The Royal House of Windsor

“The old queen sat in state near the center of the room, back erect, her white wig crowned with the Vladimir tiara and ropes of pearls and diamonds covering her large-bosomed front from neck to waist.” In Royal Service to the Queen

The Vladimir tiara has an interesting story behind it, It was acquired by the present queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary from the Grand Duchess Vladimir (also known as Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, wife of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich) the aunt of Tsar Nicholas II, who was murdered alongside his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks.

The Queen Consort Mary, wife of King George V.

The old queen had rather a dicey reputation when it came to expensive and beautiful things. She was extraordinarily acquisitive, to the point of ruthlessly plundering her wealthy friends. So much so that it was often thought that she had tendencies toward kleptomania. AT any rate if Queen Mary was coming to stay those with any sense hid their treasurers in case she pressured them into making her a gift of them. While the old queen was known for her personal frugality, sometimes choosing inexpensive gifts or economizing on household expenses, she was ruthless in her pursuit of acquiring a collection of exquisite jewelry which is worn to this day by Queen Elizabeth II on state occasions and all the queen’s nieces and daughters in law had access to a tiara collection that is the envy of the world.

The Vladimir Tiara with Pearl Pendants

The Vladimir tiara is made up of fifteen intertwined diamond circles strung together with a diamond ribbon and hung with articulating pearl drops. The Grand Duchess Vladimir hid this exquisite tiara and other fine pieces in the vault of her palace in 1918 when she fled St. Petersburg in the wake of the revolution. It remained hidden away until a friend of the family who happened to be a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service smuggled her jewels out of Russia for the Grand Duchess, tucked away in a plain bag. With her jewels finally returned to her, the duchess split them up amongst her four children before passing away in Paris in 1920. The tiara went to her daughter, Princess Nicholas of Greece. When Princess Nicholas sold her jewels to benefit both her family and Russian charities, ait was snapped up by Queen Mary for a very reasonable price. Mary subsequently had to have some repairs completed, as the journey hadn’t been kind to the fine craftsmanship. It was inherited by Queen Elizabeth on Mary’s death in 1953 along with the rest of her remaining jewel collection. Many people at the time believed that Queen Mary swindled her poor exiled relatives under the guise of ‘helping’ the exiled family ‘sell off’ their stunning family jewels.

The Vladimir Tiara with Indian Emeralds

Passionately in love with her new tiara Mary set about improving it a little. She had in her possession the Cambridge emeralds, a group of around 40 cabochon emeralds which had originally belonged to Indian royalty but had made their way into British hands before being auctioned at a charity ball in 1818. The winner of the auction was Queen Mary’s grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge. Once acquired by Mary, the emeralds were incorporated into new and existing royal pieces, including emerald cabochons that could be sapped out with the pearl pendants.
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