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Lafayette L2827
Neg. Date: 11-10-1901

copyright V&A

Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873-1943)

From the beginning of her marriage, Daisy appears to have been very interested in clothes. On tour in India in 1896, she confided to her diary: “I had a dress made in Calcutta white with lots of lace & I can hold it out very far & make it whirl about. It is twenty yards broad at the bottom & without a foundation.” One of her pleasures on trips to Paris was clothes shopping: “All my clothes have been a great success and Hans [Heinrich] said I was the best dressed woman at the races. All very simple and draped…”

This was obviously a style which Daisy thought suited her best, showing off her waist and shoulders with the diaphanous and willowy look whose “ideal was understated opulence emphasised by pale colours and fragile decoration.” There is an indication in the Pless Palace archives that in the years before World War I, Daisy received a mind-bogglingly large annual clothing allowance from her husband of almost £10,000 – although this was only one quarter of the amount she requested!

In her childhood, governesses and nurses compared her unflatteringly with her mother, “one of the loveliest women of her time” and made clear to Daisy “how ugly I was; that my ears were too small, my mouth too big and my nose turned up.”

After a ball held by Daisy’s married sister Shelagh, the Crown Princess of Romania remarked in a letter where she discussed the merits of the female guests: “Foremost among these was Princess Daisy of Pless, tall and magnificently English in her pink and white bloom. Gold-clad, with a high diamond tiara on her honey-coloured hair, gay smiling, kindly disposed to all men, she was indeed… an incarnation of those days of peace, wealth and general prosperity.”

The tiara referred to by the Crown Princess was most probably that seen in this series of images is good quality circlet in the Gothic taste set with diamonds and pearls, and this style of tiara was almost certainly an allusion to Daisy’s royal rank. It is most probably the tiara given to her by her new father-in-law, about which she was so excited that she claimed to remember almost nothing else about her marriage ceremony at St. Margaret's Church in Westminster:

“I was far too excited to remember much about the ceremony, except that I had to wear a diamond coronet which my father-in-law had given me as a wedding present. Amongst my new titles I was a Countess of the Holy Roman Empire, and the crown was a copy of the one worn in the old days by ladies of that rank.”

The German Emperor often noticed Daisy’s jewels, and commented upon seeing her in this tiara that “it looked like a fan.” Eleven years later, when she wore a new tiara to the opera in Berlin, the Emperor’s comment to her was that “Your tiara the other night was too high. It wanted sitting on!"

Unsurprisingly, Daisy’s comments about the clothes and poise of German society ladies promenading in the Under den Linden could be rather scathing at times: “the women trip without grace and without the knack of holding their skirts that the Frenchwomen have, or the determination to hold it out of the dirt as does an Englishwoman.”

The fad for the half-length chiffon-draped pose first appears in the Lafayette archive in 1898 and after 1902 no more of this genre are found. It is perhaps significant that of all the similar poses in the Lafayette archive, only this image of Daisy shows the sitter wearing a tiara.