Monday, August 29, 2016

The last time Queen Victoria's Coronet was worn -- so what's the story

the late Lord Harewood sent this to me

The Hon. Mark Lascelles,  only son of the late 7th Earl of Harewood and his second wife, Patricia.  (George had three sons by his first wife, Marion Stein).  Married married Andrea Julie Kershaw at All Saints Church, Harewood, on SAugust8, 1992. (They divorced in 2005. )

Andrea was allowed to wear Queen Victoria's wedding coronet, which George V had given to Princess Mary, when she married  Lord Lascelles in 1922.   He had inherited the jewels from his father and grandmother.  Queen Mary, as George's consort, had no ties to the coronet.

Princess Mary, created Princess Royal in 1931, wore the tiara on occasion after her marriage.  She died in 1965.  Lord Harewood's second wife, Patricia. wore the tiara after she married Lord Harewood in 1967, three years after the birth of Mark.

Andrea (Vishwamandala Saraswati) teaches Yoga at the Health Club and Spa in Harrogate.

The coronet was designed by Prince Albert as a wedding present for Queen Victoria.  They were married in February 1840.    The 4.5" wide coronet was "mounted with 11 sapphires," all set in gold, and the diamonds are set in silver.  The day before the wedding, Prince Albert gave his bride-to-be a matching sapphire and diamond brooch, which has been worn by Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Victoria wore the coronet and the brooch for her portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1847.   Many of the stones used in the coronet were given to Victoria by her uncle, William IV, whom she succeeded in June 1837.

The coronet (and the brooch) are considered personal, and not Crown Jewels.  Neither Queen Alexandra nor Queen Mary wore the coronet (they preferred bigger bling).  In February 1922, George V, son of Edward VII and grandson of Queen Victoria, gave the coronet and a matching sapphire parure to his only daughter, Princess Mary, when she married Viscount Lascelles, who succeeded to his father as the 6th  Earl of Harewood in 1929.   Three years later, Mary was created Princess Royal.  The couple had two sons, George and Gerald.

Lord Harewood died in 1947, and he was succeeded by his eldest son, George, as the 7th Earl.

The Princess Royal wore the tiara on occasion.  She died in 1965, and her jewels were inherited by her elder son.    At the time of Mary's death, Lord Harewood, was living apart from his wife, Marion (nee Stein).  They had three sons: David. James and Jeremy.     Although it was not known publicly at the time, Lord Harewood was father of a fourth son, Mark, born in June 1964.   The mother of his youngest son was an Australian violinist (and model), Patricia Tuckwell.

Lady Harewood eventually agreed to a divorce in 1967, and shortly afterward,  Lord Harewood married Patricia Tuckwell in a civil ceremony in Connecticut.  As a divorced person, Lord Harewood could not marry in the Church of England.  He was also bound by the Royal Marriages Act (and both marriages were approved by Queen Elizabeth II), which meant that he also could not marry in a civil ceremony in England or Wales.

The new countess was photographed wearing the coronet at several events.   In 1997, Lord and Lady Harewood loaned the tiara to an exhibit on tiaras, which was sponsored by Wartski, a London jeweler, with Royal Appointments from the Queen and the Prince of Wales.  He made the wedding rings from Welsh gold nuggets for the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge for their marriages to Camilla Parker-Bowles and Catherine Middleton, respectively.

The present Managing Director, Geoffrey Munn, is the great-grandson of Morris Wartski, who founded the firm in Bangor, Wales, in 1865.   Munn is a resident expert on the British television program, Antique Roadshow.

The coronet has been sold to a foreign buyer, and this yet-to-completed sale became news last week because the UK Culture Minister, Matt Hancock. has imposed a temporary ban on the sale of the coronet, due to the historical significance of the piece.  The temporary ban followed a recommendation "by reviewing committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest."  This committee is administered by the UK's Art Council.

Committee member Philippa Granville told the press that the coronet's "departure would be a great loss, given its beauty, its associations and history."

A final decision for the approval of the export license has been deferred until December 27th, although the delay could be moved to June 2017, if financial resources come through to keep the coronet in the United Kingdom.

So how did the coronet get to this temporary ban?    As mentioned earlier,  the coronet was loaned to Warski for an exhibition in 1997.  Geoffrey Munn had contacted Lord and Lady Harewood to inquire about what they might have to offer for the exhibition.   Munn's interest was piqued when Lady Harewood told him about Victoria's wedding coronet.  Five years later, the tiara was again loaned for an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Earl of Harewood died in 2011, and was succeeded by his eldest son, David. now the 8th Earl of Harewood.   It seems probable that the coronet was sold after the late Earl's death (inheritance tax), but it was not a public sale (Christie's, Sotheby's).   A year after the earl's death,  the coronet was loaned anonymously to Wartski for another exhibit.  The owner lived in Highgate, London.   Highgate is one of London's priciest areas to live.

The coronet has been displayed at several events since 2011, in  London and, most recently in  New York in 2014.  Munn was photographed with the tiara at World Jewish Relief fundraising even in January 2012, where he spoke about the history of the coronet.  It was at this event that the Highgate owner was first mentioned.

I believe that it was Geoffrey Munn who acquired the coronet from Lord Harewood.   My thoughts about the  provenance have been largely backed up by Richard Brooke's article in yesterday's Sunday Times.  I believed that new Lord Harewood sold the coronet to Munn.   Brookes notes that the coronet "appears to have been bought by a dealer, possibly Geoffrey Munn."

Since 2012, the coronet has been displayed at shows connected to Wartski.  It will cost £5 million to keep the coronet in the United Kingdom, and I expect the money will be raised.

I sincerely doubt that Lord Harewood pocked £5 million, and may not benefit from a further sale.  It does seem a bit perplexing that Wartski would seek a foreign buyer for Victoria's coronet, especially with the firm's two royal appointments.  We also do not know the backstory:  was it not possible for the new Lord Harewood to donate the coronet to the nation in lieu of taxes or did he contact his father's first cousin, Queen Elizabeth II, to see if she would provide financial assistance (perhaps purchase the coronet for the Royal Collection.)

The alleged foreign buyer has not been named as well.  Is it possible that Wartski is using this method - foreign buyer needs export licence -- to keep the coronet in the United Kingdom.  It would be a coup for the firm.  A few details about the story are missing, and I hope a few good British reporters will dig further, and find out the who, what, how, where and why of this this sale/

Neither Munn nor Lord Harewood responded to the Sunday's Times' request for information.

Matt Hancock is correct when he said: “Queen Victoria’s coronet is stunning and is one of the most iconic jewels from a pivotal period in our history as well as symbolising one of our nation’s most famous love stories.”

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