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The Queen’s Dressmaker: Angela Kelly

Part of the job of being royal is dressing the part and Queen Elizabeth II has never disappointed when it comes to choosing the right thing to wear. Whether she is entertaining guests at a glittering state banquet or performing a royal walkabout, Her Majesty The Queen always looks very elegant and beautiful. Much of this is due to her lovely dresses that never fail to entrance and enchant but some may wonder who’s behind these the gowns worn by Her Majesty? On many occasions the answer is Angela Kelly, senior dressmaker and Personal Assistant to The Queen, who has spent over a decade at Buckingham Palace.

Eight weeks after The Queen ascended to the throne in 1952 a little girl called Mary Angela was born to Thomas and Teresa Bradley in Liverpool. She grew up in a patriotic, Roman Catholic home and was first taught to sew by her mother . She eventually she began to use fabrics to make clothes for her dolls. This was the start of her love for fashion. While growing up Angela was very glamourous and was always gorgeously dressed.

Six of the many outfits designed for The Queen by Angela Kelly

Angela became pregnant at the age of eighteen in 1971 and soon after the birth of her child, she married Frank Wylie. In all, this marriage produced three children but when it ended Angela moved to Germany to work in a British Army mess as a waitress and hostess. While in Germany, Angela married again and then got a job in house of British Ambassador Sir Christopher Mallaby as a housekeeper but sadly her second marriage came to an end. In 1989, Angela met her third husband, Jim Kelly. And it was while she was in Germany that she first came to the attention of the Royal Family.

In March 1991 The Queen Mother was scheduled to come to Germany to present members of the Irish Guards with shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day; it was Angela’s responsibility to prepare The Queen Mother’s room and to attend to her. It was during this time that Angela became close friends with The Queen Mother’s dresser Betty Leek; she made such an impression on The Queen Mother that she was once even invited to a drinks party at Clarence House. It was in 1992 that Angela first met The Queen when she and The Duke of Edinburgh visited Germany.

Angela finally moved back to England, where she would marry Jim Kelly, and in 1994 she was called for an interview at Windsor Castle and she got the job as The Queen’s Dresser. However, her new career put a strain on her marriage, for her husband was also a sergeant in the British Army. They were no longer together in 1995.

The Queen leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral wearing one of the many dresses designed by Angela Kelly for the Diamond Jubilee.

Over Angela’s time working with The Queen, she had earned herself the title of Personal Assistant, Advisor, and Curator of Her Majesty’s Jewelry, Insignias, and Wardrobe. She has also developed a friendly relationship with The Queen, the two often discussing things such as their families with one another. Angela told The Telegraph, “We are two typical women. We discuss clothes, make-up, jewellery. We say, ‘Would this piece of jewellery look nice with that outfit?’, and things like that…We [the royal dressers] are not treated like flunkies. It’s not like that. The Queen treats us with real respect…”

Angela Kelly designed all the dresses that the Queen wore for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including the gold one she wore at the Diamond Jubilee Concert and the ones she wore to the Service of Thanksgiving and at the River Pageant. Angela became a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 2012 at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Angela plays a very special role in The Queens life and she hopes to be working for Her Majesty in the years to come. “I love the Queen and everything about her… I adore her – but then, so does everyone else. She is not ‘my’ Queen, she is everyone’s and so I have to share her. Once she has chosen something to wear, I just want her to look good in it. I love seeing the faces of the public when they meet the Queen, and when she gives them that special smile. It makes me feel so proud of her.”

And if you have a favourite outfit designed for Her Majesty The Queen by Angela Kelly then join the discussion below.

Photo Credit: UK Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland Office via Flickr


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