|Photos (clockwise from top left): tiara detail; Princess Marie Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême; tiara detail; tiara detail|
There are tiaras, and then there are tiaras that belonged to the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Let's wrap up the week with a look at the emerald tiara that their eldest daughter, the Duchess of Angoulême, wore, shall we? Buckle up, readers -- this is quite the tiara tale!
Anyway, in the fullness of time, the monarchy in France was restored, Uncle Provence officially became Louis XVIII, and Marie-Thérèse needed a tiara. The piece was created by Bapst in 1820 using emeralds from the royal collections. The tiara was a part of the crown jewels from the start, which meant that it was always French property, never Marie-Thérèse's personal possession. The geometric design of the piece is similar to that of the Norwegian emerald tiara -- both were created in France at roughly the same time, and perhaps even by the same jeweler.
Louis XVIII died in 1824, and Marie-Thérèse's uncle/father-in-law (sigh), Charles X, became king. For Marie-Thérèse, this meant a change in position, too -- she was now the dauphine of France. But we all know what eventually happened to the French monarchy. By 1830, Charles X had been pressured into abdicating. Marie-Thérèse was queen of France for precisely 20 minutes: the time that elapsed between Charles X signing his abdication papers and Marie-Thérèse's husband reluctantly doing the same.
This meant exile again for Marie-Thérèse, this time to Britain. But she didn't take her tiara with her -- remember that it was French property. She left it behind, and years later, after yet another restoration of monarchy in France, it became a favorite piece of the red-haired Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. When he was ousted in 1870, the tiara again stayed in France with the crown jewels.
The Angoulême Tiara went on display with the rest of the crown jewels at the Louvre in the 1880s, but by 1887, the French government had decided it was time to rid themselves of the collection once and for all. They'd threatened to sell before, but this time it was for real: the tiara was sold at auction to a Mr. Bachruch. Shortly afterward, the tiara popped up in Britain; it was supposedly owned by the earls of Durham, but the precise chain of ownership is a bit unclear (maybe purposefully so). In 1982, nearly a century later, the owners allowed the tiara to be displayed at the V&A in London, and it remained at the museum for twenty years. And then they decided it was time to sell. Any guesses who the buyer was this time?
... that's right: the Louvre! More than a century after it left France, the tiara was back home. The British government tried in vain to find a buyer who could keep the valuable piece in the UK, but the French won the tiara this time. Next time you're in Paris, head to the Louvre and give it a visit. It's never been altered, so you'll be able to stand in a former royal palace and see the exact tiara that Marie Antoinette's daughter, the Twenty-Minute Queen, wore once upon a time. Très magnifique!
For more on this tiara:
Diadème de la duchesse d'Angoulême