The film adaptation of the popular TV show hits theaters on Sept. 20, and royal fans already know the plot centers around the Crawley family getting a visit from King George V and Queen Mary.
Photos from the movie show Geraldine James as Queen Mary wearing the Vladimir Tiara, one of the 93-year-old monarch’s favorite sparkling head-toppers — and a piece she inherited directly from her grandmother.
Of course, the headpiece in the film isn’t the real deal — but costume designer Anna Robbins told Town and Country that model maker Martin Adams went through extreme measures to ensure it was difficult to tell the difference.
“It was a painstaking process to make each as faithfully as possible and took many hours,” she said.
“For all the royal jewels depicted in the movie, we wanted pieces that the audience might recognize from our current royals that also worked in terms of style and proportion for the costumes,” Robbins added of choosing to incorporate the Vladimir Tiara in the film. “We were careful to choose pieces that were owned and in the possession of the characters depicted wearing them at the time.”
Despite its popularity with the Queen, the tiara may be hard to recognize — as it can be worn in several different ways. It originally had 15 large drop pearls, and Queen Elizabeth often wore it in this style accented by diamond and pearl earrings.
Queen Mary had the tiara altered to be more adaptable, particularly to accommodate a set of 15 emerald drops won by Mary’s grandmother in a charity lottery. Queen Elizabeth has also worn the tiara in this style, including fittingly at a state banquet held in honor of Irish President Michael D. Higgins in April 2014.
Queen Elizabeth has also worn the tiara without any drops, letting the intertwined diamond circles strung together with a diamond ribbon on top have the spotlight.
The tiara has an amazing history. It was commissioned as a wedding gift in 1874 when Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin became a member of the Romanov dynasty (and Grand Duchess Vladimir) upon her marriage to Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. Romanov court jeweler Bolin created the headpiece, which became known as the Vladimir Tiara.
Following the February Revolution in 1917, Grand Duchess Vladimir was advised to flee St. Petersburg and her jewels, including the tiara, were hidden in a safe located in her bedroom at the Vladimir Palace.
That summer, British officer Bertie Stopford snuck into the palace dressed as a worker (or as told in another version, an old woman) and recovered the jewels. They were taken to London and given to Grand Duchess Vladimir’s son, Grand Duke Boris.
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Grand Duchess Vladimir’s daughter Elena (now Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark) decided to sell some of her mother’s jewels, including the Vladimir Tiara, in 1921. Queen Mary purchased the piece, which she sent to Garrard to repair damage to the tiara during the journey from Russia to the U.K.