State Dinner Sparklers: Spain welcomes Argentina

Spot the tiara - Queen Letizia of Spain in a truly historic diadem debut 
(photo Mauricio Macri Twitter)

It's quite low key so you may not have even noticed but Queen Letizia wore one of the most famous tiaras in Europe at the State Dinner to welcome the President of Argentina to Spain last night. After her last State Dinner, in Portugal, drew groans at the total lack of tiara, Letizia made sure no one missed the diamonds this time round when she stepped out in the Fleur de Lys Tiara belonging to Spain's queens. Yep, this is a biggie. A diadem only for queens and one which packs a real historical punch. Oh yes, and it's huge. This State Dinner sparkler has caused quite a stir.

The great big wall of diamonds worn by Letizia for the Argentinian State Dinner is the centre piece of royal jewel collection of the queens of Spain. Known as the Fleur de Lys tiara to us, the family that's owned it for over a century call it 'La Buena' or 'the Good One' and not just because it contains hundreds of diamonds set in platinum. This tiara is about as royal as they come. Because it began life as a diadem for a  new queen.

On May 21st 1906, Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenerg married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in Madrid. The groom, who had ruled since his birth, gave the diadem to his bride, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria who had been raised in the quiet confines of Osborne and Windsor in the last years of her grandmother's life, as a wedding present. Ena - she was always known by the last of her names - wore it for their marriage ceremony. It was in this tiara that she changed from princess to queen.

The tiara itself is rather symbolic. All those diamonds are shaped into three big, and by big I mean huge, fleur de lys  - the symbol of the House of Borbon, the dynasty to which Alfonso belonged. The tiara was originally shaped as a kind of coronet meaning Ena walked down the aisle as a royal bride with a semi crown made up of the emblem of the Borbons. Its first use explains its size and splendour - a royal bride's tiara needs to sparkle in the middle of a huge wedding while this piece, made by court jewellers Ansorena, was also to be the first signature piece of the first woman to become queen consort of Spain in several decades.

That symbolism continued. Ena had it turned into the diadem shape we know today early on in her reign and she kept this sparkler to herself throughout the tumultuous twenty five years that followed, before she and her family went into exile in 1931. They held on to this piece and after Alfonso's death, in 1941, Ena occasionally lent this piece to her daughter-in-law, Maria de las Mercedes, Countess of Barcelona - had Spain's monarchy still been in power at the time, Maria would have been queen.

Instead, the next consort to wear the tiara would be Queen Sofia. In her will, Ena stated that this diadem was only to be worn by the Queen of Spain and so, when Juan Carlos took the throne in November 1975, the jewel fell to Sofia. She wore it for big state occasions, for official portraits and it always makes an impact.

Now the tiara has a new chapter in its history. For the first time since her husband became King Felipe VI on June 19th 2014, Letizia of Spain has worn the tiara of Spain's queens. Yes, this tiara is big and yes, it's hard to wear. But there's no getting away from the fact that this State Dinner Sparkler wows no matter what and by wearing it, Letizia has opened a new chapter in her time as Queen of Spain.


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