The Queen’s controversial style pick for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales

When Queen Elizabeth II invested her eldest son Prince Charles with the title of Prince of Wales in a ceremony on 1 July 1969 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales, it was the latest in a storied and solemn show of monarchy and there were absolutely no complaints about the affair.

Well, unless you count the eternal controversy that surrounds fashion at royal events. This time, it was the Queen who was under fire for her outfit – particularly, her hat.

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The controversial hat was reminiscent of a gable hood, in a way. A popular style in the Tudor era, the hood resembled the gables of a house and provided a complex, yet conservative way to hide a woman’s hair.

The Royal Trust Collection describes the hat this way: “It is made of pale primrose yellow silk and consists of a crown entirely embroidered with pearls and bugle beads.

“To the crown is attached a panel of silk with lines of embroidery which covers the back of the head to the nape of the neck. The hat appears to have been inspired by Tudor prototypes and was a style repeated on several occasions in different colours and materials.”

The designer was Simone Mirman, a French milliner who’d supplied hats to Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell, and Christian Dior and who counted Vivien Leigh among her clients. She’d been designing hats for members of the Royal Family since 1952, particularly for the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, and held Royal Warrants from the Queen and the Queen Mother for her services.

Among the other hats she designed for the Queen were a green turban hat worn in New Zealand in 1977, a yellow “spaghetti” hat worn in Germany in 1965, a brimless blue hat worn to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary in 1972 and a bright pink turban hat to open the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Mirman’s creations have since been displayed in several exhibitions of the Queen’s wardrobe over the years.

The Queen paired her Tudor-style hat with a primrose yellow silk dress described as “a silk crepe long-sleeved coat and matching tunic, both applied with pearl and bugle bead embroidery.” It was designed by one of her favourite dressmakers, Norman Hartnell.

The Queen’s hat and dress from the investiture were part of the “Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe” exhibition in 2016.

But back to the issue at hand. The divisive hat.

It was felt by some people in Wales, who’d taken a keen interest in the day’s events, that a hat was too informal for the pomp and ceremony of the occasion. They felt that a crown would’ve been a better choice for the day.

Instead, it was Prince Charles who sported the only regal headgear that day. He wore the Coronet of Charles, Prince of Wales which had been designed especially for his use that day by the artist Louis Osman and gifted by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

Prince Charles’s coronet is gold with diamonds set in platinum. It features 75 diamonds and 12 emeralds and weighs 1.36 kilograms and hasn’t been worn since the investiture. It has been in storage at St. James’s Palace since 2011.

In the interest of fairness there were several hats on show that caused no controversy at all. The Queen Mother wore a yellow-green hat with wispy osprey feathers dyed to match her dress. Princess Margaret wore a turban-style calot with its own hood in coral pink and Princess Anne wore a turquoise pillbox hat.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, with an emphasis on the British, Danish, and Swedish Royal Families.