Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Battle of the royal hats! Princess Kate, Duchess Sophie and more

Headwear is a style staple for royal events – we've picked the most memorable

Royal fascinators
Millie Jackson
Freelance Writer
10 April 2024
Share this:

If there's one fashion item the royals know how to do well, it's hats. 

From feathery fascinators to boaters to pillboxes, the versatility of the hat cannot be understated. 

Over the years, we've seen creative and colourful looks at events like royal weddings, Ascot and Cheltenham. Headwear can either be a simple accessory, or the main event. 

Princess Beatrix, formerly Queen of the Netherlands, is known for her extravagant headwear© Getty
Princess Beatrix, formerly Queen of the Netherlands, is known for her extravagant headwear

The trend for smaller, more delicate headpieces dates back to the Victorian times, but it wasn't until 1950s New York, a time where a woman couldn't leave the house without a hat and gloves, that fascinators began to really take off. 

Hat designer John P. John, now almost unheard of, was once the Christian Dior of headwear. 

According to the New York Times: "In the 1940's and 1950's, the name Mr. John was as famous in the world of hats as Christian Dior was in the realm of haute couture. At a time when other milliners were piling on flowers, feathers and tulle, Mr. John was stripping hats naked, relying on pure shape for effect." 

Vivien Leigh wearing a Mr John hat in 'Gone with the Wind'© Silver Screen Collection
Vivien Leigh wearing a Mr John hat in 'Gone with the Wind'

He designed hats for Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Vivian Leigh, called smaller hats 'fascinators', and paved the way for two royal-approved milliners, Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy, to conceptualise the modern fascinator as it exists today. 

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, as she was then, propelled the fascinator to global fame in 2012. The variety of headpieces were the fashion focus of the moment, with Princess Beatrice's blush pink fascinator briefly becoming the most talked-about hat in the world. 

Milliner Jane Taylor of Jane Taylor London has designed hats worn by the Duchess of Edinburgh, Pippa Middleton, Rita Ora, and Zara Tindall. 

She told HELLO!: "Headwear for any formal event should elegantly accentuate you and your whole look. For events such as the races where you can have a little more fun, opt for a hat that plays on colour or shape to lift your look. Not both or your look will have a novelty feel to it which is not recommended. 

Princess Kate wearing 'Selene in felt' from Jane Taylor London© Getty
Princess Kate wearing 'Selene in felt' from Jane Taylor London

"More formal events choose a neater shape such as a pillbox, halo, moonband or neatly trimmed brimmed hat. We never use the F word here! Fascinators are really another word for headpiece. These should work with the shape of your facial proportions and especially focus on a tone of your outfit that suits your skin colouring. We often hand dye a particular tone to enhance our clients' features and finish the look perfectly."

Here are some of the best headpieces we've seen from royals over the years...

Princess Beatrice, Royal Wedding 2011© Getty

Princess Beatrice, Royal Wedding 2011

Possibly the most iconic royal headwear look of all time, Princess Beatrice wore this blush-pink Phillip Treacy hat to the wedding of Princess Kate and Prince William in 2011.

The designer told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs: "It was a very modern hat and modernity is always unusual things."

The fabulous hat later sold at auction for £81,100.01.

Princess Eugenie also sports a feathery headpiece by the same designer, complementing her blue outfit.

Feathery fabulousness, 2004© Michel Porro

Feathery fabulousness, 2004

The former Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix, attends the wedding of her son Prince Johan Friso to Mabel Wisse Smit. Her vibrant, feathery hat is a fun and eye-catching accessory to this blue look.

Regal in pink, 2018

Regal in pink, 2018

Queen Camilla wore this incredible blush pink feathered headpiece for the wedding of her stepson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

Nature-inspired, 2011© Getty

Nature-inspired, 2011

It's two for one in this shot of Princess Kate and Queen Camilla in attendance at the wedding of Zara and Mike Tindall, both drawing on the natural world for their headpieces. 

The Princess of Wales is wearing a floral fascinator in a pale yellow, while the Queen has a light green headpiece with leaf and flower details.

Autumn inspired, 2021© Getty

Autumn inspired, 2021

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands sports this intricate, leaf-detail hat reminiscent of autumn on an official visit to Berlin. Her hair is also beautifully arranged to complement her eye-catching headwear.

A York Affair, 2018

A York Affair, 2018

Princess Beatrice opts for a much more understated look, matching her headband to her dress at the wedding of her sister, Princess Eugenie, to Jack Brooksbank at Windsor Castle.

Sarah, Duchess of York also matches her hat to her dress as she wears this teal hat with a wing-like design.

Stately visits, 2018© Getty

Stately visits, 2018

Queen Maxima proves again that she has the head for hats, donning this neat black fascinator for a state visit to the UK, matching the black accents on her pink dress.

Racing day chic, 2021© Getty

Racing day chic, 2021

This stunning asymmetrical hat served the dual purpose of looking stylish and keeping the sun off the Duchess of Edinburgh.

Country style, 2018© Getty

Country style, 2018

Lady Louise Windsor laughs with mum Sophie as they're spotted carriage driving at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Lady Louise's hat has plenty of country and hunting references, from the forest green colour to the carefully arranged feathers.

Sharp silhouettes, 2023© Getty

Sharp silhouettes, 2023

Both the Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess of Wales favoured sharp, minimalistic fascinators for last year's Ascot, each matching their hats to their dresses.

Early Kate, 2006© Getty

Early Kate, 2006

The Princess's style has certainly evolved over the years. This throwback is from the wedding of Laura Parker-Bowles to Harry Lopes in 2006, before she was even engaged to Prince William!

A rose among thorns, 2011© Getty

A rose among thorns, 2011

Princess Madeleine of Sweden opted for a more minimalist headpiece at the wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock, with a simple rose and feather accessorising her outfit.

Ascot ready, 2023© Getty

Ascot ready, 2023

The late Queen's granddaughter chose a striking green hat with ribbon details for Ascot. 

Queen of feathers, 2012© Getty

Queen of feathers, 2012

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends the wedding of Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg and Princess Stephanie of Luxembourg, wearing this striking feathery headpiece.

Leopard print moment, 2007© Getty

Leopard print moment, 2007

Zara Tindall smiles wide as she joins the late Queen at Ascot. This bold leopard print look was sure to make her stand out from a crowd!


Princess Kate wearing black and white polka dots and a hat

If you are reading this, the chances are you are obsessed with all things royalty – which is just as well because so are we! So obsessed, in fact, we’ve launched a club solely dedicated to covering them. So welcome to The HELLO! Royal Club. We would love you to join us there…

What is it?

Interactive community offering behind-the-scenes access, exclusive royal interviews, unmissable royal insights, and an illustrious royal Inner Circle.

Member benefits

  • Two weekly newsletters, one from Emily Nash
  • Video posts and audio notes from Emily Nash and the HELLO! Royal team
  • Access to our royal community and opportunity to interact with club writers and members
  • Participate in polls, comments and discussion threads
  • Royal-themed puzzles with a weekly prize to be won
  • Access to our Ask Me Anything sessions with our journalists
  • Invitations to in-person and virtual events
  • A subscription to the digital edition of HELLO! Magazine (Worth £82 annually)*
  • Future ‘Inner Circle’ benefits

By royal decree

You are royally invited to join The HELLO! Royal Club – and then to go forth and spread the word to your fellow royal fans. See you in the club!

More Fashion

See more