Lost Magnificence – Imperial Weddings

For many women their wedding day is considered one of the select days of their lives that are special and filled with memories (hopefully for the good!).  Brides fret over the dress, the veil, what’s borrowed and blue and so on and so forth!  Imagine adding the mental angst of having to follow a prescribed set of rules for the attire, hair style and jewels.  I’m sure the term bridezilla would have been appropriate for pre-revolutionary Russian Imperial brides.

Most of us are familiar with this photo of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna on the day of her marriage to Prince Nicholas of Greece.  Here we can see the prescribed attire required for all Russian ladies who were members of the Imperial family.   Imagine having to wear a monstrous diamond diadem and a diamond covered miniature crown (diamonds from trimmings taken from the gowns of Catherine the Great).  Then have enormous earrings cutting into your ears causing intense discomfort.  Around your neck you wear an ornate diamond necklace.  On top of the prescribed court gown there is the crimson velvet and ermine mantle held on the bride’s shoulders by the Imperial Mantel Clasp.  One bride having knelt during her wedding ceremony found herself unable to stand.

I have no knowledge as to why the Russian Imperial brides wore this small crown of six arches of more than 1500 diamonds sewn on red velvet and surmounted by a cross studded with an 80-carat diamond.  It seems somewhat superfluous, but I guess it was some sort of tradition.  If anyone has knowledge about this, please share it with us.  This Nuptial Crown did survive the Revolution and if you find yourself in Washington, D.C. and you want to see it then go to the Hillwood Museum.  Marjorie Merriweather Post bought it when she was in Russia during the 1930s as her husband, Joseph E. Davies, was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938.  She went on a shopping spree and acquired numerous treasures.  This crown and other royal trinkets are exhibited at the Hillwood Museum.  I was able to go there many years ago and saw this lovely crown.  Thank you Marjorie!

If I were asked to give a pictorial description of a stupendous diamond diadem, then this is what I would show.  Imagine the movement of that center row of briolettes dangling and dancing in the candlelight as the diadem is worn.  Demanding attention in the center is a ten-carat pink diamond.  I find myself grasping for words that do this justice, but I am content to let this work of art speak for itself.  This diadem still exists and is held in the Diamond Fund, exhibited in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow, Russia.

All I say about these earrings is wow, they must hurt.  Even though they hang from the top of the ear from wire I would have asked the hairdresser to rig a type of thread or string gizmo connecting the two pieces to be worked into my hairstyle to help carry the weight of these monsters across the top of my head buried beneath a hairpiece.  These still exist and are held in the Diamond Fund, exhibited in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow, Russia.

The Imperial Riviere Necklace is monumental and composed of twenty-one enormous diamonds of graduated size, the largest weighing 32 carats, with another fifteen pear-shaped diamond drops of between 15 to 25 carats each.  The total weight of the diamonds in the Imperial Riviere Necklace was just over 470 carats, making it the single largest diamond necklace in the world.  The description in the Fersman Catalog says it all.  This was broken up and sold.  No other information is known about the whereabout of the diamonds.

If you would like more information, please see the attached link.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the orders of the Imperial court. Please tune in.