Ahhhh, young love. Or was it? A fourteen year old bride. A fifteen year old groom. At the hands of the matchmaker of matchmakers, young Princess Louise of Baden was fixed up with Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich of Russia, the future Tsar Alexander I, by his grandmother, Catherine the Great. And the granddaughter-in-law, who would come to be known as Elizabeth Alexeievna, of a powerful royal woman would of course have amazing jewelry. I think it’s safe to say that Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik fits the bill.
Poor Princess Louise. She was chosen by a powerful woman to marry into a royal family, to ensure a continued geographical alliance. She gave up her name, becoming instead Elizabeth Alexeievna. She gave up her religion, converting to follow the Russian Orthodox church. And she gave up her native tongue, instead learning and speaking Russian. She was not loved by her Romanov relations, nor was she favored by her newly adopted country. One would have hoped that after all of that, her marriage would have been a happy one. And it seems, for a few years at least, that it was. But it was not to stay that way.
Depending on to what account you listen, Elizabeth may have been the first to take a lover, Adam Czartoryski, who just so happened to be her husband’s best friend. Her father-in-law was not the only one surprised, although he may have been the only one bold enough to comment, when Elizabeth gave birth to a dark haired little girl towards the end of her three year relationship with Adam. Both the Empress and her husband, the future Tzar, were blondes. Adam was not.
Perhaps it was Alexander who strayed first. It’s well documented that he all but abandoned his wife, living elsewhere and taking several lovers. They weren’t even living together when Elizabeth had a second daughter, who also died early, living only to the age of 15 months. Although not likely his, Alexander officially recognized the girl. But it wasn’t until years later, after an illegitimate daughter of his own had died and he found religion, that husband and wife again reunited. But, theirs was not a love to last, as both experienced health problems and died within six months of one another. Elizabeth was merely 47 years of age.
But the diamond tiara created for Elizabeth in the early 1800s lived on. Two rows of large pear shaped stones, divided by a band of smaller diamonds and below tightly held rays of diamonds beaming skyward, centered with one very large round diamond. The bottom most row of pear shaped stones were “en Tremblant” and must certainly have sparkled like tiny disco balls in the candlelight. Almost a century after it could have last been worn by Elizabeth, the tiara was photographed on the head of Alexandra Feodorovna the wife of Nicholas II. Later it was confiscated by the Bolsheviks and put on display, only to then disappear for good. What came to be of Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik? Is it in the vaults of the Kremlin? Was it dismantled and broken up? Or does it sit in the collection of a wealthy heiress, unseen all these years? Which story do you like best or do you have a theory of your own? I want to hear all about it!