What did the Queen wear for her coronation, 70 years ago?
The Queen’s coronation gown and robe are some of the most memorable and important pieces of clothing in fashion history.
The 27-year-old Queen’s coronation was the first ever to be televised, and some 27 million people tuned in to watch the ceremony in the UK alone.
The iconic white duchesse satin dress and deep red silk-velvet robe, which the young monarch wore for her coronation service at Westminster Abbey on 2 June, 1953, is steeped in history.
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As we count down the months to King Charles coronation in May, we look back at what made the Queen’s coronation outfit, 70 years ago.
The Queen's Coronation Gown
The Queen knew that what she would wear to her coronation in 1953 would be seen all over the world as the first ever coronation to be televised.
The Queen acquired the help of British couturier Norman Hartnell, who had created her 1947 wedding dress, to design her coronation dress in October 1952, eight months before the date of her coronation.
The design for the coronation gown went through nine proposals to Her Majesty, and she selected the eighth. But the final version resulted from his research, adjustments and numerous meetings with the Queen.
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The Queen’s coronation dress was a white silk dress embroidered with floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth at the time, with Her Majesty requesting the emblems for the Dominions of which she was now Queen would also be added in addition to the four national emblems in Hartnell’s sketch.
The final design featured the Tudor rose of England, Scottish thistle, Welsh leek, shamrock for Northern Ireland, wattle of Australia, maple leaf of Canada, the New Zealand silver fern, South Africa's protea, two lotus flowers for India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Pakistan's wheat, cotton and jute, embroidered in various colours.
The embroideries were arranged in three scalloped, graduated tiers bordered with alternating lines of gold bugle beads, diamantés and pearls.
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The materials for the Queen’s coronation dress were all created within Britain: the silk was produced at Lady Hart Dyke’s silk farm at Lullingstone Castle, Kent, and was woven by Warner & Sons in Essex.
The dress took three dressmakers, six embroideresses and the Royal School of Needlework, responsible for the embroidery worked in gold bullion thread, to create.
In addition to the gown, Hartnell also designed the Queen’s colobium sindonis, a plain white linen robe used during the Coronation service to symbolise divesting oneself of “all worldly vanity and standing bare before God”.
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The colobium sindonis is placed over the incoming monarch's clothes, and then the supertunica, a full-length robe of embroidered gold brocade, is placed over that.
Finally the Imperial Mantle, also known as the Pallium or Dalmatic Robe, is placed. The Imperial Mantle is made of “cloth of gold, woven in coloured threads with a curvilinear pattern of foliage, crowns, fleurs-de-lis and eagles, with coloured roses, thistles and shamrock woven over, and with gold fringing, lined in red tabby silk”, per The Royal Collection Trust.
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After the sovereign is dressed in the Supertunica and Stole, with the Mantle on top, the monarch is invested with the regalia, crowned and finally, enthroned.
The Queen's Coronation Robe
Attached to the Queen’s shoulders was a crimson velvet mantle edged with ermine and featuring two rows of delicately embroidered gold lace and gold filigree. On the day of the coronation, six of the Queen’s maids of honour had to carry the robe behind her.
The Robe of State of Crimson Velvet, as it is known, was hand-woven by Warners of Braintree, Essex, using Lullingstone Castle silk and made by Messrs. Ede & Ravenscroft of Chancery Lane, London.
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The Queen's Coronation Crowns
The Queen wore not one, but three different crowns on the day of her coronation in 1953, all serving a different purpose throughout the two-hour-long ceremony.
The Diamond Diadem crown
The Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey wearing the Diamond Diadem, originally designed for George IV's coronation in 1821 and widely recognised as the crown that the Queen is wearing in her postage stamp profile.
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Housed in the Tower of London, it is set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds and consists of a band with two rows of pearls either side of a row of diamonds, above which are diamonds set in the form of a rose, a thistle and two shamrocks, the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The St. Edwards Crown
From there, the Queen was officially crowned in the coronation chair with the St. Edward’s crown, the most important and sacred of all the crowns.
Only used at the moment of crowning itself, the solid gold frame weighs 2.23kg (nearly 5lbs) and is adorned with semi-precious stones.
The current St. Edward’s crown has been around since 1661, created for Charles II’s coronation in place of the medieval crown that had been melted down by parliamentarians in 1649, following the execution of King Charles I.
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The Imperial State Crown
After the ceremony, and officially declared Queen, Her Majesty entered St Edward's chapel to swap crowns and change into the robe of purple velvet for the final procession.
The final crown, the Imperial State Crown, was made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937, and is made of pure gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.
The crown contains some of the most famous jewels in the Crown Jewels collection, including the Black Prince's Ruby, a 170-carat cabochon spinel, the Stuart Sapphire, a 104-carat stone set at the back of the crown, and the Cullinan II diamond, a 317.4-carat diamond from the original Cullinan diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found.
Watch: Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953