I am going to make a resume of the portuguese history until the first appearance of the tiara and then continue to talk about the tiara itself and its symbols. Be ready because is a looong post. Hope you like.
After the assassination of King D.Carlos I of Portugal and of Crown Prince D.Luis Filipe in 1/02/1908, the younger son of D.Carlos I and Queen D.Amelia ascend to the Portuguese Throne with just 18 years old as D.Manuel II. With the royal family reduced to only 4 members (The King; The Queen-Mother D.Amelia, The Dowager Queen D.Maria Pia and the bachelor D. Afonso, the King’s uncle) the marriage of the new king became a state matter of huge importance.
It began an intense diplomatic “battle” in order to find a suitable princess. Several princesses were thought, many of them belonging or connected to the British Royal Family. The most famous of them was Louise Mountbatten, that later became Queen Consort of Sweden, but others were seen like good candidates like the Princesses of Connaught. Such approximation of the Portuguese Royal Family to the British Royal Family was not seen with good eyes by the republican movement in Portugal. Some say that they were responsible for failure of these attempts of marriage. Not sure if this is truth but the fact is that King D.Manuel did not marry before the end of the monarchy in Portugal.
In 5/10/1910 a “revolution” ended with the monarchy and exiled the Royal Family. With the exile, D.Manuel lost one of his main advantages to get a good marriage: he was no longer a reigning king. The attempts to get a marriage, while forging an “alliance” with a reigning house, continue, but in vain. Meanwhile D.Manuel never forgets that, with or without a throne, he is THE King of Portugal and suffers with the increasingly worst political and social situation in Portugal. The relation between D.Manuel II and the 1st republic is not very good: the king’s assets in Portugal became frozen for much time, leaving the king in a precarious financial situation. This was not a good propaganda for a young king that wants to marry.
In 1912 he met Princess Augusta Viktoria of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen while visiting his aunt Infanta Antónia of Portugal (she was the grandmother of Princess Augusta and sister of the grandfather of D.Manuel).
They became in love. The marriage between the two cousins is set to 4 September 1913 in the Sigmaringen Castle and was conducted by the also exiled Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon José Neto.
The Order of Christ Tiara was a wedding present from King D.Manuel II to D.Augusta. As far as I know, the tiara has the option to close in order to be worn as a coronet. When we see this jewel, the first thing we note is the “Crosses of Christ”. But the tiara is pure symbolism: “portugueseness” in every inch. The Crosses of Christ remembers, indeed, the Military Order of Christ. But why this symbol, and not another, like the one from the Military Order of Avis? The reason is simple: the Cross of Christ is intimately linked to the Portuguese Golden Age: the discoveries. At the time (beginning of XV century) the Order of Christ, headed by Infante D.Henrique, “sponsored” the discoveries (its beginning at least). Although “sponsored” by the Order, the discoveries voyages had the approval of D.Henrique’s father – King D.João I, married to Philippa of Lancaster, an English princess – and later of his brother, King D.Duarte. So, since the beginning this cross was present in the caravels’ sails. Even now, this cross is a much cherished Portuguese symbol. The history behind the Order of Christ is very interesting and deserves a thread on its own, but not in this board. I can, shortly, say that it has origin in the Templar’s. Nowadays the Order of Christ is the second highest order in the portuguese honorific system.
But wait, the symbols in the tiara go even beyond that: the base of the tiara was made to resemble the Manueline style. This style is the only one named to honour a portuguese king: D.Manuel I (so, a king namesake of D.Manuel II). King D.Manuel I was the great-grandson of D.João I and reigned in the most glorious Portuguese era (Manueline Era). In fact he was one of the most (if not the most) powerful and prestigious King in the western world of his time. He even minted a famous coin to celebrate that era – O Português (“The Portuguese”) – that was one of the heaviest in the world (35 gr of solid gold). In the picture below you can see that even the coin included the Cross of Christ. The moto inscribed in the face of the coin with the cross is the latin sentence “In hoc signo vinces”, which means “Through this symbol you shall win” (even today this is the moto of the Order of Christ). The importance of this symbol in the Portuguese culture and history is immense as you see.
“The Portuguese” was so prestigious that was imitated throughout the Europe, giving origin to the Portugaloser. But I am digressing … sorry …
The Manueline style has lots of references and symbols of the portuguese discoveries. This sumptuous style is a derivation of the gothic and is characterized mainly for incorporating maritime elements and representations of the discoveries: the armillary sphere; anchor chains, ropes, cables, the cross of the Order of Christ, etc.
This style is present in famous portuguese monuments like the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both in Lisbon. In the jewellery department it is visible in the famous Custódia de Belém (you can see it live in the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon).
Allegedly all of this symbolism was demanded by King D.Manuel himself, with some imputs of Queen Amélia, to the makers. Some people say this piece was commissioned to “Leitão e Irmão”, the Crown Jewelers, but, even thought they were contacted to project a tiara, the truth is that their project and the real piece are not a match. Did the Crown Jewelers changed their project or was another jeweler to make the tiara? Unfortunately the makers of the piece remain unknown.
All of this symbolism is not surprising: as I said previously D.Manuel II married in 1913, 3 years after he went to exile. Through the long 22 years of exile, D. Manuel II always looked for things that remind him his beloved country. He wanted to be surrounded by everything that could remind him his homeland.
This tiara actually still exists in the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen’s vaults. Accordingly to the bibliography I have, it is in the Sigmaringen Castle, now a museum. I can conclude, thus, that this piece is in the possession of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
The choker was, for sure, made of diamonds and 11 rubies. It was ordered by Queen D. Amelia, mother of D.Manuel II, to Cartier (which makes sense since D.Amelia was a French Princess by birth). It was the wedding present from the Queen to her new daughter-in-law. I read somewhere that the stones resulted from dismantling some of Queen D.Amelia’s personal jewels. Do not remember the source, so I cannot swear this is truth. The choker and the tiara were thought from the beginning to form a set, so I really believe the tiara is also made of diamonds and rubies. Unfortunately I saw somewhere a black and white picture of the choker that was taken from an auction catalog. This means that this necklace may or may not exist anymore.
The earrings are probably made of rubies too and I think that there is a good chance that they were wedding gifts too.
To my knowledge, Queen D.Augusta only wore the tiara in for the famous Lazlo portrait. The choker, however, was worn very often, paired with D.Augusta’s others tiara (a Boucheron one):
D.Manuel II died in 1932 in strange circumstances without children. D.Augusta, shocking the Portuguese monarchists and mainly D.Amelia, decided to marry again in 1939 with Count Douglas. She died in 1966, childless and widow again. Some of his possessions (namely her Portuguese possessions inherited from D.Manuel II) were used to form the “D.Manuel II Foundation”, now run by the Duke of Braganza. Did she leave some jewels to the Duke? Do not know, but I believe most of her jewels were left to her nephews, especially to the Head of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
More pictures at: https://royal-magazin.de/portugal/portugal-augusta-victoria.htm
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