Dressing The Queen

A couple of years ago at Windsor Castle, I struck up a conversation with a member of the staff. She was very friendly and easy to talk to. The conversation took a few turns and she nonchalantly revealed that she had previously worked as an assistant dresser to The Queen. Obviously that was fascinating so I wanted to ask a million questions about what that was like while trying to behave like a normal person and not overstep the mark.

To her credit she was very discrete and spoke of her amazement that Kate had done the tour of Canada without an official dresser and that  while The Queen had been wonderful to work for, she wanted to try something new which lead her to a new role.

Dressing the Queen (via )
Dressing the Queen (via Amazon)

 

So of course I was excited to be given a copy of Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly. Since starting as one of the Queen’s dressers in 1994, she has risen up the ranks and now holds the unique title of Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to Her Majesty The Queen (Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe). So, yeah, she has a pretty awesome resume.

Behind the Scenes: the Queen and Angela Kelly (via The Telegraph)
Behind the Scenes: the Queen and Angela Kelly (via The Telegraph)

Published back in 2012, it’s an insightful book with gorgeous pictures that shows how much thought and effort goes into the creation of each of The Queen’s many bespoke outfits and gowns, how not a scrap of fabric is wasted (the Queen’s stock room includes fabric from 1961), and how they are all carefully maintained.

It also reveals a bit of the close working relationship that Angela and The Queen clearly have. The fact that the Queen even gave her blessing to the book is huge! She has also given Angela a grace and favour home in Windsor, as well as the honour of the Royal Victorian Order which recognizes personal services to The Queen. In a 2007 interview with The Telegraph that the Queen consented to, Angela explained

“I just want everything to be right for The Queen – to make life easier for her because she is so busy. My job is to ensure that when The Queen meets people she looks right.

“I would never overstep the mark and I remain in awe of The Queen. But she has allowed me to become closer to her over the years. We [the royal dressers] are not treated like flunkies. It’s not like that. The Queen treats us with real respect.

“I don’t know why the Queen seems fond of me – because I don’t give her an easy time! I do think she values my opinion, but she is the one who is in control. She always makes the final decision.”

Angela Kelly at work on the Queen's dress for the Jubilee Concert (Via The Daily Mail)
Angela Kelly at work on the Queen’s dress for the Jubilee Concert (Via The Daily Mail)

Here are a few tidbits from the book – for more I recommend reading it yourself!

Secrets of a Tiara

The Queen in one of her favourite tiaras (via The Daily Mail)
The Queen in one of her favourite tiaras (via The Daily Mail)

The Girls of Great Britain of Ireland Tiara is gorgeous (to learn more about it, click here if you like), and my favourite tiara of all time. It’s even cooler now that Angela Kelly pointed out this special design feature I hadn’t previously realized. In shadow, it looks like a row of girls holding hands! See?

Holiday hands!! (picture from Dressing the Queen)
Holiday hands!! (picture from Dressing the Queen)

Also, Angela is one of the very few people who has access to the vaults that stores the Queen’s jewellery. As she puts it in the book,

“It is a great honour and privilege to be entrusted with the care of the Queen’s private jewellery and to help select the items that are worn on a daily basis. Again, the final choice is always made by The Queen, but based on a selection that I will have made to complement the outfit she will be wearing and appropriate for the occasion.”

Queen Mary’s Jewellery Trays

The jewels that The Queen selects on any given day are presented to her on special trays that also once belonged to the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary.

That's not just any tray (via Macleans)
That’s not just any tray (via Macleans)

The lace cover that is pulled back actually has Queen Mary’s monogram on it and were sewn by Queen Mary herself.

Umbrellas for Every Occasion

A few of the Queen's brollies (via The Daily Mail)
A few of the Queen’s brollies (via The Daily Mail)

The Queen knows that she needs to stand out in a crowd, and that people want to see her no matter what the weather. So, she has a large collection of see-through umbrella’s trimmed with every possible color to match her outfits.

There really is so much more in the book – I could go on and on! So, what do you think? Sounds like a fascinating job to me. For much more on how the outfits are created and jewellery maintained, I recommend checking out the book yourself!

 

Some More Royal Nicknames

In a post published back in September of 2011 when this blog was brand new, we had some fun chatting about some of the cute and sometimes quirky royal nicknames of the British Royal Family (Cookie! Duch! Lillibet!). Almost three years on (it’s already mid July?!), we’ve gathered a few more to share.

Queen Mary of Teck aka ‘May’

Queen Mary, Consort to George V (her second cousin once removed) and grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II, was one heck of a grand dame who never skipped out on wearing a tiara to dinner, even on a random Tuesday night at home. To those closest to her she was known as May, after her birth month.

Topley Studio; Photographer: WIlliam James Topley (1845-1930)
Topley Studio; Photographer: WIlliam James Topley (1845-1930)

To her granddaughter (now Queen Elizabeth), she was simply Granny. “Granny’s chips” which is how Queen Elizabeth likes to refer to this bauble here,  known more formally as the Cullinan Brooch.

The Royal Collection © 2012,Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II RCIN 100005
The Royal Collection © 2012,Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
RCIN 100005

That’s the Cullinan IV at the top, and the Cullinan III is suspended from it. These stones come from the largest diamond ever found and we were lucky enough to see them in person a couple of years ago during an exhibit at Buckingham Palace. Our post from that day can be found here.

More information on this beauty can also be found over The Royal Collection or at The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendour, a delightful blog.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark aka “Daisy”

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is affectionately known to friends, family, and subjects as “Daisy.”

Provenance Unknown
Provenance Unknown

It’s a common nickname for Margaret, so she shared this nickname with her namesake and grandmother, Princess Margaret of Connaught (later the Crown Princess of Sweden). She passed away in 1920, 20 years before the future Queen Margrethe was born. Here’s the first Daisy:

Provenance Unknown
Provenance Unknown

Queen Margrethe regularly wears a diamond encrusted brooch of a Daisy which was gifted to her for her wedding. The diamonds had belonged to Crown Princess Margaret and, as you can see, the brooch was a focal point on her wedding gown:

Provenance unknown
Provenance unknown

She busts it out of the jewel box quite often, and wore it to Kate and William’s wedding in 2011:

Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty
Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark aka ‘Pingo’

Daisy’s son Frederick picked up the totally random nickname “Pingo” when he began training for the Danish Armed Services. And he did really well, by the way. He was one of four in 300 to pass a rigorous test for the Naval Diving Corps.

Provenance unknown
Provenance unknown

I like it. Pingo! Suits him, doesn’t it?

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

Mary and Frederick at Wimbledon, July 2014 (via Pinterest)
Mary and Frederick in the royal box at Wimbledon, July 2014 (via Pinterest)

Meanwhile, Prince Frederick likes to call Mary’s Maz, which we read in this entertaining 2013 account of an interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. Seems like a very British or Australian thing to do…reminds me of the nickname of Bridget Jone’s friend ‘Shazzer’, who’s real name I think was Sharon

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden aka Oja

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is apparently known to close family simply as ‘Oja’, or atleast this was her nickname when she was younger. What it means, I couldn’t tell you, but I’m throwing it in here anyway!

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

That’s all she wrote for now. Do you have any more up your sleeves you can share with us?