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TIARA TUESDAY – The Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara

colourisation by Claudia DSouza - The Photo Alchemist
Princess Alice, wearing the Hesse Strawberry Tiara

original portrait

This beautiful tiara was designed by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband and consort.

The tiara, was made by Garrard, the royal jewellers, to Albert’s specifications and it was described “as a very beautiful tiara of diamonds, composed of a rich bandeau, with foliage, spires, etc..”

It was meant to be a joyous wedding present for his daughter Alice on her sacred wedding day, but tragically Prince Albert died unexpectedly on 14 December 1861.

Despite the Queen's grief, she ordered that the wedding should continue as planned and on 1 July 1862, Alice and Louis were married privately in the dining room of Osborne House.

Princess Alice on her Wedding Day

The tiara is often said to have been worn by Alice on her wedding day, however she actually wore a floral wreath and went straight back into mourning clothes so a diamond tiara would have been inappropriate.

The Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara

The sudden death of Prince Albert started a series of tragic events that in insight seem to follow the owners or holders of the tiara, making the Hesse Strawberry Leaf Tiara one of the world’s most cursed pieces of jewellery.

So let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

The tiara was designed for Princess Alice by her father, Prince Albert. He never attended the wedding, for he passed away before it could take place, and the tiara was instead given to the couple, Alice and Louis IV, by the grieving Queen Victoria.

A posthumous portrait of Princess Marie of Hesse, most likely commissioned by Queen Victoria. 1879

Alice, now the Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, did not wear the tiara on her wedding day but would wear it on special royal occasions.

In 1878, many of the family fell ill with diphtheria. Princess Marie, Alice’s youngest daughter dies in November and princess Alice dies in December on the same day as her father 17 years before – This is believed to have started the Tiara Curse, but for me I am still unsure.

Upon Princess Alice’s death, the Tiara was passed on to her son Ernest, who would give it as wedding present to his new wife Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh.

Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh wearing the Strawberry Leaf Tiara

At the wedding, Ernest's youngest sister, Alix, became engaged to marry Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia, future Tsar Nicholas II. Victoria Melita wore the tiara to the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, who later lost his life in a brutal execution in Russia, that included his entire family.

Ernest and Victoria had 2 children but their daughter died of typhoid in 1903 and their son at 2 days old. Victoria Melita and Ernest divorced in 1901, meaning she had to return the Tiara to Ernest.

Ernest who would remarry after a divorce, would lose his throne and fortune to the first World War. All that remained in his asset coffer were a few jewels, and, the Strawberry Hesse Tiara.

I can definitely see a pattern appearing here… not sure about a curse, but definitely bad luck seems to follow this magnificent Tiara…

Ernest passed the Tiara down to his elder son, the Grand Duke Georg Donatus. Once again the Tiara became a wedding present to a bride. This time the Greek princess, Cecilie, who was herself also a great-granddaughter of Princess Alice. In 1931, after they wed, she wore the piece to many events, including the coronation of King George VI.

Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus and Hereditary Grand Duchess Cecilie with their three children, Prince Alexander, Princess Johanna and Prince Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine. 1936.

In November 1937, the Grand Duke's younger brother, Prince Louis was due to be married to the Hon. Margaret Geddes, daughter of Lord Geddes. On 16 November 1937, Georg Donatus, Cecilie, their two young sons, Georg's mother Grand Duchess Eleonore, the children's nurse, a family friend, a pilot and two crewmen, flew from Darmstadt bound for the United Kingdom, where Prince Louis was due to be married. The Junkers Ju-52 aeroplane hit a factory chimney near Ostend and crashed into flames, killing all those on board. Cecilie was heavily pregnant with her fourth child at the time of the crash, and the remains of the newborn baby were found in the wreckage, indicating that Cecilie had gone into labour during the flight; Also found in the wreckage was a strongbox containing the Strawberry Hesse Tiara, that Cecilie had planned to wear for the nuptials…

The Tiara was then passed on to the only surviving daughter of the late Georg and Cecilie. Princess Johanna, who being a small baby had been left behind at home. She was adopted by her uncle who, after the death of his older brother and the rest of his family, had became Grand Duke of Hesse. Tragically, Princess Johanna died two years later, the victim of meningitis.

Being that the couple had no other children, today, the tiara most likely belongs to the Hessian House Foundation which was formed to preserve the family’s heritage and it is sometimes loaned to exhibitions. It was last seen for some photographs for a book on tiaras in 2002.

In conclusion, whether we believe in curses or haunted objects, I cannot deny that the Strawberry Tiara appears to be present along a lasting path of destruction, and tragedy to all who held it.

What do you think?

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