What’s going on in the world of royal jewels and royal research?
When I find out about auctions, exhibitions, new book releases, and more, I’ll drop them here just for you. If you’re lucky enough to visit one of the exhibitions, send me pictures! Or if you have more information to add to this page, drop me a line.
DATE: September 19
This auction is titled “Visions of Collecting: Royal and Aristocratic, An Important Private Collection.” Whose collection? We don’t know, but they had some beautiful and historically significant stuff. My favorite piece up for grabs is a painting of Princess Sophie, Electress of Hanover by Gerrit van Honthorst. She was the twelfth (twelfth!) child of Charles I’s sister, the exiled Queen of Bohemia. You can see another portrait of her in the UK’s Royal Collection, in which she’s also wearing a blue off-the-shoulder gown. It’s expected to sell for roughly $36,000 - $61,000. I can tell you right now, the buyer will not be me. I got my propane bill and my car insurance bill today. I’ll be lucky if I can buy a stick of gum.
There are two other items I want to point out to you. You can bid on a collection of 8 trays that belonged to Queen Marie of Hanover - they’re painted with her logo. The estimated price is about $1,800 - $3,000, which means they’re expensive AF for some trays, but that royal provenance makes them tempting.
The second item I’m interested in is a five-piece Faberge silver tea and coffee service, circa 1908-1917. The teapot and the coffee pot both have an ivory handle, which I’m not crazy about (ethically or stylistically), but it’s a freakin’ Faberge tea and coffee set. I’m not gonna complain. Except when I have to shell out the expected $12,000 - $18,000 to pay for it.
Versailles Added to Google Art & Culture
LOCATION: Anywhere you have an internet connection
Ever wanted to see the palace of Versailles...and then had a mild heart attack when you looked at airfare prices? Me too. Now we can get up close and personal with Versailles through our phones. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the Google Arts & Culture app these days. Now it’s even better because it can take me inside the place I think my personal heaven would most closely resemble: the palace of Versailles.
Here’s the cool thing...Google has also included a lot of content about the paintings of Versailles, science and technology at Versailles, the people who lived there, and more. I’m checking this out on a lunch break at work right now, and I can already tell half an hour IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. I need more Versailles in my life.
In the video below, you can see how Google worked with palace curators to create the VR tour of Versailles...and it’s enabled with subtitles so you don’t have to struggle with your high-school French (or maybe that's just me).
Downton Abbey: The Movie
Date: September 20
It’s finally here! I’ve missed this series SO MUCH. I’m a very introverted and admittedly self-centered person. When I watched this show, it made me want to be a better person. You see people confronting the hardest situations in all of life, and they do it with grace and quiet determination and an ever-ready wit for all those those formal dinner conversations. I would have been a colossal failure at being a lady, but this show makes me wish I could try.
Holy Mother of God, I forgot how much I love the sparring between the Dowager Countess and Lady Merton (Isobel Crawley).
Exhibit: Queen Victoria’s Palace
DATE: Ending September 29
LOCATION: Buckingham Palace, London
This exhibition celebrates the changes Queen Victoria made to Buckingham Palace. Today, we think of the palace as part of the royal family’s public persona. All those famous balcony moments, right? The waves, the kisses, the totes-adorbs royal kiddos stealing the show...but it wasn’t always that way. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were the ones who took a ho-hum residence and turned it into a focal point of the way people see and interact with the sovereign. Kind of a big deal, right?
As part of the exhibition, you can see the dress Victoria wore to the Stuart Ball in 1851, where everyone dressed up in period costume from the reign of Charles II. You can also see a recreation of the Crimean Ball of 1856, staged using a hologram and other Hollywood special effects. I wish I could see this. The painting below, by Louis Haghe, shows the Buckingham Palace ballroom, newly remodeled in 1856, but if you visit, you’ll get to see the real thing!
Thank goodness for Feedly. If I hadn’t checked my “Royalty & Tiaras” feed one day at work, I wouldn’t have known there’s a new book about Crown Princess Märtha of Norway by Norwegian historian Trond Norén Isaksen. It’s called Kronprinsessens krig – Den sanne historien om kronprinsesse Märtha og Franklin D. Roosevelt, which translates to “The Crown Princess’s War: The True Story of Crown Princess Märtha and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
Holy crap, do I want to get my hands on this one. It’ll mean (a) ordering from a European vendor because Amazon.com is a big goose egg for this one, and (b) doing my scan-and-translate OCR routine, which takes forever but is undoubtedly faster than, say, learning Norwegian.
Here’s a glimpse of Märtha:
Why am I willing to go to such lengths to get a book about Märtha? Because I stumbled across the story of her dramatic flight from Norway ahead of the Nazi invasion, which intrigued me. And then I stumbled on the Gore Vidal reference to her as FDR’s last love, which really intrigued me. Is it true? Well, until I read Mr. Isaksen’s book, I won’t know.
On his blog, he posted several links to European vendors who sell the book. That’s where the link below will take you. See you on the flip side.
DATE: October 12, 2019 - February 23, 2020
LOCATION: Hampton Court
See the silver chamblet silk that comes from a dress that may have belonged to Elizabeth I. Experts believe Elizabeth gave the original silk dress to the parish church at Bacton, in memory of her retired Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber, Blanche Parry. The fabric was then repurposed as an altar cloth.
Now, that fabric is coming to Hampton Court, where it will be displayed next to The Rainbow Portrait. The fabric looks very similar to what’s used in the bodice of Elizabeth’s dress in that painting. Is it the same? No one knows for sure, but anything is possible. Don’t be fooled by headlines that call this Elizabeth’s last surviving dress, however - it’s just the fabric, as the dress was disassembled long ago. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Hampton Court, your admission ticket gets you into this exhibition, too.
Christie’s Auction: Royal House of Savoy
DATE: October 15
We’ve seen a few auctions with Savoy family items in the past couple years. This one includes art, manuscripts, linen tablecloths, sculptures, antiquities, and two cars from the family collection. Here are some of my favorite items up for grabs:
- Meissen pink floral table service (above). They’re labeled as purple, but hot damn, they look pink to me. I’m drooling over here - I mean, pink Meissen floral with a crown. It doesn’t get much more me than that. Unfortunately, I could either buy these (high estimate: $12,480) or pay to keep a roof over my head for the next year. Shit.
- A 15th century illuminated manuscript of De regimine pricipum, St. Thomas Aquinas’s how-to manual for rulers. If St. Thomas can intercede with the patron saint of the California Lottery by the auction date, maybe I’ll make a bid. This one’s headed for six figures (high end of estimated sale price: $124,8000).
- Portraits of Beatrice of Portugal (1504-1538), Margarita of Savoy (1589-1655), Maria Theresa of Savoy (1801-1855), Polissena D'Assia, Queen of Sardinia (1706-1735), Maria Luisa Gabriella of Savoy, Queen of Spain (1688-1714), Christine of France, Duchess of Savoy (1606-1663), Christina Enrichetta d'Assia (1717-1778), Christine Marie of France (1606 -1663), Margarita of Savoy, Duchess of Parma (17th century), Maria Clementina Sobieski (1702-1735), and two portraits of Maria Theresa of Savoy (1801-1855) (one shown above).
None of these are showstoppers - not like the luminous portrait of Princess Sophia (see September’s auction, above). On the other hand, the high estimates on all these are under $5,000. My top 4 picks are: the two portraits of Maria Theresa of Savoy, Margarita of Savoy, and Margarita of Savoy, Duchess of Parma.
- Limoges porcelain table service with Queen Margherita of Italy’s arms. The lot listing doesn’t say they belonged to her, but a girl can dream, right? I like the Meissen table service better - this one’s pretty plain. But if you love Margherita, it might be worth it. There are 24 dinner plates but only 22 started plates. Guess you can’t exactly get those back by going to Replacements.com, can you? The estimated sale price on this set is $2,496 - $3,744.
- Late 18th century cup and saucer painted with royal portraits (above). Ever wanted to have coffee with King Carlo Emanuele IV, King of Sardinia (1751-1819) and Queen Marie-Clotilde of France (1759-1802)? Now’s your chance. Well, it’s your chance assuming you have at least $3,000.
Other interesting items include a Maori club, an ancient Greek bell-krater with a painting of Dionysus, gorgeous Chinese cinnabar lacquer boxes...and, oh yeah...a 1955 silver Rolls Royce Wraith.
Date: October 17
I can’t wait to read Lady In Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner.
Anne is the oldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester. She grew up playing with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and later became Margaret’s lady-in-waiting. She married Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner - he’s the guy who bought Mustique, the island that became Princess Margaret’s favorite getaway spot. Oh, the stories she must have to tell...
DATE: October 16, 2019 - January 26, 2020
LOCATION: The Conciergerie, Paris
This exhibition showcases the different ways history and the world at large have viewed Marie Antoinette: as a woman, wife, queen, mother, tragic historic figure, tastemaker, and more. Called ‘Marie-Antoinette: Metamorphoses of an Image,’ the exhibition includes 200 works (art, books, documents, etc.) highlighting 20 key events in her life. I love the fact that the exhibition is happening at the prison where she spent her final ten weeks, as opposed to, say, Versailles. And isn’t the artwork for the exhibition gorgeous? I love the vertical color stripe over Vigée-Lebrun’s famous portrait.
Date: October 21
Dude, you guys, this is right up our alley. In this HBO miniseries, Helen Mirren plays Catherine the Great. Guess I’ll be turning on my HBO Now access for the first time since GoT ended...
What do you guys think of Helen Mirren as a Russian empress? She’s a brilliant actress and I’m pretty sure I’ll love this, but I’m having a visual holdup because in all her middle-aged portraits, Catherine’s features are so much rounder than Mirren’s. That full, sensuous, Rubenesque look is what I picture, and Helen Mirren’s features are much thinner and sharper. It’s stupid, I know. I’ll get over it.
I’m also curious as to which historical figures will be featured, and who will, for lack of time, be collapsed or condensed or just plain cut.
As of September 8, the IMDB page isn’t super-enlightening. I compared the cast list to the list of Catherine’s lovers. We have two who came before Potemkin (Vasilchikov and Zavadovsky), Potemkin, and then...three of her next lovers are missing (Rimsky-Korsakov, Lanskoy, Yermolov). The cast list picks up with Mamonov, one of her later lovers. We’re also missing her last lover, Platon Zubov - but his brother, Valerian, is in the cast list. I’m guessing those missing 3 have been skipped to make her relationship with Potemkin the focus. Also, probably to make it look like they were physically faithful to each other for longer than they were. I’m assuming they’re going to skip that whole Potemkin-nailed-three-of-his-six-nieces thing. Even for HBO, that’s sketchy territory.
Sotheby’s Auction: Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels
DATE: November 13
The name says it all. This auction includes 8 things I want to tell you about - and 6 of them are tiaras. Here are some of my favorite items up for grabs:
- This Köchert parure belonged to a German noble family, according to the Sotheby’s website. It contains a necklace, earrings, hook fittings, belt buckle, tiara, and detachable comb fittings. This feels very First Empire, circa Marie Louise (Napoleon’s second wife). It’s actually a bit later than that, but anytime I see a parure with combs and a belt buckle, I think, "Go big or go home. This was Napoleon’s doing." It was expected to sell for $15,000 - $25,000, but raked in nearly twice that at $47,500. That’s more than I make in a year, for context. Also for context: Köchert is the jeweler who made Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria’s tiara, which I covered in this post.
- This Chaumet diamond and rock crystal sautoir belonged to Comtesse Molitor. It was exhibited in Monaco this past summer as part of Chaumet in Majesty: Jewels of Sovereigns Since 1780. Who, exactly, was Comtesse Molitor? Good question. There were three women by that name living in Paris in the 1920s - but one was a famous traveler whose background contains plenty of unverifiable details. I’m guessing she’s the one we’re talking about. If I dig up more about her, I’ll let you know. For know, just know that this piece, created in 1929, was expected to sell for $400,000 - $500,000, and sold for $524,000. So, you could have this sautoir or a shitty condo in California. The choice is yours.
- This tiara with brilliant-cut diamonds came from “an important private collection,” according to the auction listing. It was expected to sell for $10,000 - $15,000, and sold for $20,000. We don’t have any further information about who might have owned it or bought it. If it looks familiar, drop me a line and let me know!
- This cute little tiara by Gustav Flach is labeled simply as an “Austrian floral tiara.” There are three detachable floral motifs that can presumably be worn as either brooches or pendants. It was from a private collection, expected to sell for $30,000 to $50,000. It actually sold for $175,000. Way to lowball it, Sotheby’s estimator. Maybe the picture of Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis wearing it helped boost that final sale price.
- This garland-style tiara converts into a necklace, which is awesome. I think it would fantastic that way. The auction listing didn’t include any other photos, so I’m relying on my imagination, which is powered by whiskey at the moment. It’s made with circular- and single-cut diamonds and a natural saltwater pearl. It comes “from a noble family,” and was expected to sell for between $12,000 and $18,000. It actually sold for $20,000.
- Look at that center emerald! Wow. This tiara came from a German noble family, and is dated to the late 19th century. The emerald is Colombian and cut in a hexagon. The frame for the emerald is a series of collet-set cushion-shaped diamond diamonds. The rest of the garland design contains circular-cut and pear-shaped diamonds.
- How do you like them apples? I ask because it could still be yours. Made by Cartier in the 1930s, it converts into an equally jaw-dropping necklace. The tiara features a graduated palmette and arrow-head design made with circular-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds. It belonged to Christian Carnegy, Lady Smith, the wife of banker and philanthropist Sir John Smith. It was estimated at $250,000 - $370,000, but didn’t end up selling. There’s still hope, if you sell your house (or a kidney).
The Crown: Season 3
Date: November 17
This season of The Crown has a stellar cast I’m super excited about: Olivia Colman as Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Tobias Menzies? I have been in love with that man since season one of Outlander.
Christie’s Auction: Important Jewels
DATE: November 27
In this auction, we have four tiaras...and several pieces that either belonged to or have a connection to Empress Eugénie of France. Here we go, in no particular order.
- This holly wreath tiara belonged to the late Betty, Lady Grantchester (one of Britain’s richest women, if you’re curious - the daughter of a self-made millionaire). It contains old and rose-cut diamonds, with three detachable spray brooches. We don’t have info on the maker, but it was created in around 1895. The auction estimate is $38,850 - $51,800. If, you know, you have a year’s salary just lying around.
- Look at this beauty! It could be yours for an estimated $32,375 - $45,325. It belonged to Katharine Collier, Lady Monkswell. It’s convertible to a necklace, and I can see it looking fantastic both ways. We don’t have information about its maker, but it dates to the early 20th century. Isn’t it gorgeous? You can see Lady Monkswell wearing it here, in a photo from 1937.
- Star tiaras were popular in the mid-late 19th century, in no small part because of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. This tiara dates to about 1870, and belonged to the Spencer Stanhope family. You can go visit their country house, Cannon Hall, which is now a museum in South Yorkshire. What’s cool about this tiara is its versatility. You can wear it as it’s shown here, but you can also remove all five stars to wear separately. There’s also a separate cartouche casing for the largest center star so you can wear it as a hair ornament. How cool is that?
- This cute little tiara converts into a gorgeous necklace. It's made with a silver and gold frame, filled with old-cut cushion shaped diamonds. It also belonged to Lady Grantchester. But this one is going to set you back a pretty penny. Christie's estimates that it will go for $194,249 - $258,999.
- These gorgeous natural pearl earrings belonged to the last empress of France, Eugénie. They’re expected to sell for $77,700 - $103,600. Where have they been for the last 150 years? Eugénie gave these earrings to her sister, Paca. When Paca died, her daughter inherited them - as did the daughter’s son. That’s who the current owner inherited them from, according to the Christie’s provenance. I would love to wear these, but short of selling both my lungs to someone with that weird vaping disease, it’s not gonna happen.
- This locket also belonged to Eugénie, but it’s kind of a two-fer. It has a compartment on the back that contains a lock of hair (supposedly Napoleon III’s). The locket dates to the mid-19th century, and the lock of hair supposedly dates from the early half of their reign (1850-1860). Christie’s expects it to sell for $12,950 - $19,425. This piece isn’t as glamorous as the pearl earrings, but I suspect it will sell for more than $20K because of the mystique and sentimental value.
- These diamond earrings were supposedly gifted by Empress Eugénie. We don’t know who they belonged to, but family tradition says that she gifted them when she attended the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The earrings feature old-cut pear and cushion-shaped diamonds. They’re expected to sell for $45,325 - $58,275. They’re absolutely gorgeous, with or without the Eugénie connection. I have a pair that looks a bit like this, except that they are (a) emerald-colored, and (b) came from Forever 21. Not the same, I know.
DATE: November 27
In this auction, we have a couple of pieces that belonged to Archduchess Marie Valerie, the youngest (and favorite) daughter of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. I drooled over this auction catalog for, like, an hour.
- This gorgeous corsage brooch was created by the Austrian court jeweler Köchert in 1890. It contains six Oriental baroque pearls, and 18 carats of old-cut brilliants. It’s expected to sell for $67,000, - to $110,000. It’s almost worth selling a kidney for. How awesome would it be to just casually pin this onto your blazer or coat lapel?
Christie’s Magnificent Jewels
DATE: December 11
LOCATION: New York
Just in time for Christmas! Scoop up that last-minute gift...for yourself. We have a few tiaras and an item that came from the Yusupov collection originally.
- This 4-inch statuette originally belonged to the Yusupov family. When they fled Russia, Prince Felix Yusupov smuggled this out of the country. So what, exactly, are we looking at here? It’s the figure of Venus carved out of a sapphire, resting on a spinel base with an intaglio of Medusa on the bottom. It’s dated to the mid 19th century, and missing two of the rose-cut diamonds dotting the base. Personally, this thing creeps me out. I know it’s valuable, but I don’t like the phallic-looking doohickey popping up out of her chest. If it floats your boat, it could be yours for the estimated price of $200,000 - $300,000.
- This Art Nouveau tiara was created by René Lalique in about 1890. It belonged to Judith-Ann Corrente, a New York philanthropist who supports music and the arts. The estimated sale price is $40,000 - $60,000. I can totally see this making the best part of a rich person’s Halloween costume. Dress up as a nymph or heroine of Greek mythology, tuck this little beauty into your chignon, and wait for the compliments to roll in.
- Another tiara from the collection of Judith-Ann Corrente, this Art Nouveau beauty would also make an excellent part of a rich person’s Halloween costume...like, if you crossed Daenerys Targaryen with a 19th century courtesan like La Castiglione. It’s made with rose-cut diamonds and platinum (the plastic comb on the bottom was added later). It was made by Vever in about 1910 in Paris.
- This gorgeous Art Deco tiara features diamond and onyx. I like the onyx, but I wonder if it would really show up all that much against the wearer’s hair, especially if she’s a brunette. It has a platinum frame with French marks, and was created about 1925. This one came from “a Chicago collection” and is expected to sell for $10,000 - $15,000. Which is, you know, pretty affordable as tiaras go.
Check out the blog for fascinating stories about royal women and their tiaras. And don’t forget to join my mailing list to get Grand Duchess Louise of Baden’s meatloaf recipe! It’s finger-lickin’ good.