These three brooches (along with lot 575) were once thought to have belonged to the collection of Marie Louise of Austria, Duchess of Parma, second wife of Emperor Napoleon I. Today, however, they are believed to originate from a later period and are thus more likely to have belonged to Empress Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma (1870 - 1899), wife of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (1861 - 1948). Member of the House of Bourbon, the fleur de lys
figured prominently on her family coat of arms. This symbol can also be seen on the tiara created for her by the Viennese jeweller Köchert, on the occasion of her marriage in 1893.
Among the many sumptuous parures described in Empress Marie-Louise's will, is an impressive sapphire and diamond set which is cited as having been bequeathed to the Archduke Rainer (1783-1853), viceroy of Lombardy, whose wife was Princess Elisabeth of Savoy-Carignan (1800-1856). When he died, the set was given to his son also name Rainer (1827-1913) whose wife, Archduchess Marie-Caroline, was a first cousin to Empress Marie-Louise. The couple was childless and offered the jewels to their nephew Archduke Leopold-Salvator, son of Archduchess Marie-Caroline's sister, at the time of his wedding with Princess Blanca de Borbón in 1889. She was the daughter of the Duke of Madrid who was a pretendant to the Spanish throne. It is very likely that at this time, the set was remodelled to reinforce the symbolism associated with the 'Fleurs de lys', relating to the Spanish cause.
This information was kindly supplied by jewellery historian and author Christophe Vachaudez.