The Story Behind The Queen’s Coronation Dress And Robe

The Norman Hartnell gown took eight months to make.

Queen Elizabeth Coronation dress

by Laura Antonia Jordan |

In October 1952, Queen Elizabeth asked British couturier Norman Hartnell to create her Coronation gown. The legendary interwar designer already had a close relationship with the royal family; creating the gown for the then-Princess Elizabeth’s wedding five years earlier.

Queen Elizabeth Coronation dress
©Getty

Hartnell set to work, researching at the London Museum and the London Library and then sketching in the seclusion of Windsor Forest. ‘My mind was teeming with heraldic and floral ideas,’ he wrote in his autobiography, Silver and Gold. ‘I thought of lilies, roses, marguerites and golden corn; I thought of altar cloths and sacred vestments; I thought of the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and everything heavenly that might be embroidered upon a dress destined to be historic’.

Queen Elizabeth Coronation dress
©Getty

Nine designs were submitted; the Queen’s favourite was a short-sleeved, sweetheart-necked gown embroidered with the emblems of Great Britain. She expressed a desire for colour and the flowers of the Commonwealth to be added. It took eight months to complete and is today part of the Royal Collection.

What about Queen Elizabeth's robe?

According to the Royal Collection Trust, Queen Elizabeth II's robe had a border of wheat ears and olive branches, symbolising peace and plenty. The Coronation robe, which was embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework, took two months and 3,500 hours to complete.

Where is the robe on display?

As part of this year's celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee, the so-called robe of estate, which is made out of purple silk-velvet, isn't on display at Buckingham Palace, but at Windsor Castle - and will be until September 26.

Gallery

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Queen wedding day
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