VII, Queen Maud and Crown Prince Olav. All of a sudden, Maud's pearl tiara adorned the head of a queen consort.

Queen Sonja wears the pearl tiara which first belonged to Queen Maud of Norway

It is rather impressive though by the standards of the time, not up there with the sparkle some of her contemporary consorts were wearing. The tiara is made up mostly of diamonds which are arranged into scrolls. The pearls sit on top of that with the centre three as the focal point of the whole tiara. That centre section can be removed to form another version of the tiara where a neat row of pearls sit on top of the diamonds without any rise and fall.

Queen Maud was rather fond of the piece in its grandest form but with no daughter to pass it one to following her death in 1938, it became a quieter part of her royal jewel collection. When her grandson Harald, married Sonja Haraldson in 1968, the tiara became a favourite of hers and began a new stage in its royal history.

It would take a dramatic turn in 1995. All jewels need a bit of TLC to keep them looking their best and Queen Sonja, four years into her reign, sent the pearl tiara off to Garrards for some repairs. While it was there, the jewellers was targeted in an armed robbery in which the tiara was taken. It's never been found but Garrards made a replacement for Norway's Royal Family and that has become a popular piece with them in the 21st century.

Princess Martha Louise wore the smaller version on her wedding day while Crown Princess Mette-Marit has used it as well. Queen Sonja still wears it but usually in its full arrangement with those central pearls on show.

The tiara does have a real air of the Victorian era about it but it stands out now for that. While other royal houses were accumulating tiaras meant for princesses who were singled out as queens in waiting at an early age, Maud's pearl tiara belonged to a woman who had married relatively late in life and who found herself a queen against her own and many others' expectations. The pretty pearl tiara of Norway has a real history to it - and is all the more interesting for it.

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