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The long, royal history of The Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild

By Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science - HM Queen Mother at the formal opening of the new library in the Lionel Robbins Building, 10th July 1979Uploaded by Fæ, No restrictions,

Established in 1882 as The London Guild by Lady Wolverton, the guild was created when a matron from a Dorset orphanage asked for 24 pairs of knitted socks and 12 jerseys for the children in her care. The small guild provided no less than two garments for each child at the orphanage, but it wasn’t until a few years later, in 1885, that the guild would become connected to Britain’s Royal Family.

In 1884, the guild was making and distributing over 52,000 garments a year. The next year, in 1885, The Duchess of Teck became the guild’s patron. She chose to rename the guild in 1889, making it The London Needlework Guild. After her death in 1897, the royal patronage continued under her daughter, The Duchess of York, who later became known as Queen Mary. The Duchess worked at the guild during her childhood. She had formed her own group, personally supervising the arrival and unpacking of parcels at the Imperial Institute, a public research university in London.

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In 1914, the charity was renamed Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild and got a new base at Friary Court in St James’s Palace. Set up to supply troops during World War I, branches were established throughout other countries in the British Empire, including China and Argentina. More than 15.5 million articles of clothing and surgical items were donated to troops overseas, an amount estimated to be worth more than £1 million. Despite rationing, production continued on a small scale throughout World War II and afterwards.

On 23 March 1952, Queen Mary invited the presidents of the guild’s group to Marlborough House for the Annual General Meeting but was unable to attend. Sadly, she died just a day later. It was then that The Queen Mother took over as patron. While she became patron in the 1950s, the charity would not receive a new name for decades. In 1986, it was renamed Queen Mary’s Clothing Guild, reflecting its former patron’s work.

In 2010, about eight years after The Queen Mother’s death, the charity was renamed Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild in honour of its most recent patron. After The Queen Mother died in 2002, a year later, Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy took over as patron.

“I am very proud that this unique and long-established charity continues to provide effective and much needed support to so many,” said Princess Alexandra.

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In modern times, the guild supports charities across the United Kingdom. Still based at St James’s Palace, the guild provides clothing and bedding to those most in need. Volunteers are also known for contributing a number of handmade items each year.

Most recently, during the lockdown, volunteers collected and made more than 50,000 new items of clothing to donate to over 60 charities across England and Scotland. According to the charity, more than 600 face masks were also produced and “made with love”. Due to pandemic restrictions, many charities have been unable to accept second-hand items over the last year, which has led new clothing and bedding to become even more vital in creating a larger impact as it’s the only type of items the guild donates.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.