Crown Jewels of France, Napoleon I and III

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French Crown Jewels. Louvre, Paris
French Crown Jewels. Louvre, Paris

A collection of crown jewels around the time of Napoleon III was on display near the Apartments of Napoleon III. From left to right they are the tiara of Marie-Theres, the only living daughter of Napoleon I and Marie-Antoinette, Empess Eugene’s diamond bow broach and Empress Eugene’s Pearl parure made for her wedding to Napoleon III. All of these pieces had to be rebought, at considerable expense, after the dispersal of the Crown Jewels in 1887.

Empress Eugene's Pearl Parure. Louvre, Paris
Empress Eugene’s Pearl Parure. Louvre, Paris
Empress Eugene's Pearl Parure
Empress Eugene’s Pearl Parure
Portrait of the Empress Eugénie after an Original by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1853. Napoleon III Apartments, Louvre, Paris
Portrait of the Empress Eugénie after an Original by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1853. Napoleon III Apartments, Louvre, Paris

Empress Eugenie had this Pearl parure made for her wedding to Napoleon III. Apparently, a parure is a set of various items of matching jewelry, which rose to popularity in 17th century Europe. She had the jewelers take the napoléonique pearls which were from the vast “order of the Pearls” of which an original parure was made for Marie~Louise (second wife of Napoleon I). This parure had been broken up many years bears prior and Eugenie took the exact same Pearls to make her wedding jewels. Eugenie was a well documented lover of Pearls and can be seen wearing her new set in the portrait. In 1992 the “Amis de Louvre” purchased the tiara and it now makes its’ home there.

Empress Eugene's Diamond Broach
Empress Eugene’s Diamond Broach

Among the Empress Eugenie’s incredible jewels is this splendid diamond bow brooch, originally part of the “Diamants de la Couronne”, it was made by François Kramer. The impressive bow was originally intended as a buckle for a diamond belt. Eugénie asked her jeweler to make it more elaborate, to wear it with the pair of diamond tassels. Later five diamond pampilles were added.

121 years later, when hearing of the appearance at auction of the brooch at Christie’s New York, the Louvre and the Friends of the Louvre decided to do everything possible to acquire the jewel and return it to France. The auction planned for April 15th was cancelled at the last minute for judicial reasons, but a private sale to the Louvre was negotiated soon after.

One amazing piece from the collection is the tiara of Marie~Therese the only living child of Marie~Antoinette & Louis XVI. It is a beautiful Emerald and diamond tiara in a symmetrical design of scrolling foliage, mounted with over a thousand diamonds set in silver, and 40 emeralds set in gold.

Emerald and Diamond Tiara of Marie-Therese
Emerald and Diamond Tiara of Marie-Therese

The royal jewelers who were assigned the task of designing and crafting the tiara were the Bapst brothers. They used 14 of the largest emeralds from the crown collection. They also added 26 other smaller emeralds to the tiara, making a total of 79.12 carats of emeralds. Before leaving for exile in Britain, Marie~Therese delivered the tiara to the French treasury. Over the years the tiara passed through many hands and was sold many times eventually landing in the V&A in London. The Louvre recently negotiated a very large sum of money to acquire the tiara and it is now housed there, home where it belongs!

Marie-Therese Ruby Bracelets
Marie-Therese Ruby Bracelets

Also on display were two bracelets which were also part of a large parure belonging to Marie~Therese. The parure consisted of a coronet topped by an eagle, a tiara, comb, girandole earrings, belt buckle, and the two bracelets. It was one of the crown jewels of France that came from the collection founded in 1530 by Francois I. Marie~Louise wore these jewels on her wedding day and after the fall of the Empire and the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy they went to Marie~Therese. She was the last Royal to enjoy these Rubies as with the establishment of the third Republic they were sold. After passing through many hands, among them, renowned jeweler Tiffany, the bracelets are now housed in the Louvre and other the other pieces of the parure are in private collections.

Throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the jewels survived the First French Republic, the Directorate, the First Empire, the Restoration, the July Monarchy, the Second French Republic and the Second Empire. However, the decision of Henry, Compte de Chambord not to accept the French Crown in the early 1870s ended not just the prospect of a royal restoration. It also led to the break-up and partial sale of the Crown Jewels.

To prevent another monarchy, radicals in the national assembly advocated dispersing the Crown Jewels. “Without a crown, no need for a King”. All the jewels from the Crown Jewels were removed and sold in 1887, as were many of the crowns, diadems, rings and other items. Only a few of the crowns were kept for historic reasons, but with their original diamonds and gems replaced by colored glass. Some historic or unusual gems went to French museums, including the corsage brooch containing some of the “Mazarin diamonds” which is now in the Louvre, and the ‘Ruspoli’ sapphire, which is now in the French Natural History Museum.

A nice reference for more of the crown jewels of France can be found at “Paris Atilier“.


Another nice reference is “Eugenies Brooch.