Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara

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Origin of Name

This exquisitely crafted pearl and diamond tiara of mid-19th century France, was commissioned by Napoleon III (1852-70) as part of a suite of jewelry he ordered the court jewelers in Paris to create, using diamonds, pearls and other precious stones, from the state treasury, in anticipation of his marriage to Eugenie de Montijo, the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, which took place in January 1853. Thus the celebrated tiara, a masterpiece of Gabriel Lemonnier, the crown jeweler, was actually a gift by Emperor Napoleon III to his wife and Empress consort Eugenie de Montijo on the occasion of their wedding. The tiara was described by Arthur Bloche as a "Bijoux du plus pur style Louis XVI" meaning "a jewel in the purest Louis XVI style." Empress Eugenie used the tiara for formal occasions, until she had access to the treasury, when she was able to recast the old jewelry in the treasury in new settings, and also commission a new Greek diadem incorporating the famous Regent Diamond, that was once mounted on the hilt of Napoleon Bonaparte's sword.


Characteristics of the Tiara

In France during the period of the second empire of Napoleon III, some of the most opulent jewelry were created, when a demand for costly gems set the styles for the lavish use of diamonds and pearls. Greater emphasis was laid  on extravagant display prompted by the intrinsic appeal of precious stones, and the workmanship of metal settings was of secondary importance.

empress eugenie pearl and diamond tiara

The Empress Eugenie Tiara, even though executed by Lemonnier in the mid-19th century during the French second empire, is based on a neo-classical design belonging to the  Louis XVI style, in which the filigree silver-gilt mount is over crusted with small brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling 1998 diamonds in all, with a total weight of 63.30 carats. The tiny brilliant cut diamonds, that surround the much larger pearls, highlights the effects of the pearls in the tiara, giving it absolute priority. The piece is one of the rare designs of Gabriel Lemmonier, in which small brilliant cut diamonds were used to enhance the effect of the larger pearls, set in a symmetrical scroll work pattern about a median line. The median line is occupied by four pearls in a vertical row, the smallest pearl being at the bottom, and the largest drop-shaped pearl in the entire tiara, occupying the top most position, believed to be the "Perle Napoleon" also known as the "La Regente Pearl." Of the remaining two pearls, the larger spherical pearl is situated just above the smallest pearl, and the smaller drop shaped pearl above it, and below the largest drop-shaped pearl. Pearls of similar size are placed in symmetrical patterns on either side of the median line. The lower end of the tiara is occupied by a row of small spherical pearls. Large drop-shaped pearls arise from the upper surface of the tiara as spikes, from the axil of two opposite diamond-set leaves. There are a total of 212 pearls weighing 2,520 grains on this tiara. Thus the important features of this tiara are :-

1) The use of smaller brilliant-cut diamonds, to accentuate the effect of the larger pearls, which is indeed dramatic.

2) The symmetrical nature of the design employed.


Features of neo-classical jewelry

The neo-classical period in  jewelry crafting in France extends from around 1760 to around 1830, that included the tumultuous periods of the French revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Fashions in clothing and jewelry that was centered around the courts and residences of the royal families and the aristocrats, became more broad based and people oriented. Clothing became lighter and less tight-fitted, and the colors used were white or light toned. Necklines became deeper exposing the neck and the upper chest and waistlines moved up to just below the bosom. The hair was tied at the back of the head exposing the ears. The exposed ears, neck and the chest called for a new style of jewelry that matched the new dressing style, but jewelry was worn in modesty. Jewelry became lighter in weight, and long earrings were developed for the free ears, and large necklaces worn as chokers suited the deep neckline. Necklaces were also worn loosely around the shoulders as long chains.

Jewelry motifs used were adopted from the architecture of ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, and were also inspired by the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. During this period styles adopted moved from Louis XVI style to the Empire style of Napoleon Bonaparte. Motifs had a high level of symmetry. and included rosettes, festoons, half-fluted pillars, vases, urns, ribbon bows, hearts,  snakes, palmettes, sphinxes, meanders, scrolls, wine and acanthus leaves, and crescent moon and stars. The shapes used were geometric, such as ovals, navettes, rectangles, polygons, rhomboids and shields. Materials used in jewelry also became cheaper. Lower percentage gold alloys were created such as 14-ct and 8-ct instead of the usual 18-ct gold. Alternative materials such as pinchbeck and tombak were also used. Apart from diamonds and pearls, cheaper gemstones such as aquamarine, amethyst, chalcedony, turquoise, coral, amber, lapis lazuli and garnets were also used. After 1796 cameos carved in agate became very popular. Later alternative materials were also used for cameos such as shells, glass, porcelain and gypsum.


History of the Tiara

The origin of the pearls used in Empress Eugenie's Pearl and Diamond Tiara

Napoleon Bonaparte lavishes a magnificent pearl tiara on his second wife Empress Marie Louise

The origin of the pearls used in Empress Eugenie's Pearl and Diamond Tiara, is believed to be pearls that were originally part of a magnificent pearl parure that was presented to Empress Marie Louise, Napoleon Bonaparte's second wife, whom he married on April 2, 1910, after divorcing his first wife Empress Josephine, who was not able to give him a son and successor. At the time of the wedding Napoleon presented an expensive emerald and diamond parure to Marie Louise that was designed by his court jeweler Francois Regnault Nitot. Subsequently he lavished more expensive parures on his Empress consort, and it is said that by the end of year 1913, he had purchased jewelry that totaled 6.6 million gold francs from Francois Regnault Nitot. One of the parures given to Empress Marie Louise was the magnificent pearl parure, whose chief component was an extraordinary pearl tiara, set with 297 pearls, weighing 4,097 grains, valued at 219,547 gold francs. The centerpiece of this pearl tiara was the 346.27-grain drop-shaped silvery-white "Perle Napoleon" the largest natural regular-shaped pearl in the world. Apart from the tiara, other components of this pearl parure included, a magnificent comb, a pair of bracelets, matching earrings, a three-row pearl necklace, an enormous sautoir, a single row long necklace made of 408 spherical pearls of almost equal size, weighing 6,461 grains.

Marie Louise, Empress Consort of Napoleon Bonaparte

Marie Louise, Empress Consort of Napoleon Bonaparte

Marie Louise's pearl parure is dismantled and reassembled as a new parure for the Duchess d'Angouleme Marie Therese

After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, Louis XVIII was installed by the allies as the ruler of a restored Bourbon monarchy. Louis XVIII was a widower, yet he got some of the crown jewels of Napoleon Bonaparte re-set by his crown jeweler Evrard Bapst, for his neice Marie Therese, daughter of the late King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, who were executed during the French revolution. Marie Therese married her cousin Louis Antoine, the duc d'Angouleme, the son of Charles X, who was a brother of Louis XVI and Louis XVIII. One of the significant pieces that was re-modeled was Marie Louise's magnificent pearl parure, which was completely broken up in 1818, and reworked for the Duchess d'Angouleme, Marie Therese. The "Perle Napoleon" was again reset as the centerpiece of a new tiara.

Marie Therese, Duchess d'Angouleme

Marie Therese, Duchess d'Angouleme

Pearls used by Marie Louise and Marie Therese remain untouched during Louis Philippe's rule

Louis XVIII who died in 1824, was succeeded by his brother Charles X, who ruled France until his abdication in August 1830, in the aftermath of the July 1830 revolution, in which Louis Philippe was elected by an antagonistic legislature as a constitutional monarch, titled the "king of the French." Louis Philippe who ruled until 1848, abdicated after the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy, following the revolution of 1848, and the proclamation of the second republic. During the reign of Louis Philippe, the crown jewels of France, including the magnificent pearls used by Marie Louise and Marie Therese remained untouched, as Queen Marie Amelie, the wife of Louis Philippe, used her own personal jewelry.


A new pearl parure is created for Empress Eugenie using the pearls used by Marie Louise and Marie Therese

In 1848, Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Louis Napoleon returned to France from exile in Britain, and was elected the president of the second republic, by a landslide victory polling 5.5 million votes. He ruled France as the President, for a four-year term until 1852. Towards the end of his period of rule he drew up a new constitution, that was approved by a plebiscite, and he held another plebiscite that confirmed him as Emperor of the second empire of France, assuming the title Napoleon III. 

Empress Eugenie wearing the Pearl and Diamond Tiara and the six-stranded pearl necklace.

Napoleon III married countess Eugenie de Montijo in 1953, and it was in anticipation of this marriage that he ordered the court jewelers Gabriel Lemonnier and Francois Kramer to create an entirely new parure using the pearls previously used by Marie Louise and Marie Therese. The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara, the subject of this webpage, was an important component of this pearl parure. Other components include a six-stranded pearl necklace, pearl bracelets and a diamond stomacher incorporating the "Perle Napoleon." When Empress Eugenie had access to the crown jewels of France, she set about transforming most of the old pieces, into new settings, to suit her own taste and the fashion trends of the period, using the services of Gabriel Lemonnier. Apart from re-setting old pieces, she also added several new pieces to the crown jewels of France, and commissioned a Greek diadem incorporating the famous Regent diamond, once mounted on the hilt of Napoleon's sword. The famous portrait painter of the 19th century, Winterhalter, painted Empress Eugenie wearing the Pearl and Diamond Tiara. In 1855, when Empress Eugenie accompanied Napoleon III on a state visit to Britain, she wore the Pearl and Diamond Tiara, on two consecutive nights for dinner at Windsor Castle, held on April 17 and 18, 1855.


The downfall of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie's escape to England

Napoleon III gave France two decades of prosperity under a stable authoritarian government. During the brilliant court life of this period, Empress Eugenie effectively projected her image as a befitting queen to a mighty Emperor, by making use of the re-set crown jewels, and other new pieces to the maximum. Napoleon III's downfall came with his defeat by the Germans, in the disastrous Fraco-Prussian war of 1870-71. He surrendered to the Germans. France deposed him and proclaimed the third republic. Empress Eugenie and her son escaped to Britain, with the help of her American dentist, Dr. Thomas W. Evans, to whom she presented most of her  personal collection of pearls. She carried with her all her personal jewelry, which was placed in a safety vault in a bank in England. This did not include the pearl parure made for her by Napoleon III, at the time of her marriage, as it was turned out of the crown jewels. Empress Eugenie was given asylum by Queen Victoria in England, who accommodated her in the Osborne Cottage in Osborne House, the favorite retreat of the royal family, situated on the Isle of Wight. Napoleon III joined her after he was released by the Germans. During the period of the Franco-Prussian war, the crown jewels were carried to the town of Brest in northwestern France for safe keeping. After the war in 1872, the jewels were returned to the custody of the Ministry of Finance in Paris, where they were kept in safe vaults.


Exposition of the French crown jewels in 1878 and 1884

During the period of the third republic, the crown jewels of France were put on public display for the first time in 1878, at the International Paris Exhibition - "Exposition Universelle," and again six years later in 1884, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, in aid of the School of Industrial Arts. Both these expositions were well attended by the public, who were astounded by the extravagance of the collection, ascribed to the monarchs of the House of Bourbon, and the emperors of the House of Napoleon.


The dispersal of the French crown jewels by public auction in 1887

After the bitter experiences of the past that saw the failure of two republics, and the revival of the monarchy by autocrats like the Napoleons, and by international intervention after the defeat of Napoleon I, that led to the restoration of the House of Bourbon, there was much debate in the national assembly of the  third republic, as to the prudence of holding on to the decadent royal symbols like the French crown jewels, which could be used by a potential dictator or monarch to restore the old order. Thus the national assembly unanimously decided to disperse the entire French crown jewels by public auction, save for any pieces of cultural and historic significance. Accordingly the first president of the third republic, Francois Paul Jules Grevy, ordered the sale of the crown jewels by pubic auction, between May 12 and 23, 1887, to be conducted by the Administration of State Properties.


The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara was sold for 78,100 French Francs

A catalogue was published for the auction, by the Administration of State Properties, containing real size photographs of the pieces to be auctioned, and circulated around the jewelry capitals of the world, such as London, New York, Paris, St. Petersburg, Munich etc. The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara was among the items listed in the catalogue, with a pre-auction estimate of 100,000 French Francs. The auction that drew international attention, was attended by renowned jewelry houses like Tiffany's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Frederic Boucheron, Paul Bapst etc. Out of the 69 lots put up for sale 24 were purchased by Tiffany's, the most successful bidder at the auction. The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara, that had pre-sale estimate of 100,000 French Francs was sold to Messrs Julius Jacob for 78,100 French Francs.


The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara is acquired by Prince Albert I, the 8th Prince of Thurn und Taxis

In the year 1890, the Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara was acquired by Prince Albert I, the 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, who was the head of the House of Thurn and Taxis from 1885 to 1952. The Prince purchased the historical tiara as a wedding gift for his wife, the Archduchess Margarethe Klementine of Austria, whom he married on July 15, 1890. The tiara remained in the Thurn and Taxis family and was worn again by Princess Gloria in 1980, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Johannes, the 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, who headed the family from 1982 to 1990. They had three children, two daughters and a son, Albert, who was the youngest, and succeeded his father as the 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, after his death in 1990, taking the name Albert II, the current head of the family.

Princess Gloria wearing the Empress Eugenie Tiara on the day of her wedding to Prince Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis

Princess Gloria wearing the Empress Eugenie Tiara on the day of her wedding to Prince Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis

A short biography of Prince Albert I, the 8th Prince of Thurn und Taxis

Prince Albert I, who was born on May 8, 1867, in Regensburg, Germany, was the younger son of Maximilian, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis (1831-1867) and Duchess Helene of Bavaria (1834-1890). His father died in 1867, when he was less than two months old and was raised by his mother. In the year 1871, when his grandfather Maximilian Karl, the 6th Prince of Thurn and Taxis died, he was succeeded by his elder brother Maximilian Maria as the 7th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, who held the title until his death on June 2, 1885. Albert I succeeded his elder brother Maximilian Maria, as the 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis in 1885, but being only 18 years old, his mother served as regent until his 21st birthday in 1888. Albert I was made the Duke of Worth and Donaustauf on May 8, 1889, by the Prince Regent of Bavaria, and was made a knight of the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece, on November 30, 1889. Prince Albert I, married Archduchess Margarethe Klementine, the daughter of Archduke Joseph Karl of Austria, on July 15, 1890, in Budapest, Hungary. The marriage produced eight children, seven boys and one girl. The eldest son Franz Joseph and the 3rd son Karl August succeeded respectively as the 9th and 10th Princes of Thurn and Taxis. Prince Albert I died in 1952 at the age of 85 years, after serving as the 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis for 67 years. His wife Archduchess Margarethe Klementine died 3 years later in 1955,  also at the age of 85 years.

Prince Albert I, 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis

Prince Albert I, 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis

The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara is sold to the Louvre Museum in 1992

The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara remained in the Thurn and Taxis family up to the year 1992, the period of the present Prince of Thurn and Taxis, Albert II, who succeeded as the 12th Prince in 1990. The tiara was sold in 1992 by Princess Gloria, in order to pay her taxes and fetched Deutsch Marks 935,000. The buyers of the Tiara was the society "Amis de Louvre" (Friends of the Louvre) who purchased it for the Louvre Museum, the rightful place where it should belong to. The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara, which is of great historic significance, and part of the great cultural heritage of France and the French people, has been finally restored to the Louvre Museum, its former home, from where it was dispersed 105 year ago in 1887, due to the short sighted policies of politicians. The historic tiara is proudly displayed today in the Apollo Gallery of the Louvre Museum.


A short history of the family of Thurn and Taxis

The origin of the name Thurn und Taxis

The history of the Thurn and Taxis family dates back to the early 12th century, when the Dukes of the Torriani took up residence in Cornello, near Bergamo, after disputes over the command of the city of Milan. Family tradition holds that these Italian Dukes were the ancestors of the Taxis. Emperor Ferdinand III, who recognized the Taxis as the successors of the Torriani, granted the Taxis permission  to integrate the Torre arms and name with their own. The tower (Thurn) which is coat of arms of the Torre, was combined with the badger (Taxis), the coat of arms of the Tasso, to give the name Thurn und Taxis.


Laying the foundation for an international postal system

The greatest achievement of the Thurn and Taxis family, was the organization of the imperial postal system, the first of its kind in Europe, in the late 15th century, which laid the foundation for the development of an international postal system. The credit for establishing a well organized courier service in Italy at the turn of the 16th century, goes to Franz von Taxis. By the year 1516, the Taxis family had a postal service based in Brussels, reaching Rome, Naples, Spain, Prussia and France by courier. The family's services in the development of the postal system was duly recognized by Emperor Mathias in 1615, who elevated the position of imperial postmaster general as a hereditary title in the male line of succession. With greater awareness of the crucial role played by the family in developing a reliable communication system in the 17th century, the family's standing also rose from Imperial Free Baron in 1608 to hereditary Imperial Count in 1624, and towards the end of the 17th century, in 1695, under Emperor Leopold I, as Imperial Prince.


Relocation of the family from Frankfurt to Regensberg

The first Prince of Thurn and Taxis was Eugen Alexander Franz, who served from 1695 to 1714. He was succeeded by Anselm Franz as the second Prince, who served from 1714 to 1739. During the period of the third Prince of Thurn and Taxis, Alexander Ferdinand who served from 1739 to 1773, a significant event took place in the history of the family, that saw the relocation of the family from Frankfurt to Regensberg. Emperor Franz I appointed Prince Alexander Ferdinand as principal commissioner for Regensberg in 1748, in which capacity he served as the imperial representative at the Perpetual Diet in Regensberg. This important and prestigious position required the permanent presence of the principal commissioner in Regensberg, and hence the need for the family to relocate to Regensberg. The Princes of Thurn and Taxis held this prestigious position, until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. In Regensberg the Thurn and Taxis family took up residence in the historic St. Emmeram Castle founded in 739 A.D. at the gravesite of the itinerant Frankish bishop Saint Emmeram. In the year 1812, the monastic buildings were granted to the Princes of Thurn and Taxis, who converted the complex into a residence, which came to be known as Schloss Thurn and Taxis.


The family's other business ventures

The family's  lucrative Brussels-based  postal network remained in the family until the 18th century, when it was bought up by the heir to the Spanish throne. The family then diversified into other business activities such as the construction of castles and the brewing industry. The family breweries that produced popular beers under the brand name Thurn and Taxis was eventually purchased in 1996, by the Munich-based Paulaner Group, who continued to produce beers under the same brand name.


Contributions to the cultural and social life of the people and philanthropic activities

Some of the greatest contributions made by the Thurn and Taxis family, towards the advancement of cultural and social life in Regensberg, were the founding of the Princely Court Library in 1786, by Prince Carl Anselm, the 4th prince, based on his private collection of 2,330 volumes, who also founded the Regensberg theatre, and the "Green Belt" around the old town. The family has also engaged in philanthropic activities such as the founding and administration of numerous hospitals, orphanages and charities. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, Prince Albert I founded the "Princely Emergency Kitchen" to feed the less fortunate people in society. This policy is still being continued under Prince Albert I's grandson, the present Prince, Albert II, and around 250 needy people are given a free hot meal every day.


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Related :-

1) Marie Therese, Duchess d'Angouleme Emerald and Diamond Tiara

2) Emerald and Diamond Tiara of Marie Louise, Empress of France

3) Empress Eugenie Diamond

4) La Regente Pearl - La Perle Napoleon

5) Regent Diamond

External Links :-

1) Thurn and Taxis family homepage

References :-

1) Neo-Classical Jewelry - Antique Jewelry University, www.langantiques.comArchduchess Margarethe Klementine of Austria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2) Pearl and Diamond Tiara of Empress Eugenie - www.royal-magazin.de/french/crown-jewels

3) Thurn und Taxis - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4) Website of the Thurn and Taxis family

5) St. Emmeram Castle - www.ulike.net

6) Richest Germans : Silver Spoon Baby, Germany, Deutsche Welle -www.dw-world.de

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