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The depth of the Dutch Orange-Nassau vault is, as we all know, quite immense. But King Willem III of the Netherlands (19 February 1817 – 23 November 1890) wasn’t entirely happy with the number of jewels in his possession at the time he was looking for a second wife. After the death of his first wife, Queen Sophie (Princess of Württemberg), the old Dutch King remained eager to remarry. He found his new bride in Germany. In 1879 he married Emma, Princess of Waldeck and Pyrmont, in Arolsen.
As already mentioned, the Dutch vault wasn’t as substantial as it is nowadays. The King’s mother’s (Queen Anna Pavlovna of Russia) jewels were largely inherited by her daughter, Sophie, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Anna’s well-known sapphires were inherited by King Willem’s brother, Prince Frederick. King Willem’s share of his mother’s estate primarily consisted of the diamonds from the legacy of his grandmother, the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna.
His first wife’s jewels weren’t inherited by the Dutch king. His two sons were lucky to inherit the jewels of their mother. (Estimated worth in 1877: 500.000,- Dutch Guilders, now comparable with approximately 7 million Euros)
Fast Fact: The Russian Imperial family contained many Marias. Maria Feodorovna (Born Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg) was Anna Pavlovna’s mother, and thus the grandmother of King Willem III. We have already discussed another Maria Feodorovna, who was married to Alexander III and was the mother of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. She is an entirely different person!
After the King’s engagement to Princess Emma, he started to buy a substantial amount of new jewelry for his future wife. We all know the famous sapphire tiara, necklace and devant de corsage which he bought at that time. A huge order was made at the Parisian jeweler Mellerio (The ruby Mellerio parure was part of this order). The Dutch king did not forget the Dutch jewelers. During their engagement, Emma received a specification of the famous and historical Orange-Nassau house diamonds, which contained the “Stuart” diamond. The decision was made to alter and dismantle a part of these jewels. In 1879, a new and small jewelry company, called “Fabric of Gold and Silver” of Van Kempen & Sons was given the order to create a “Queen-worthy” parure made of these jewels of the crown, consisting a tiara, necklace and devant de corsage.
In 1879, Van Kempen made a design sketch of the new parure. The sketch showed a tiara with a laurel wreath base, topped with large round sunbursts and large upright pearls. The matching devant de corsage included the Orange-Nassau house diamonds. The originally designed necklace was planned as a sort of matching diamond rivière with pendants of pearls and a pear shaped diamond pendant.
A few years ago, Josine Droogendijk, (owner of the website www.modekoninginmaxima.nl) and I visited the archives of Van Kempen (& Begeer) at the royal library in The Hague. There I found the original drawing made by Van Kempen. The drawing clearly shows us the original intended necklace. The three pieces together were created to made an complete fitting parure. During this process, probably Emma changed the look of the matching necklace. As a result: they created a huge, remarkable, and non-matching necklace, made of the huge house diamonds, including the “Stuart“ diamond used as a huge pendant.
Three years later in 1882, Queen Emma wore the new set for the first time in public. On the 27th of April in 1882, her sister, Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont married Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, a son of Queen Victoria. King Willem III and Queen Emma attended the wedding ceremony in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Emma proudly wore the new diamond parure during this day and was also photographed with the jewels.
After the wedding, Queen Emma never wore this “parure“ in public again. After 16 years, the “Van Kempen“ Parure was re-introduced by the very young Queen Wilhelmina, although slightly altered. A few months before Wilhelmina’s inauguration in 1898, the Dutch court released some new pictures of the new Queen. Wilhelmina was wearing parts of the parure. The upper part of the original tiara (with the pearls and sunbursts) was separated and mounted on a new frame. Also, the exorbitant-looking necklace with the Stuart diamond was shown in the picture, worn as an adornment on her court-dress. The devant de corsage wasn’t worn in the picture.
Queen-Mother Emma obviously wasn’t quite happy with this parure. (She had taste after all 😉 Shortly after the photoshoot almost the complete parure, together with some more huge house diamonds were send to the court jeweler Schürmann & Co in Frankfurt, Germany. Queen Emma ordered the German jeweler to create a new diamond parure with the Stuart diamond as centerpiece for the investiture of her daughter Wilhelmina later that year. This new parure is still known as “The Stuart Set“. The upper part of the original tiara with the sunbursts and pearls, the way Wilhelmina wore it on the official picture, remained in the Dutch vault.
Fast Fact: After the death of King Willem’s brother, Prince Frederick, and the King’s two
sons (they died very young), all their inherited jewels (of Anna Pavlovna and Sophie) returned to King Willem III. His descendants, to this very day, have a hefty vault of family treasures.
Queen Wilhelmina wore this tiara version several times on official pictures. After Wilhelmina, no-one of the Orange-Nassau ladies wore the altered “Van Kempen“ tiara again. During the nineties, the tiara was displayed at an exhibition. Since then this jewel wasn’t seen anymore and is still lying in the Dutch fault, waiting for a reintroduction…. and maybe a re-modeling… 😉
MAX, are you listening? Your daughter Catherina-Amalia is turning 18 this year…. 😉