All the recent buzz about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee had me wondering – what did the young princess wear to her own coronation on June 2nd, 1953?
Well, the momentous gown for Queen Elizabeth II was created by British designer Norman Hartnell, who also made the Queen’s (then a princess) wedding gown in 1947.
For the coronation, Hartnell sketched eight potential gowns before Prince Philip pointed out that his lovely wife was soon to become sovereign to the British Commonwealth and perhaps all her lands should be represented.
The final version was made in white satin and included embroidered emblems:
- Tudor Rose – England
- Thistle – Scotland
- Shamrocks – Ireland
- Maple leaves – Canada
- Wattle flowers – Australia
- Ferns – New Zealand
- Proteas – South Africa
- Lotus Flowers – India
- Leeks – Wales
- Wheat, Cotton and Jute – Pakistan
For luck Hartnell added an extra shamrock underneath the skirt. For proper balance the gown demanded a complicated construction of supporting undergarments, which was created by Hartnell’s expert cutters and fitters. He himself could not sew.
Born in a London suburb in 1901, Hartnell attended Cambridge where he began designing costumes for theater. Later he worked for British fashion houses and in 1923 he opened his own house in Mayfair. Hartnell developed a reputation for originality (not just creating variations on the latest craze in Paris) and attracted the patronage of young society ladies.
His first royal commission came along in 1935 for Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott’s wedding to Prince Harry Duke of Gloucester (son of George V). Hartnell designed the wedding gown and trousseau as well as the dresses for the bridesmaids, which included the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Soon thereafter the royal family became regular clients. Hartnell was made Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.
Additionally from the 1930s to the 1960s Hartnell designed costumes for films. What an interesting chap.
Have I piqued your interest in Mr. Hartnell? There’s a lot more to his story. Check this out: http://www.pointedleafpress.com/be-dazzled
Happy Diamond Jubilee to my British readers (I know I have a few). For my fellow Anglophile readers, this weekend you can partake in the Jubilee festivities over the Internet with BBC Radio 4.