Sunday, 19 November 2017

Royal Platinum Wedding: the bride's grandmother

Norman Hartnell made a lot of frocks for the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten on November 20th 1947. But while he was no doubt sweating over making the bride's gown perfect and ensuring that her mum looked marvellous in another of his creations, the frock that may have caused most fear was the one he made for Queen Mary. The Queen's granny was nothing if not formidable so this was no easy commission. Here's how Hartnell helped create the perfect granny of the bride....

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Queen Mary may have been born as an almost poor relation of the royals but she did grand like no one else. She might have seemed severe but she loved style and fashion as much as anyone else and had an eye on public image that had helped to transform the Royal Family. Not only that, Mary was very much aware of position and ceremony. She had steered the House of Windsor through the crisis of her eldest son's abdication and she knew, better than anyone, what this royal wedding meant. For Mary, who had seen her family's throne wobble under threat of disappearing, was dressing for the marriage that would secure its future for good. No pressure, then, Norman. Just keep breathing....

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The result was as elegant and as classic as expected. Full length of course - Mary rarely went shorter - with long sleeves and a slightly flared skirt. So far, so what you would expect for the octagenarian granny born in the time of Queen Victoria. But look closely and you will see that marvellous Mary has added some magic. The golden blue gown has a textured pattern which really lifts it as do the whole shedload of diamonds Mary has brought out to play - when you've all but single handedly created the modern royal jewellery box and provided the bride with the tiara she's wearing, you have the right to sparkle.

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Mary really was the epitome of royal. Her wedding day outfit is so regal it hurts - it might look simple but this gown is telling every other royal in the room (and there were plenty) that she is the right up there at the very top. And who can blame Mary for her very regal stance? Plucked from royal obscurity by Queen Victoria to marry a future king, only to see him die before their wedding, she had ended up queen through her wedding to his younger brother. She had raised a house of princes only for the eldest, Edward VIII, to threaten the whole institution when he married for love. Now, she watched another heir wed the person of their choosing but with a far happier ending promised. For Princess Elizabeth, the beloved granddaughter Mary had doted on since her birth, had picked with both heart and head. The little girl who had become the unexpected heir had found a match that even then held all the promise of an historic royal union. Mary may well have worked that out and even if her heart did tremble a little as she watched her Lillibet take this mighty step, you would never have noticed. The head was held high and thanks to Hartnell, the granny of the bride looked every inch the part she had made her own. 

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