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Royal British Tiaras: The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

Ooooooo. We love it when we run into some royal tiara drama. The intrigue. The mystery. The did she or didn't she! As with any royal family, the British Royals aren't without a little drama when it comes to some of the royal jewels in the vaults. And the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara certainly provided a little drama.
Great Royal British Tiaras: The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara with the Cambridge Emerald Drops

Ooooooo. We love it when we run into some royal tiara drama. The intrigue. The mystery. The did she or didn’t she! As with any royal family, the British Royals aren’t without a little drama when it comes to some of the royal jewels in the vaults. And the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara certainly provided a little drama.

Grand Duchess Vladimir wearing the Vladimir Tiara
Grand Duchess Vladimir wearing the Vladimir Tiara

Let’s start at the beginning. The tiara had its beginnings not in Britain but instead in 19th Century Russia. Hint: you might want to grab a piece of paper to jot all of this lineage down. It’s a long one. The year is 1874. Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin becomes a member of the Romanov dynasty by marrying Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. She has some Russian provenance of her own (her great grandmother was Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna), but she’s just married the third son of Tsar Alexander II. After marriage, she’s officially known as Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.

She, of course, needs some grand jewels to go with her grand new title and position and so she commissions Romanov court jeweler, Bolin, to create a spectacular tiara consisting of 15 interlocking diamond circles, set in silver and gold, strung together with a diamond ribbon on top and accompanied by pear-shaped pearl drops. The tiara becomes known as the Vladimir Tiara. And Miechen, as she’s known to her family and close friends, has added to her ever growing and outstanding jewel collection.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara with the Pearl Drops

But as it often was back then, the Duchess outlived her royal husband (he died in 1909 of a stroke) and there was also unrest within their country. Her nephew Tsar Nicholas II abdicates the throne in 1917 and then in 1918 he is murdered, along with his family, by the Bolsheviks. By then, Maria Pavlovna has already fled to Kislovodsk, but not before locking up her beloved tiara in a safe in her bedroom at Vladimir Palace. Put on house arrest, as the government got suspicious, she wasn’t able to go retrieve the tiara, but her son, Grand Duke Boris, hatches a plan. Along with Bertie Stopford, a friend and British art dealer, they sneak into the palace disguised as workmen, smuggle out the contents of her secret bedroom safe and then Stopford sneaks it all out of Russian and into the UK. Whew!

Now the jewels are in London in a safe deposit box, but not before being inventoried by Garrard and assessed for damage. Sadly, the tiara has been damaged in transition and travel and is now missing some diamonds and a few pearl drops. Within months the Duchess is also able to escape Russia and she eventually ends up in France, but all of the travels have taken a toll on her health and September of 1920, she passes away at age 66.

Queen Mary in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara Emeralds
Queen Mary in The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara with the Emerald Drops

Prior to her death, the Duchess spilt her jewels up amongst her four children and the tiara lands in the hands of her daughter, Grand Duchess Elena, now Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. But within a year of her mother’s death, Elena decides to sell the tiara to bolster her family fortunes and Russian charities and guess who was the lucky buyer? Yup. Good old Queen Mary. She never could pass up a good deal on a jewel of royal provenance (there are some that proclaim that she took advantage of her poor exiled relatives, but there’s a good deal of evidence that she paid for this tiara fair and square). Mary has the necessary repairs to the tiara completed and in true Queen Mary style, decides to make it even more versatile by adding some emerald drops (from the Cambridge emeralds collection, these drops originally topped the Delhi Durbar Tiara) that could be swapped out with the pearl drops.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

Now that she has such a versatile tiara, Mary wears and is photographed in it often. Until 1953 that is, when she passes on and the tiara is now bequeathed to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The current Queen also seems to be quite fond of the tiara, wearing it often with both the pearls and the emeralds, but she’s added her own third twist: eliminating the drops all together (which is probably lighter and much easier to wear, since there aren’t giant gemstone drops swinging as she walks). But if you ask us, this third option looks like….. a tiara missing its drops! And she’s even been kind enough to loan it out, as we’ve found photos of her current daughter-in-law (she who shall not be named) wearing it. How kind.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth in 1962 wearing the The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara to a film premier.

What a story! Smuggled out of one country. Sold off by its owners to help fund their exile. Modified by the “Jewelry Queen” and now a favorite of the current monarch. So tell us, does this tiara make your list of the top British Royal Tiaras? Are you team pearls or team emeralds? Let me know what you think in the comments below!


Comments

37 Responses

  1. I voted for this tiara from the beginning! Definitely the mark to be set that all other tiara’s strive to reach!

  2. Thank you fot the great article. I prefer the pearls, but I’m biased as they are my favorite gem.

  3. Thank you … apparently there’s a lot of people that feel that way!! I was a Princess Diana fan from the get go.

    I have a huge curio cabinet with the Diana dolls from the Franklin Mint and Bradford Exchange …. and this was before she was killed.

    I’ve never accepted that it was an accident but we’ll probably never know the truth until maybe William becomes king.

      1. I remember hearing that she would remain Duchess because the English people would never accept her as queen on account of how much Diana was and still is loved.

        1. I’ve heard that too. And I’ve heard she’ll be called Queen Consort (not really Queen but the King’s wife). Only time will tell, I guess. Thanks for joining me on this fun adventure, Robyn. ~WK

  4. This comment is for Mel …..

    Really??? You can say she’s “a very nice woman” with a straight face? She was the cause of Diana’s pain and misery starting with her honeymoon with Charles ….. that’s when she sent the gold cuff links with the two “C’s” intertwined on them. I’m sure you would’ve just loved that had it happened on your honeymoon.

    They thought because Diana was young and sweet that she wouldn’t be smart enough to catch on and they could “mold” her however they wanted.

    I don’t care if it’s been 22 years, 22 months, 22 days or 22 hours sine the Princes of Wales passed away. Camilla is a vile, conniving, and just an all around evil person who deserves no mercy, no forgiveness, and does not deserve to be Queen ever!

    Nice person my ass!

  5. Really??? You can say she’s “a very nice woman” with a straight face? She was the cause of Diana’s pain and misery starting with her honeymoon with Charles ….. that’s when she sent the gold cuff links with the two “C’s” intertwined on them. I’m sure you would’ve just loved that had it happened on your honeymoon.

    They thought because Diana was young and sweet that she wouldn’t be smart enough to catch on and they could “mold” her however they wanted.

    I don’t care if it’s been 22 years, 22 months, 22 days or 22 hours sine the Princes of Wales passed away. Camilla is a vile, conniving, and just an all around evil person who deserves no mercy, no forgiveness, and does not deserve to be Queen ever!

    Nice person my ass!

  6. Well, I think the history info is excellent. But the comment about Camilla was completely out of order. Why should she not be named, I don’t know the lady but she strikes me as a very nice woman. Diana died 22 years ago in a car accident. Camilla is merely the second wife, in the context of tiaras.

    1. Well, she was the other woman Charles was seeing when married to Diana. And perhaps I’m overly sensitive to that kind of thing, but it’s been widely reported that she was the final undoing of their marriage. And I’m just not a fan of that.

  7. It was directed to the “intellectual troll” dissing your history on tiaras, not you.

    It’s my first time on the site. I must have hit the wrong “reply” button … my apologies.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article and the history on the tiara. I enjoy learning new things and the background on things, especially jewelry.

    I may not have the collection the Royal Family has, but I can go toe to toe with them on my love 😍 of gems and jewelry!

    Again, apologies for the confusion.

    Deb

  8. Get a life people, what does it matter where it’s got pearls or emeralds or even none. It’s just another tiara.I think there is more to worry about in this day and age don’t you?

    1. Well, Davina, I’m really not sure why you’re on my website, in that case. There are some of us (several actually) that enjoy reading about these things. It doesn’t mean we don’t worry about the bigger issues. But I’m confident you’re not spending your every waking moment trying to cure Coronavirus, make sure every person on the planet has clean water or trying to combat election tampering. We’d all love to hear what inane things you do with your spare time. Besides being an internet troll, that is.

      1. Boom!! I think it’s great reading about actual history, something other than bad news , COVID-19 and garbage gossip. I actually found it rather refreshing to learn some actual history of real life events that took place….not to mention that I love a bit of bling lol
        Thanks Wendy, keep up the good work. Oh and I love emeralds but I think in this case I’m team pearl. I may be wrong but I thought I read somewhere that there are also ruby drops for this tiara….and without any drops it looks odd.

      1. In this I think you are mistaken. Camilla has access to the teck crescent, the Delhi durbar and the Greville along with the Shand-Cubitt tiara. Thanks for your research tho. Always enjoy your articles

        1. Well, all I actually said is that I’ve found photos online of her wearing the tiara. Whether or not those photos are real or not, I can’t say. Thanks so much for reading! It makes all of the hours of research and writing worth it when folks tell us how much they enjoy the posts.

  9. First off, “she who shall not be named”lol ! smh !!

    Second: it’s not my favorite; however I love the pearls and emeralds!

    Love your style of writing!

    1. Well, she’s not one of my favorites (I was always Team Diana) but she’s with us now for better or for worse. 😉 And thank you! I also love both options although I’m not a fan of wearing it without the dangling adornments. It just looks like it’s missing something that way.

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