Royal Fashion Round-up with Chloe: State Opening of Parliament special

4 June 2014 - 07:25pm
Edited by Chloe Howard
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As Her Majesty The Queen opened Parliament today, she donned full regalia for the occasion. This special edition of Royal Fashion Round-up will explain these items and their meaning within the ceremony, as well as their history, many of them being used for centuries. As The Duchess of Cornwall was in attendance too, I will cover her outfit and jewels as well. 

Starting with the basics, The Queen chose a white embossed gown for the 2014 State Opening of Parliament, which features a scoop neckline and floor-length hemline. She always wears white or cream to the ceremony, and this year paired her dress with a silver envelope handbag, and no doubt the matching Mary-Jane shoes, last seen to The Service of The Order of The Bath last month. White gloves, of course, were worn.

Her earrings were the and the necklace were Queen Victoria’s pearl drop earrings and Golden Jubilee necklace, which were also used for last year’s State Opening of Parliament. The earrings are large pear-shaped pearls underneath a diamond stud and another, smaller diamond linking the two; they were a gift from Prince Albert in 1847.

The necklace came from a fundraising effort for a statue of Prince Albert, 16 years after his death in 1887, to celebrate Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. More money than necessary was raised for the statue, and the excess was donated to St Katherine’s Fund for Nurses, with some kept back to buy a necklace for The Queen; this was the one purchased in 1888 from Carrington & co..

The design is a central quatrefoil with a large pearl in the centre, topped by a crown with a pearl suspended from it. The links either side of the central quatrefoil are graduating trefoils (three-sided motifs), and the largest six can be used as brooches. Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy is a fan of the necklace, and has a replica of it, a gift from her late husband, but hers does not feature the crown.

On each wrist was multi-strand pearl bracelets, with diamond clips.

The Queen always leaves Buckingham Palace wearing the Diamond Diadem, also called the George IV Diadem, which was made for George VI and features four crosses pattée, which alternate with roses, thistles and shamrocks. The band has diamond scrollwork set between bands of pearls, giving the crown a more feminine feel, and a large yellow diamond adorns the front cross.  It was made by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell in 1820, featuring 1,333 diamonds in all, and was made smaller in 1902 by Queen Alexandra. This is the tiara worn in images of The Queen on stamps and money.

The Queen enters the Robing Room in the Palace of Westminster, in which the Houses of Parliament lie, and removes the George VI Diadem, replacing it with the Imperial State Crown.

The Imperial State Crown, which travels in its own carriage, comes out of the safety of The Tower of London to be used for the ceremony. It is only used for this event, though was used after The Coronation in 1953. The crown, seen below, has gone through several remodelling projects over the centuries, but the one seen today is largely the same as the one made for Queen Victoria in 1838. The one used by Her Majesty was made in 1937 for the coronation of George VI, and was altered prior to The Queen’s own coronation. 


It was made by Garrard, with over 3000 stones set within the gold, platinum and silver frame, including diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, spinel and pearls. The purple cap of the crown is velvet and the trim is ermine; the crown stands at 31.5cm tall.


The description from the Royal Collection calls the creation “an openwork gold frame, mounted with three very large stones, and set with 2868 diamonds in silver mounts, largely table-, rose- and brilliant-cut, and coloured stones in gold mounts, including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls.”

The Cullinan II diamond sits at the front of the crown’s band, which is the second largest stone cut from the Cullinan Diamond, weighing 317.4 carats; on the back of the band is a large sapphire known as the ‘Stuart Sapphire’. The stones are linked by “openwork frieze, containing eight step-cut emeralds and eight sapphires, between two rows of pearls”.

Above this pearl-framed base, two arches cross over; on the arch which arches the front of the crown, a decorative cross bears the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’, which is thought to have been the stone given to Edward, The Prince of Wales, nicknamed The Black Prince, in 1367, King of Castile. The other three crosses, on the ends of the arches, hold emeralds. These crosses alternate with fleur-de-lis, with rubies at the centres; all are covered in diamonds. The crosses and fleur-de-lis are connected by diamonds supported by sapphires.

This image from 2012 shows the Queen's full regalia worn together

An image from a previous opening ceremony; note the ‘Earrings’ beneath the cross atop the crown, and the Collar of The Order of the Garter

The arches have been created as oak leaves with pearls adorning them. Four large pear-drop pearls with “diamond caps” are suspended beneath the intersection of the arches; these are called ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Earrings’, but they are not always visible. Above the ‘Earrings’ is a large silver cross, known as a cross-pattée,  set with diamonds, with a sapphire at its centre, known as ‘St Edward’s Sapphire’.

The Queen then puts on her robes and The Collar of the Order of the Garter, which is worn over the shoulders, and is made of pure gold. The chain features enamel plaques depicting the blue garter with the Order’s motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (“Shame on he who thinks ill of it”), surrounding a rose. The plaques are separated by gold knots. A figure showing St. George slaying a dragon from his horse hangs from the Collar, known as a Great George. 

The Queen’s Robe of State is red velvet, with gold-embroidered trim and ermine edges, with a panel from the neck too; this is tied with silken bows.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attended the Opening of Parliament as they did last year. The Duchess wore a custom Bruce Oldfield dress, also in white. It is another embossed dress, with 3/4 sleeves and a plain panelled section across the stomach; the dress also has a slight train. Silver pointed heels were seen beneath the dress, and a cream clutch in Camilla’s hands, which were gloved.

She wore her pearl and diamond choker necklace, and a pair of her pearl drop earrings.

At such an occasion, Camilla chose the Greville Tiara, a honeycomb of diamonds. It was left to King George VI’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, by The Honourable Mrs Greville, who did not have children, in 1942. The future Queen Mother had the tiara altered, adding the small stacks of diamonds on the top row. 

Her brooch, worn on the sash at the shoulder, is a rose brooch given to Queen Mary as a wedding gift which was then passed on to the Queen Mother, also as a wedding gift. The badge on yellow ribbon background is the Queen’s family order; a badge of a young Queen surrounded by diamonds, a wholly private award, decided solely by The Queen. The sash and other badges are the insignia of a Grand Dame Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, for personal services to The Queen. 

photo credit: UK ParliamentUK ParliamentUK Parliament via photopin cc

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