Vladimir Tiara | The Royal Watcher

This week marks the 70th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Mary! The Teck Princess who lived through the reigns of six monarchs and was the Queen Consort for twenty-five years, as well as a Queen Mother to two Kings and the Queen Grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary assembled much of the British Royal Family’s spectacular Jewellery Collection, so we are featuring some of the jewels in the days leading up to the anniversary, continuing with the Vladimir Tiara!

Queen Mary’s Crown | Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara | Vladimir Tiara | Delhi Durbar Tiara | Cambridge Emerald Parure | Lover’s Knot Tiara | Fringe Tiara | Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara | Cambridge Sapphire Parure | Iveagh Tiara | Amethyst Tiara | Ladies of England Tiara | Surrey Fringe Tiara | The Jewels of Queen Mary  

When Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, the third son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, in 1874, she commissioned a spectacular Tiara of interlocking diamond circles, set in gold and silver, with hanging pear-shaped pearls, from the Russian Court Jeweller; Bolin. The flexible Tiara could have been worn in its original form, as well as a closed coronet, both with and without the pear-shaped pearls, which could later be replaced with the Cambridge Emeralds.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir was the leading society hostess in St. Petersburg in the decades before the First World War, often covered with jewels from her legendary collection, that included the Vladimir Sapphire Kokoshnik, which was displayed for friends and relatives in her boudoir at the Vladimir Palace. After notable appearances in several portraits and for the Ball at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility in St Petersburg in 1913, the last great Ball of Imperial Russia, the Grand Duchess put her jewels away on the outbreak of the First World War. 

When she fled St. Petersburg following the February Revolution in 1917, the Jewels of the Grand Duchess Vladimir remained in a hidden safe in her bedroom at the Vladimir Palace, until her son, Grand Duke Boris, and a friend, Bertie Stopford, snuck into the Vladimir Palace disguised as workmen, smuggling the Jewels out in a pair of Gladstone Bags, which were then smuggled out of Russia, deposited in a safety deposit box in London. An inventory taken by Garrard in early 1920 revealed that the Vladimir Tiara was damaged during its journey, with some of the pearls and diamonds missing. The Grand Duchess Vladimir was the last Romanov to escape Russia, and passed away just a few months later, in September 1920. 

Grand Duchess Vladimir left her jewels to her children in groups of stones, with Grand Duke Kyril receiving the Sapphires, Grand Duke Boris the Emeralds, Grand Duke Andrei the Rubies, while Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Princess Nicholas of Greece, the only daughter, inherited her mother’s diamonds and pearls, including the Vladimir Tiara. However, Princess Nicholas was then in exile and soon sold the Vladimir Tiara to Queen Mary. However, some of the Vladimir Pearls remained with the Grand Duchess, and were given to her daughter, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, who later became Queen Mary’s daughter-in-law. 

Right after its purchase, Queen Mary had the Vladimir Tiara sent to Garrard for repairs, and one of her earliest appearances in the Tiara came at the State Opening of Parliament in 1924, which was the only time it was worn for the State Opening.

That same year, the Vladimir Tiara was made more adaptable to allow it to be worn with fifteen of the Cambridge Emeralds from Queen’s Mary’s own family, a combination which was worn with the Delhi Durbar Parure, also made with the Cambridge Emeralds, for a couple of portraits.

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Queen Mary often worn the Vladimir Tiara for portraits though the 1920s and 1930s, most notably during King George V’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 1935. The Vladimir Tiara was retained by Queen Mary after being widowed in 1935, and remained in her possession until her passing in 1953.

Queen Mary left the Vladimir Tiara to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, at the time just a few weeks away from her Coronation at Westminster Abbey. The Vladimir Tiara made its first public appearance in decades for a Banquet held by the Foreign Office at Lancaster House in London, to celebrate the Coronation, paired with Queen Victoria’s Pearl Earrings and the Ruby and Diamond Floral Bandeau Necklace. Later that year, the Vladimir Tiara was worn with the King George VI Sapphire Suite for the Royal Film Performance of ‘Rob Roy.  

Later that year, the Queen took the Vladimir Tiara with her on her six-month Commonwealth Tour, and wore the Emerald version of the Tiara with the Delhi Durbar Parure on several occasions in Australia, while the pearl version was notably worn for the Ceylon State Opening of Parliament in 1954.

By the time of the Queen’s return to London, the Vladimir Tiara had become a favourite, being worn for the British State Visit to Sweden and the Grenadier Guards Tercentenary in 1956, the State Visit to Denmark, State Visit to Paris and State Visit to the United States in 1957, the State Visit to the Netherlands in 1958, a Dinner with King Olav of Norway in 1959, the French State Visit in 1960, the Thai State Visit in 1960, a Gala Performance at Covent Garden in 1960, visit to Pakistan, State Visit to Nepal, State Visit to Iran, Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Banquet, and Tour of West Africa in 1961, Queen Juliana’s Silver Anniversary in 1962, a Gala Performance in 1963, the State Visit to Germany in 1965, State Visit to Belgium in 1966, State Visit to Austria and the Italian State Visit in 1969.

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By the 1970s, the Queen had established alternating the two versions of the Vladimir Tiara with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara, being for for the Captain Cook Bicentenary Tour in 1970, the Japanese State Visit in 1971, the State Visit to Thailand, State Visit to Singapore, State Visit to Malaysia, visit to Mauritius, Dutch State Visit, State Banquet at the Palace of Versailles, and Luxembourg State Visit in 1972, the Danish State Visit in 1974, the State Visit to Japan in 1975, Banquet at British Embassy in Washington in 1976, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 1977, and the Tour of the Gulf States in 1979. 

In the 1980s, the Vladimir Tiara continued to be a staple in the Queen’s wardrobe, with the pearl version worn with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Necklace and Duchess of Gloucester’s Pendant Earrings while the emerald version was paired with the Delhi Durbar Parure, like for the State Visit to the Vatican, the  State Visit to Morocco, and Nepalese State Visit in 1980,  State Visit to Norway in 1981, Queen’s South Pacific Tour, Oman State Visit, and Dutch State Visit in 1982, visit to California in 1983, State Visit to Jordan, State Visit to Nepal, and the Spanish State Visit in 1986, Brunei State Visit in 1996, and the State Visit to Thailand in 1996. 

The Queen continued to wear the Vladimir Tiara during the 2000s, like during her Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 2002, for the Norwegian Official Visit to Britain in 2005, and during the American State Visit to Britain in 2011. In recent decades, the Tiara was sometimes worn in its ‘widowed’ form without any pearls or emeralds, but it was worn with both for a State Visit from Indonesia in 2012, a State Visit from Ireland in 2014, a visit to Malta in 2015, and most recently for the Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace in 2019, which was the late Queen’s final Tiara appearance before her passing.

Angela Kelly, dresser to the late Queen, wrote about switching the Pearls and the Emeralds:

“It is the most complex piece of jewellery in the collection and is made up of fifteen intertwined diamond-set ovals from which hang pendant pearls. The pearls can be interchanged with emeralds and The Queen has worn the tiara with both arrangements during her reign, and sometimes with neither. The pearls and emeralds are kept in numbered pouches to signify their position on the tiara and it takes nearly an hour to change them over. 

The changeover of the pearls to emeralds requires a firm grip to get each jewel securely hooked into place. You will notice that I am not wearing gloves when handling the jewellery: this allows me to take a secure hold of all the pieces. I always ensure that I take my time to do this quietly and without interruption, as you cannot afford to put the jewels in the wrong pouches or the wrong places on the tiara.”

In recent years, the Vladimir Tiara was often displayed during the summer exhibitions at Buckingham Palace, most recently at the ‘Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession’ Exhibit last year, where I saw the Vladimir Tiara at Buckingham Palace on the day the Queen passed away, which was also the last day that the Tiara was publicly seen. With two State Visits later this month and a Coronation coming up in a few weeks, lets hope this spectacular Royal Heirloom makes an appearance soon.

Queen Mary’s Crown | Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara | Vladimir Tiara | Delhi Durbar Tiara | Cambridge Emerald Parure | Lover’s Knot Tiara | Fringe Tiara | Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara | Cambridge Sapphire Parure | Iveagh Tiara | Amethyst Tiara | Ladies of England Tiara | Surrey Fringe Tiara | The Jewels of Queen Mary  


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