I was tickled to see HM Queen wearing the Vladimir Tiara (emerald version) as a gesture of Oirishry to President Michael D Higgins last evening. Tiaras are not part of my daily life – though I’d wear one given half a chance – but I do know a bit about the Vladimir because its rescue from the chaos of Russia in 1917 features in this year’s book, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere.
The tiara was originally the property of the Grand Duchess Vladimir, known to her friends as Miechen, and was a confection of diamonds and pearls. Miechen was a great collector of jewels and she had a generous husband who rewarded each of her four confinements with yet more sparklers. When it was clear that there was no place in revolutionary Russia for Romanovs Miechen arranged for her jewels to be spirited out of the country. Perhaps she thought she’d wear them again. Perhaps she realised they’d have to be sold to cover daily living expenses.
In fact Miechen didn’t long survive in exile and her gems had to be sold to clear her debts, but discreetly. Not so much a Cartier yard sale as a series of private arrangements with family getting first dibs. Queen Mary of the British Royal Family nabbed the Vladimir, probably at a very good price because the value of pearls had plummeted. Mary also had some spare emeralds lying around (as you do) and decided to have them drop-mounted as an alternative to the pearl drops. Just what the fashion editors exhort us to do: ring the changes with different accessories (or precious gems). Our present Queen inherited the Vladimir tiara with its pearls and emeralds from her grandmother, Queen Mary. And last evening, in honour of her Irish guest, she chose the emerald option. So now you know.
Of course I could wear a tiara every day. Sitting at my desk, who’s to know? I could probably get one from Claire’s Accessories. I could probably buy three and get one free. Don’t think I’m not tempted.