Grand Duchess Charlotte (right) and her sister Princess Hilda (left) on their wedding days
This regal gem made its public debut on the head of reigning Grand Duchess Charlotte when she married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma in 1919. Without exact confirmation of the piece’s origins, speculation points to two sources of family jewels: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia and Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden. Elizabeth was the first wife of Charlotte’s grandfather and brought plenty of Romanov jewels with her when she married. With this sort of intricate design and overall opulence, it’s not hard to believe it could be of Russian provenance; indeed, this is the explanation you tend to see most frequently. The other option is Charlotte’s aunt Hilda, who left some jewels to Charlotte and her sisters. One of those sisters, also named Hilda, wore it for her wedding too.
Grand Duchess Charlotte
Charlotte continued to wear the tiara on important occasions during her reign, up to and including the day she abdicated in favor of her son, Jean. She then turned the grand tiara over to her daughter-in-law Joséphine-Charlotte, the new grand duchess.
Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte
Jean abdicated in favor of his son Henri in 2001, but it’s quite possible that Josephine-Charlotte didn’t feel as open to handing things down when it came to her daughter-in-law Maria Teresa. Whether it was out of respect or because she wasn’t given possession of the Empire Tiara, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa did not wear it publicly until after Joséphine-Charlotte’s death.
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa