Sunday, 11 January 2015

Rubies Are A Girl's Best Friend

 People seemed to enjoy last year's story about Princess Margaret's tiara, (see ), so I'll tell you the fairytale of how the magnificent ruby-and-diamond parure of Napoleon's girlfriend fetched up in the trinket box of our own Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.  (It is a legal requirement in Australia that whenever Princess Mary is mentioned, her name has to be prefixed by "our own".)

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:

When I was a teenager, my friends and I loved the best-selling, romantic novel "Désirée" by Annemarie Selinko.  Désirée was the beautiful daughter of a silk merchant. Her sister Julie was married to the handsome Joseph Bonaparte, and when Désirée met his brother Napoleon, it was love at first sight. The romance flourished, Napoleon popped the question and in no time Désirée was flashing a diamond ring and subscribing to bridal magazines.
Jean Simmons as Désirée
Enter Josephine de Beauharnais. Napoleon was smitten, Désirée was jilted and Josephine got to be Mrs Bonaparte. On the rebound, Désirée married Jean Bernadotte, an upwardly mobile soldier and diplomat. Within five years, Napoleon became emperor and appointed Bernadotte a Marshall of France.

The Imperial Coronation was going to be a glittering occasion, and Bernadotte wanted to be noticed. He commissioned a Parisian jeweller to create a new parure (or suite of jewels) of diamonds and rubies, for his wife to wear to the Imperial shindig. Those chandelier earrings alone would have made a bit of a statement!
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
Bernadotte's fortunes continued to rise until (long story short) the old and childless King Carl XIII of Sweden adopted him formally as his son and successor. Désirée found herself Sweden's crown princess. I told you this is a fairytale!

In due course, Jean Bernadotte and Désirée became King Carl XIV and Queen Desideria of Sweden. In a twist of fate, their son, Crown Prince Oscar, married Josephine's granddaughter, also named Joséphine de Beauharnais. When Désirée died in 1860, she left the ruby parure to her daughter-in-law, now Queen Josefina.

In due course, Josefina's granddaughter Princess Louisa married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. As a wedding present, Queen Josefina gave Désirée's ruby parure to Louisa, because the jewels are red and white - the colors of the Danish flag. The rubies made their way to Copenhagen in Louisa's trousseau.
Princess Louisa Bernadotte of Sweden,
Queen of Denmark
After Queen Louisa, they were worn by successive Danish Queen Consorts Alexandrine and Ingrid. Queen Ingrid, grandmother of Our Mary's husband Fred, gave the tiara a major makeover.  Using the stones from two brooches, she had the tiara transformed from a small bandeau into a large wreath tiara, the diamonds forming glittering white "leaves" among which are scattered the ruby "berries".  The set became her signature jewels, and is often referred to as "Queen Ingrid's Rubies."
Queen Ingrid of Denmark
Queen Ingrid died in 2000 and left her rubies to her grandson Crown Prince Frederik, with the intention that they should be worn by his future Queen. And indeed, (fairytale alert!) Fred had already met Mary, his future Queen, just two months before his Nanna checked out. 
And that is how Désirée's rubies fetched up in Our Mary's trinket box.
Crown Princess Mary
of Denmark
Meanwhile, let us not forget that while Mary of Denmark may be Our Mary, Elizabeth of England is Our Queen. She will see Denmark's puny rubies and raise them the Tudor Rose Tiara. 




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