31 May 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Burmese Ruby Tiara

Most of the tiaras owned by Queen Elizabeth were inherited, and she’s largely left them alone (as opposed to her grandmother Queen Mary, who liked to redesign her gems on a regular basis). Today’s tiara is a unique look at what she does with gems when the design is not predetermined.
The Burmese Ruby Tiara
The queen commissioned this tiara from Garrard in 1973 using gems she already had on hand: 96 rubies which were a wedding present from the people of Burma and diamonds taken from the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, another wedding present. The rubies which give us our name were a symbolic gift: according to traditional Burmese beliefs, rubies are meant to protect their owner from evil and illness, and there are 96 diseases that can affect humans.
The rubies are set in gold and the diamonds in silver. The tiara is a wreath of roses separated by rays of diamonds; each rose has a ruby center with diamonds for petals and each rose is connected by a line of rubies.
With the Crown rubies (including the Oriental Circlet) still in the possession of the Queen Mother, it seems logical that the commission was aimed to fill a ruby tiara hole in Her Majesty's collection. The queen needed something of her own to go along with the ruby jewelry she had accumulated. (She's now inherited the Crown rubies since the Queen Mother's death; below on the right she combines them with this tiara.)
She’s worn the tiara often since its commission, much to my chagrin. Though saying that I hate a tiara is nearly beyond me (come on, we’re still talking about diamonds and rubies, and I’d still take any tiara off anyone’s hands at any time)…this one would certainly make my list of least favorite diadems. It’s just that the interpretation of the floral theme has been done with so much more dimension and sophistication elsewhere. This one’s always fallen so flat to this particular pair of eyes.

What do you say: a misuse of gems, or just perfect?

Photos: Geoffrey Munn/Queen Elizabeth/Daylife//Leslie Field/Suzy Menkes/Corbis/Getty Images/Zimbio

Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 20-26 May

  1. Participating in a workshop for the Princess Mathilde Fund, 21 May.
  2. At the christening of Princess Estelle, 22 May.
  3. Attending a breakfast with jury members for the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition, 23 May.
  4. At finals for the competition, 23 May. Though her outfit at Estelle's christening remains my favorite this week, this is a colorful second.
  5. Visiting Villa Indigo, 24 May.
  6. Attending the final of the Queen Elisabeth competition, 26 May.
Photos: Nieuwsblad/Purepeople/Abaca/Getty Images/Zimbio/Svenskdam/Belga

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 20-26 May

  1. Attending a meeting of the Prince of Girona Foundation, 21 May.
  2. At a tribute to Antoni Tapies, 21 May.
  3. Visiting a project funded by the Hesperia Foundation, 22 May.
  4. Attending the opening of the Madrid Book Fair, 25 May. Now this just screams SUMMER! And I’m so very much in the mood for that.
Photos: Zimbio/Getty Images/Mujer Delite

30 May 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Queen Victoria's Gown

HM Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and HRH Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
February 10, 1840
London, United Kingdom

Most of the wedding gowns we highlight here feature shades of white, in tune with general bridal fashion in many of the cultures our royals hail from. Today’s gown is the one often credited with starting the “white wedding” trend.
Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 at the age of 18. She married her cousin Prince Albert in 1840; their relationship, though strongly encouraged by their mutual uncle King Leopold of the Belgians, was a love affair that would dip into obsession. She had done the proposing, as dictated by protocol.
Victoria’s wedding dress was chosen under different circumstances than most royal wedding gowns were; she was no princess entering a new family, she was a reigning monarch with national industries to support and an impression to make. Hoping to foster a revival of interest in British lacemaking, she selected British-made Honiton lace as the prime feature of her dress, in accents and a flounce over the skirt. The lace was complemented by her choice of heavy white silk from Spitalfields in London.
The lace flounce
The whole dress – designed by artist William Dyce – was made in England. It featured a fashionably low neckline with a full pleated skirt and an 18 foot train. The train was carried into the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace for the ceremony by 12 daughters of peers, all wearing white accented by white roses. (One of the trainbearers would later write that there were far too many of them for the train, and they kept tripping over each other.)
Franz Xavier Winterhalter's portrait of Victoria in her wedding attire was actually commissioned by Victoria as a present for Albert for their 1847 anniversary
Though she chose a modest wreath of orange flowers to adorn her head and fasten her short lace veil instead of a crown or tiara, she did select other jewels for the day: the sapphire and diamond brooch presented to her the day before the wedding by Albert, her Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and her insignia for the Order of the Garter. Underneath it all, her feet were clad in white slippers.
On display today
Images of the royal wedding were widely reproduced and Victoria’s attire was widely commented on. She did indeed spur renewed interest in the British lacemaking industry, and wealthy brides did copy her white color scheme, but she wasn't the first to wear white and the transition to white as the bridal norm was far from instantaneous. It would take decades, and the rise of a middle class with a disposable income (plus other advancements), before white really became the bridal color of note.
Her shoes and the sleeve of the gown
Victoria’s dress was criticized by some at the time for being too simple and too conservative, but she loved it and cherished it for the rest of her life. The lace flounce was removed and worn to other significant occasions. Her daughter Beatrice was permitted to wear it for her own wedding, in 1885. Sentimental to the end, Queen Victoria was buried with her wedding veil.
Victoria wearing her lace flounce later in life; Princess Beatrice wearing the lace on her wedding gown
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married for 21 years before Albert’s early death sent her into seclusion and a mourning period that lasted the rest of her life. Victoria and Albert had nine children; their children and grandchildren married into so many different royal families that Victoria is nicknamed the Grandmother of Europe. Most of Europe’s monarchs today can trace their family tree back to Victoria, sometimes more than once.
Queen Victoria’s wedding gown is still around today, though it is no longer united with that wonderful lace flounce. As you can imagine, it’s very fragile, and it has recently undergone a new round of conservation efforts. It’s on display at the newly renovated Kensington Palace.

What do you think about the most historical gown we've covered so far?

Photos: The Royal Collection/Historic Royal Palaces

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 20-26 May

  1. Attending a concert of the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in London, 20 May, accompanied by Princess Mabel in her first public engagement since Prince Friso's accident.
  2. At a lecture at the International Institute of Social Studies, 21 May. I think this is lovely, but I would also say that if it were worn by, say, Queen Elizabeth. So...
  3. The christening of Princess Estelle, 22 May.
  4. Opening the Appel arts center's new location, 23 May.
  5. Opening the Moneycounter initiative, 23 May. Déjà vu! She picks the worst outfit of the week to repeat, of course she does. While I'm sure many of you will take issue with the placement of the bright orange stripe, my beef is with the seams on the top which manage to end in exactly the place you don't want them to end. Oh, Máx.
Photos: Daylife/ISS/Bekia

Week in Review: Crown Princess Victoria, 20-26 May

  1. a) The christening of Princess Estelle, 22 May, in b) Elie Saab.
Photos: Zimbio/Elie Saab

29 May 2012

Royal Trend Watch: Vroom Vroom Fashion at the Grand Prix

The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco happened this past weekend, and Princess Charlene used the opportunity to take to the heights of thematic dressing...rather rarely for herself, I must say.
As though Charlene needed any more incentive to wear Akris clothes, the Spring 2012 collection was created with the 1966 film Grand Prix as an inspiration. At a pre-race charity football match she sported an Akris hoodie (well, I suppose you shouldn't call it a hoodie if it costs this much) with a Monte Carlo racing scene on the back.
Other outfits from some of the events surrounding the Grand Prix, including the Amber Lounge Fashion show (center, and also attended by the Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Castro) and the Grand Prix gala (far right)
Other normal outfits were in play, sure, but she really got her engines running (clothes like this are asking for the pun, it's not my fault) for the big race itself.
Red lips and race cars. Where do you even start? I'm delighted that Char's having some fun with her clothes for a change - and hey, she's already got material to decorate a future kid's room around. Two birds, one stone dress.

Also, yes, Sophie Wessex was in the house (she was in Monaco for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award International Foundation). She didn't go quite so literal with her interpretation of Grand Prix fashion (her dress at the race was distinctly French, if that counts); instead, she gave vroom vroom a whole different meaning at the gala, racking up yet another fab-u-lous appearance.
What's your take on the racing fashion?

Photos: Lehtikuva/Purepeople/Abaca/Hello/Style.com/Nordstrom/Svenskdam

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mary, 20-26 May

  1. a) The christening of Princess Athena, 20 May, b) wearing Project D.
  2. The christening of Princess Estelle, 22 May. An excellent set of christening appearances, if you ask me. I have come down firmly on the "like" side when it comes to outfit #1 there.
  3. Attending a concert of the Royal Life Guards Band, 24 May, wearing bits of the ruby parure again! I approve of this strategy.
  4. a) Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Danneborg royal yacht, 26 May, b) wearing Baum und Pferdgarten. Ahoy, matey! Nautical indeed.
Photos: Zimbio/Purepeople/Abaca

27 May 2012

Sunday Brooch: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

A Diamond Jubilee brooch for a Diamond Jubilee year today.
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Brooch
Among the presents received by Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was a brooch from current and former members of her personal staff. Made by Garrard, the sizeable brooch features scrolls of diamonds around a large central pearl. The bottom chain of brilliants and pearl pendant are detachable.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
Queen Victoria was delighted with her Household's gift - delighted enough to designate it as Crown property. Passing from queen to queen, it ended up in the hands of Queen Elizabeth, consort George VI and the future Queen Mother. It became one of her favorite brooches and was worn frequently; notable wearings include an outing for the 1947 wedding of her daughter Princess Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen Mother held on to this brooch until her death in 2002, at which time it passed to her daughter, Elizabeth II. The current queen has worn it just a few times since then, prefering to remove the bottom chain for day engagements and adding it back in for one evening outing. I'm quite surprised we haven't seen yet this year, being the queen's Diamond Jubilee year and all. Perhaps we'll see it this coming weekend, for the main jubilee celebrations?

As a side note, Queen Elizabeth has received at least two brooches so far this year to commemorate her own Diamond Jubilee.
Left, the Canadian regimental tribute; right, the Chelsea Flower Show brooch
The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery gave their Captain-General a gold and platinum brooch featuring their regiment's symbol over a maple leaf with a "60" in the center. The brooch has 60 diamonds as well as a sapphire, emeralds and rubies. Recently, the Royal Horticultural Society presented her with another special jubilee trinket at the Chelsea Flower Show: a £40,000 white gold iris brooch with a large yellow diamond in the center, 60 sapphires, 15 diamonds, 20 amethysts, and 30 tourmalines. We've yet to see her wear either; a safe bet would be her next engagement with the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery and next year's visit to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Photos: The Royal Collection/Corbis/Daylife/Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery/Kristjan Eyjolfsson

25 May 2012

Flashback Friday: Märtha Louise and Ari's Wedding Guests

Before we end what is turning out to be unofficial Märtha Louise and Ari week here, it's time to take a glimpse at one of the things that makes a Scandinavian royal wedding so wondrous: the royal guests and their tiaras.

Left to Right: Queen Sonja, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild of Norway
Having worn her biggest tiara for her son's wedding a few months before, Queen Sonja went with her second most impressive piece for her daughter's nuptials: Queen Josephine's Diamond Tiara. Mette-Marit chose to relive her wedding day in her Diamond Daisy Tiara (and a fairy princess gown). Märtha Louise's aunts stuck to tiaras in their own collections, the Vasa Tiara for Astrid and the Boucheron Loop Tiara for Ragnhild (it formerly belonged to her grandmother, Princess Ingeborg).

L to R: Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine, Princess Christina of Sweden
In her mother's absence, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden upgraded to one of the family's tiaras she only wears sporadically, Queen Josephine's Amethyst Tiara. Princess Madeleine wore the tiniest tiara she has, her aquamarine bandeau, but she amped up the diamond factor by wearing the drops from the Connaught Diamond Tiara on a necklace. Their aunt Princess Christina wore her blink-and-you'll-miss-it small diamond and pearl tiara.

L to R: Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
I'm sure Märtha Louise, with all her symbolism and whatnot, appreciated Queen Margrethe's sentimental choice: the heart shapes of the Baden Palmette Tiara. Margrethe's niece Princess Alexandra was also in attendance, wearing her mother Princess Benedikte's floral tiara.

L to R: Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, the Countess of Wessex
Máxima relived her own wedding (which happened just a few months before) with her wedding tiara, as did Sophie Wessex. But Máxima came in one her best outfits, an orange Valentino from her pre-wedding ball, while Sophie...did not. She is, however, ready for a game of backgammon, just in case the ceremony got boring.

L to R: Princess Astrid of Belgium, Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg
And finally, Princess Astrid wore the Savoy-Aosta Tiara from her husband's family and a wrap with festive drapery tassels; Princess Sibilla borrowed the Belgian Scroll Tiara from her mother-in-law, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte.

Who do you think had the best tiara?

Photos: VG/Scanpix/NRK/Hola/Adressa

Random Royal Appreciation: Catching Up with the Windsors

It's only been a week since we were caught up with all the world's sovereigns gathering at Windsor, and yet the Jubilee party people have already been racking up more shenanigans. Let's play catch up:

The annual Chelsea Flower Show brought out several royal visitors, including Queen Elizabeth. Poor dear doesn't seem to have noticed that she had a spiderweb stuck on her head.
I note wryly that this is not the same hairnet as we saw last year, but rather a new one from Angela Kelly. Because you can never have enough of...those.
Left to right: the Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Michael of Kent, the Duchess of Gloucester
Plenty of other Windsors came out to play in the flowers, too. Most all of them seem to have received the garden-frolicking Spring memo...except for Anne. Who is always, unstoppably, just Anne.

Thankfully she (and her mother) came to their springtime senses in time for a huge Buckingham Palace garden party. Loveliness!

And finally for the queen, she attended a celebration of the arts the other night, where she acknowledged awkward curtseys from the likes of Joan Collins like a champ. Once again, she was accompanied by a posse of family members, most noticeably Sophie in her most va-va-voom appearance of the week. Me likey.

Some of the Duchess of Cornwall's Canada outfits
Last but not least, across the ocean the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall made a speedy Jubilee visit to Canada. Sartorially speaking, it was just Camilla doing her Camilla thing; the biggest piece of note for me was her maple leaf regimental brooch from the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Rather a large piece, where regimental badges are concerned, and I think quite nice. Lucky Camilla.

What stood out for you in this week in Windsors?

Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/Purepeople/Abaca/AP

24 May 2012

Tiara Thursday: Queen Maud's Pearl and Diamond Tiara

It’s not every Thursday that our tiara chat includes an armed robbery, but there’s a first time for everything…
Queen Maud's Pearl and Diamond Tiara
We’ll start with a tamer tale, and one typical of tiara origins: this was a wedding gift, given to Princess Maud of Wales by her parents (the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) to mark her 1896 wedding to Prince Carl of Denmark. It features a diamond base of scroll and festoon motifs topped with pearls.
A drawing of the tiara from the publication of Maud's wedding gifts; Maud wearing the tiara
In 1905, Carl was chosen to become king of the newly independent Norway and took the name King Haakon VII. Queen Maud brought her tiara along with her to their new Norwegian home, and she wore it often.
Queen Sonja with the large version of the tiara
The tiara was given to Queen Sonja when she married then-Crown Prince Harald in 1968 and she’s worn it ever since. In 1995 she sent the tiara – along with some other smaller pieces of jewelry – to Garrard in London for repair and valuation. The pieces were all set to return to Norway when three armed robbers broke into the Regent Street store and stole about £250,000 worth of jewels. Maud’s tiara, valued at £200,000 in news reports at the time, was the biggest part of their heist. Despite a substantial reward offering, the tiara was never recovered.
Queen Sonja with the small version of the tiara
Garrard ultimately made Sonja a replica to replace the stolen one – an act of contrition for losing a royal heirloom, I guess. We still call it Queen Maud’s tiara, though it no longer is, and the remake is still popular with the royal family.
Princess Märtha Louise (left) and Crown Princess Mette-Marit (right) with the small version
The tiara actually has two versions: the larger, full version and a smaller one created by removing the front center section and repositioning the three top pearls. The smaller form was worn by Princess Märtha Louise on her wedding day, and for the first time in 2010 by Crown Princess Mette-Marit for Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s wedding.
The smaller version of the tiara
I prefer the lower version personally, which is no surprise given it strongly resembles a simplified version of the original Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara (my personal favorite tiara). I would love to see it make regular appearances in Mette-Marit’s tiara rotation.

Which do you prefer: the large or the small version?

Photos: Scanpix/Kungahuset/UK Press/Billed Bladet/Corbis

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 13-19 May

  1. Attending the annual awarding of the Appeltjes van Oranje Awards, 15 May. This is one of the outfits she wore the previous week in Brazil.
    Opening the CliniClowns College which puts on performances for ill and disabled children, 16 May. She also attended the parade of the armed forces and the lunch afterwards on Saturday for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in London. She repeated the outfit we saw for Queen's Day.
Photos: Dutch Photo Press/Daylife

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 13-19 May

  1. Attending a scholarship presentation, 16 May.
Photo: Getty Images/Zimbio

23 May 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Princess Märtha Louise's Gown

HH Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Ari Behn
May 24, 2002
Trondheim, Norway

Princess Märtha Louise, only daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, has a tendency towards the dramatic in her clothes and in other areas of her life. When you take into account that this princess has made a habit of performing theatrical readings of folk tales, it’s no surprise that her 2002 wedding to author Ari Behn is full of inspiration and fairytale details. (And emotion: click here for a glimpse of the ceremony.)
Norwegian designer Wenche Lyche designed the dress, and she’s also behind some of Märtha Louise’s other memorable outfits. The wedding gown is actually two pieces: a coat (which includes the train) and a dress underneath. The coat was worn during the ceremony and was removed afterward for the reception.
The Swarovski crystal-embellished coat has two major sources of inspiration: the Märtha lily, and the Gothic arches of Nidaros Cathedral where the ceremony took place. The color of the off-white duchesse satin used echoes the color of the lily, and the form of the coat also mimics the flower. The Gothic inspiration is most prevalent in the pointed arch tip of the three meter train on the coat – certainly one of the most memorable aspects of this wedding outfit.
Sentimental touches abound: the letters “A” and “M” are woven into the design, a “thread of life” vine is embroidered around the edge of the train and the end of the train features an embroidered circle of five lilies (five being a sacred number for a wedding). The trumpet sleeves are inspired by Queen Sonja’s wedding gown. The clasp at the front of the jacket is a bejeweled “A” for Ari made of cultured pearls, 16 brilliants, and gold and was intended to be worn as a brooch on the dress underneath after the coat was taken off.
This was all topped by a silk chiffon veil in the same cut as the train, anchored by Queen Maud’s Pearl and Diamond Tiara (more on that tomorrow). Maud was Märtha Louise’s great-grandmother, and is the namesake of her first child.
The dress under the coat, sewn by Anna Bratland, is a much simpler affair of sleeveless white silk crepe. But the inspiration never goes away: the Gothic shapes are present again in the V-shape neckline (at both the front and back).
Märtha Louise and Ari have not been without controversy in their ten years of marriage. Märtha Louise was entitled to the style of Her Royal Highness but her father (with her consent) removed it in 2002 to allow her more freedom in her personal business dealings. She is still in the line of succession and carries out some royal duties; in Norway she is simply Princess Märtha Louise, and abroad uses the style of Her Highness.
This action hasn’t saved Märtha Louise from scrutiny, though. Her personal beliefs and business dealings have caused controversy: she claims to communicate with angels and has written a book and started a school to help you do the same. She’s been accused of using her royal status to further her business interests, and the difference between her beliefs and the beliefs of the church her father heads have also sparked comment. Ari’s had his own issues, making political comments (a general no-no for a royal), discussing his depression publicly, and so on.
The couple has three daughters: Maud Angelica, Leah Isadora, and Emma Tallulah. It was recently announced that they will be relocating to London…and the palace confirmed that Märtha Louise won’t be opening any angel schools while there.

Do you think Märtha Louise's gown is too themed, or just right?

Photos: Svenskdam/Scanpix/VG/Adressa/NRK