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Above is the emerald and diamond tiara of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the Duchess of Angoulême.  Through several peculiar quirks of fate it is one of the few crown jewels of France to remain unaltered after the rest were sold or stolen. It can be found today in the Louvre surrounded by various crowns which are made of paste or missing their valuable jewels.

Marie-Thérèse was a strange figure in history.  She was the only child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to survive the French Revolution.  During the Reign of Terror, her royal relatives in the Temple prison were carried away and beheaded one by one until she alone was left.  On May 11th 1794, two days after sending her aunt to the guillotine, Robespierre visited Marie-Thérèse.  The details of their discussion are unknown to history but whatever she said seems to have saved her life since the Terror ended 2 months later.

Marie Thérèse Charlotte (painted by Antoine Jean Gros)

In 1799, she married a powerful nobleman Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême who was also her father’s brother’s son (her first cousin). When her uncle Louis XVIII died in1824, her father-in-law became King Charles X and her husband became heir to the throne. She was the Queen of France for 20 minutes during the time between when her father-in-law signed a document of abdication and when her husband was reluctantly forced to sign one himself.

To quote, “The tiara which was designed and executed by the French Royal Jewelers Evrard and Frederic Bapst in 1819, was a masterpiece of the French jewelry craftsmanship of the early 19th century. The design of the tiara was a symmetrical design of scrolling foliage, mounted with over a thousand diamonds set in silver, and 40 emeralds set in gold.”  The piece was technically part of the crown jewels because it was assembled from the royal jewel collection for a noble directly in line for the throne.

The tiara today (photo courtesy of the Louvre)

When Marie-Thérèse abdicated she returned the tiara to the French treasury.  During theSecond Empire it was the favorite crown of Empress Eugenie.  However she too returned it to the treasury when Napoleon III abdicated in the aftermath of the disastrous Franco-Prussian war.  The tiara was auctioned off by the National Assembly during the third republic. It passed through private hands until it was purchased by the Louvre in 2002 thereby falling into the hands of the fifth republic (the current government of France).

The Cap of Monomakh

The Cap of Monomakh is the oldest crown among the crown jewels of Russia.  An ancient symbol of Russian autocracy, the crown consists of an onion shaped skullcap manufactured from eight joined panels of filigreed gold which sit on top of a wide sable brim.  The crown is ornamented with large cabochon jewels and smaller pearls.  It is topped by a cross with a pearl at each end (which was added centuries after the cap was originally made).   It was worn by the grand princes of Moscow and then by the first Czars up until Peter the Great, who commissioned a new crown when he styled himself as an Emperor.

The cap of Monomakh was probably manufactured by Central Asian goldsmiths of the late 13th or early 14th century.  Some Russian historians have theorized that the cap was a gift to the grand prince of Moscow from Uzbeg Khan who reigned over the Golden Horde from 1313–1341. If such is the case, the crown probably represented Moscow’s political subjugation to the Khan, however, the crown’s true origins are lost in the puzzling depths of Russian history.

The Golden Horde in Action!

During the 15th century a story was confabulated that the cap was a present from the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus to Vladimir Monomakh, prince of Kiev, in the 12th century.  The legend was probably engendered to give credence to the Russian monarchs’ assertion that the Tsars were the heirs to the Caesars and that Moscow was a “third Rome” (with Constantinople being the second). Today the cap of Monomakh can be found under heavy guard at the other great onion shaped symbol of Russian autocracy, the Kremlin (along with the other crown jewels of the Russian monarchy).

The Cap of Monomakh today in the Kremlin armory

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

April 2021