Tiara Tuesday: The Norwegian Emerald Tiara

Tiara Tuesday: The Norwegian Emerald Tiara

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Legend has it that the Norwegian emerald tiara originally belonged to Empress Josephine. Yes, that Josephine – Napoleon’s first wife. It’s dedicated to this week’s two birthday girls, Dava Stewart and Jillian Ashe.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, what’s with the whole “legend says” thing? Was this Josephine’s tiara or wasn’t it? And why the hell is this so hard to figure out? We’ll try to figure it out – but first, take a look at it on Queen Sonja of Norway:

The French Connection

A Norwegian historian attempted to unravel the mystery, and according to him, there is no matching tiara in existing inventories of Josephine’s jewels. However, the tiara is documented in the collection of Josephine’s daughter-in-law, Augusta of Bavaria.

So the options are: (1) Augusta acquired the tiara and it has nothing to do with Josephine and the legend is bunk, or (2) It was Josephine’s, and the paper trail has just been lost and the legend is true.

Part of the controversy stems from the origin of the emeralds. A story in the Norwegian royal family (the tiara’s present owners) says the stones were mined in Russia. Well, emeralds weren’t discovered in Russia until 1830. If that’s true, there’s no way this was Josephine’s tiara since she died in 1814.

Emeralds weren’t discovered in Russia until 1830. If the tiara’s stones came from Russia, there’s no way this was Josephine’s tiara since she died in 1814.

But it’s also possible that story garbled the stones’ origin since the tiara didn’t end up in Scandinavia until 1873. How the hell would they know where the emeralds came from? Colombian emeralds were readily available in the Empire period, and the neoclassic design is similar to two other French tiaras from the early 1800s (Marie Louise’s emerald and diamond diadem and the Duchess of Angouleme’s emerald and diamond tiara).

Given its similarity to the two tiaras above, my money’s on the Josephine connection. Plus, it’s so much more romantic that way, and I don’t know about you, but my life could use a little more romance.

Some things you just have to take on faith.

Who Owns This Tiara Today?

The Norwegian royal family. If that seems weird, here’s how it happened. Josephine’s daughter-in-law, Augusta of Bavaria, had two daughters. The tiara landed with one (who became the Empress of Brazil – read more about here in this post) and after her death, went to the other daughter, Queen Josephine of Norway and Sweden. You can see her in the daguerreotype below. I keep staring at her face, wondering how much of Josephine we might be able to see in her. Am I the only one who gets weirdly obsessed by things like this?

Queen Josephine of Sweden and Norway, who inherited the Norwegian emerald tiara from her sister.

I keep staring at her face, wondering how much of Josephine we might be able to see in her. Am I the only one who gets weirdly obsessed by things like this?

Under Queen Josephine’s son, Oscar II, Sweden and Norway had a peaceful and only slightly neurotic break-up in 1905 and became separate kingdoms. Oscar’s wife inherited the tiara and, as expected, gave it to her son’s wife, Princess Ingeborg. Ingeborg’s daughter, Princess Martha of Sweden, married the Crown Prince of Norway in 1929. But marriage isn’t how the tiara landed in Norway.

Bonus Nazi Connection

I find the weirdest shit when researching these tiaras, you guys. Get this. So, when World War II broke out, the tiara was in the possession of Princess Ingeborg of Sweden. Sweden was neutral, as it had been during World War I. King Oscar V was deeply committed to staying neutral, even though his German queen was pro-Axis. The King even visited Berlin and personally tried to convince Hitler to cease his persecution of the Jews. You can guess how well that went.

On April 9, 1940, the Nazis invaded Norway and Denmark. Sweden was officially trapped, bookended by assholes on every side – Hitler to the west and south, Stalin to the east.

Sweden was officially trapped, bookended by assholes on every side – Hitler to the west and south, Stalin to the east.

When the Germans invaded Norway, Norwegian troops held off the invaders while the royal family got the hell out of Dodge. The king set up a government-in-exile in London, while Princess Martha and her three kids hightailed it to her home country of Sweden, expecting a warm welcome.

No dice.

Hitler wanted Martha (below) her to hand over her three-year-old son, Harald, to become a puppet king in Nazi Norway. Martha said bitch, please, which made some Swedes angry – and scared. They thought Hitler might invade Sweden if Martha pissed him off enough. I mean, he’d already invaded everything else, so why not, right?

Crown Princess Martha of Norway in 1942, while the Norwegian government was in exile.

Gustav, her father, asked her to leave in order to make it easier for him to keep Sweden neutral. So her mother, Ingeborg, met her at Central Station in Stockholm with this tiara (and its matching necklace and earrings) wrapped in a scarf. The emeralds were a financial safety net for Martha and her kids, just in case the world was such a fucked up place that it wasn’t ever safe to come home to Norway or Sweden.

In the meantime, Hitler forced Gustav to allow German troops and supplies to cross Swedish soil. In return, Gustav delivered a polite “fuck you very much” in the form of taking in more than 200,000 political refugees from Nazi Germany and distributing Swedish passports to Jews in Nazi territory. You go, Gustav. Be all passive aggressive the way only a true Swede can be.

You go, Gustav. Be all passive aggressive the way only a true Swede can be.

In the meantime, Princess Martha got lucky. President Roosevelt invited her to come to the U.S. and sent an American ship to pick her up in Finland. She and her kids even lived in the White House for a time. There are hints that these two were more than friends – that Roosevelt might have fallen in love with her. Gore Vidal calls Martha “the last love” of the president’s life, and even Roosevelt’s son said “there is a real possibility that a true romantic relationship developed between the president and the princess.”

Whaaa….why don’t they put this kind of interesting shit in history books? This is the first I’d heard of any of this.

Anyhoo, Martha came home to Norway in 1945. After her death in 1954, the emeralds became a part of the Norwegian crown jewels. Today, Martha’s daughter-in-law, Queen Sonja, wears the hell of this tiara – she loves this thing.

How Would I Wear It?

This is some regal shit, you guys. And the history is freaking me out. If it is Josephine’s (and I want to believe it is) – she survived the French Revolution, for heaven’s sake. She didn’t even think she’d have a head, let alone a pile of diamonds to put on that head. And then the way Ingeborg gave it to her daughter, wrapped in a scarf, at a train station as that daughter was fleeing the Nazis…it doesn’t get much more dramatic and romantic than that.

This tiara is about surviving.

Thankfully, I don’t have any life or death situations happening at the moment. Or ever, really. Just the life and death situation in my head every time I face the blank page of my next book.

I’ve been having quite a bit of self-doubt lately when it comes to writing. A lot of “woe is me” and “what’s the point.” I don’t doubt that I can write. I doubt I’ll ever actually be financially successful at it, for a variety of reasons. My struggle right now is convincing myself to keep going, even when all I get is gray hair and a whopping $30 in my business bank account.

I’d wear this tiara every time I turn off the internet and turn on Microsoft Word. I need Josephine and Ingeborg and Martha’s luck and/or talent for survival.

I also wouldn’t mind a Roosevelt falling in love with me. You know.

Just for shits and giggles.

That’s the Norwegian emerald tiara!

Want to suggest a tiara? Drop its name or a photo link into the comments. I’ll do my best to find something interesting in its history for a future Tiara Tuesday.

Image credits

Josephine, header image: Sophie Adlersparre, public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Josephine, daguerrotype: Johan Wilhelm Bergstrom (DigitaltMuseum), public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Martha: Image by an unknown photographer, National Library of Norway, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Girl in the Tiara: The Sparkle Is Real

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You might like my other site, The Girl in the Tiara. I created it to write about amazing royal women and their tiaras. It’s like Drunk History meets The Crown.


Tiara Tuesday Archives

Tiara Tuesday Archives

Visit the archives to read about more royal shenanigans. And by shenanigans, I mean war, revolution, betrayal, lust, murder, diamonds, and Princess Stéphanie’s chafing dish.

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About the Author

Jenni Wiltz

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I write thrillers, romance, historical fiction, tiara posts, and more. Right now, I'm working on a nonfiction trilogy: Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mikhailovna of Russia, and Princess Augusta of Brunswick.


  1. God, I’ve gotten hooked on these things! At first I was like, whatever, just Jenni nerding her only Jenni way, but daaaaaamn! The backstories you dig up for these tiaras are amazing, and I find myself fascinated every time. I think we could make a drinking game or a bingo version with these…

  2. I enjoyed reading this but Queen Sonja is the late Queen Martha’s daughter in law not her sister in law.

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