A brilliant choice: Princess Eugenie's wedding tiara

The fascinating history of the Greville emerald tiara, where it came from and how it came to be in the spotlight after many years in the dark.  

Eugenie-waving-Rex-bought-image

Princess Eugenie did us tiara and jewellery fans a huge favour as she stepped out on her way to St George’s Chapel in Windsor to marry Jack Brooksbank. Breaking with tradition she didn't wear a veil, which meant we had full-view of the beautiful Greville emerald kokoshnik-style tiara lent to her by the Queen. There was no waiting for the vows to be taken before the veil was lifted to reveal the tiara, Princess Eugenie’s original choice was evident from the very start of the wedding celebrations. 

While many had predicted that Princess Eugenie would wear her mother’s wedding day tiara, the daughter of the Duchess of York chose a tiara that few even knew existed but was absolutely suited to her look. In fact, I would say that the tiara was the most compelling feature of her outfit with the vibrant green emeralds shining out next to her simple white dress by British designer Peter Pilotto and matching her white and green bouquet. In a touching mother-daughter link, the Duchess of York wore all green and emerald jewels and even the bridesmaids and page boys wore vivid green sashes over their white outfits.

Princess Eugenie chose not to wear a veil with her Peter Pilotto wedding gown which gave a clear view of the Greville emerald tiara lent to her by the Queen. Photo courtesy of Peter Pilotto.

Although I had all my royal jewellery and tiara books to hand as I tuned into watch the wedding this morning, none of them had an image of this particular tiara with its knock-out emeralds. A little research confirmed that it is the Greville emerald tiara featuring a 93.70-carat cabochon-cut emerald at its centre that was made by the Parisian jewellery house Boucheron (below). The frame is of platinum and features a further five emeralds and diamonds and is known as a kokoshnik style popular at the turn of the last century thanks to the vogue for more exotic Russian styles of jewels. See more regal tiaras here.

Boucheron provided this archive image of the Greville emerald tiara as it looked after its final remodelling in 1921 which added in the six cabochon emeralds including the central one of 93.70-carats and the geometrical diamond pattern in keeping with the flapper style of the era. 

Like all great jewels, this tiara has been through several re-incarnations. It was originally made by Boucheron in Paris in the early 1900 for the heiress the Hon. Mrs. Greville as a circular crown of diamond-set papyrus leaves. As fashions changed, in 1910 Mrs Greville thought the tiara was too imposing and went back to Boucheron to have it remodeled into a lighter headband or bandeau shape tiara.  In 1919 it was further adjusted so that it could be worn lower on the forehead. Its final tweak was in 1921 when the geometric pattern of diamonds of emeralds was added and this is the version we saw Princess Eugenie wearing it down the aisle.  Unlike the tiara’s original crown design, the bandeau style is streamlined and geometric with no ornamental scrolls or twirls rising above the frame for a cleaner look in keeping with the 1920’s flapper-style fashion revolution.

How the tiara came to be resting on Princess Eugenie’s head is also quite a story and I have to thank Geoffrey C. Munn and his well-researched book: Tiaras, a History of Splendour. According to Mr Munn, the  Hon. Mrs Greville had been a long-time friend of the Royal Family and the Duke and Duchess of York - who later became Prince Albert and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – spent their 1923 honeymoon at her home, Polesden Lacey. Famous for her honesty Mrs Greville was not shy of the fact that her wealth came from her father’s brewing business. She was known to state: ‘I’d rather be a beeress than a peeress.’ In her will, she bequeathed her entire jewellery collection to the Queen, who in turn lent it to Princess Eugenie for the ‘something borrowed’ wedding item.

The tiara is not to be mistaken with another jewel from Mrs Greville’s will, the better known open-work Empire style Greville tiara also by Boucheron from 1919 (below) with a distinctive honeycomb pattern of diamonds. The Queen Mother was photographed wearing the jewel on many occasions, as is Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Boucheron second version of the Lady Greville Tiara redesigned in 1921 and later inherited to the Queen Mother in 1942. It was since modified and worn by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in 2006.

To complete Princess Eugenie’s wedding day look, she wore a pair of emerald drop earrings given to her by her husband Jack Brooksbank. From what I can see so far, Princess Eugenie may be the Royal to watch as she has shown a sophisticated eye for jewellery and a fondness for unusual colour gems starting with her padparadscha sapphire engagement ring. Read more about her engagement ring here. 

 

 

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