Exclusive: The truth behind the Queen's EU-themed hat revealed

The hat ended up being a huge talking point

Emily Nash

A hat resembling the EU flag and worn by the Queen to the 2017 State Opening of Parliament was a "coincidence", one of her top aides has revealed. The blue hat decorated with five yellow flowers was interpreted by many as a statement on Brexit from the politically neutral monarch, sparking widespread discussion as to whether she was in fact opposed to the plan for Britain to leave the EU.

But Angela Kelly, Her Majesty’s dresser of 25 years, has set the record straight, describing how "it never occurred to" her and milliner Stella McLaren that the piece might spark comparisons with the flag, which features a circle of 12 yellow stars against a blue background. In her new book: The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, she explains how the Queen opted to wear a day dress instead of the traditional robe and Imperial State Crown to the ceremony after it was rescheduled for the start of Ascot week because of the General Election. 

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The Queen and Prince Charles at the state opening of parliament in 2017

She says: "I already had in stock some material suitable for Her Majesty’s outfit, so after I'd checked the background against which The Queen would be sitting – to be sure that the colours wouldn’t clash – I made the design and passed it, with my instructions, to the in-house dressmaker. Then the milliner, Stella, and I sat down with a cup of tea to discuss the design of the hat. 

"We chose a Breton-brim block style, which would create an upturned brim, so Her Majesty’s face could be clearly seen, and The Queen could see everyone in the room. We chose a large square crown to balance the brim and five flowers, made from feathers with tiny seed pearls, painted yellow. It never occurred to Stella and me that people might think we were copying the European Union flag. The press and the rest of the media were quick to assume that was the case."

At the time, the hat sparked a flurry of headlines and social media comments, including one from Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's lead negotiator on Brexit, who tweeted: "Clearly the EU still inspires some in the UK #QueensSpeech." Angela says: "I understand from reading the papers and seeing all the articles online that there was almost a meltdown on social media with people speculating that The Queen's outfit and hat paid tribute to the EU flag, and that The Queen was making a subtle statement about the recent Brexit vote. It was a coincidence but, boy, did it attract a lot of attention, and it certainly made us smile."

The clarification is one of several made in the book, which was written with the Queen’s blessing. And while the monarch famously never shares her opinions publicly, she is understood to have approved all the anecdotes shared by her close confidante prior to publication.

MORE: Why the Queen once joked to her dresser that she was sacked

The Queen's hat was a "coincidence"

Elsewhere, Angela describes how the monarch returned an "instinctive" hug from Michelle Obama during a 2009 visit to Buckingham Palace as a gesture of “affection and respect for another great woman,” dismissing claims that the-then First Lady had breached protocol.

Angela, who began working for the Queen in 1994 is one of the most senior aides at the Palace, as Personal Advisor, Curator and Senior Dresser to Her Majesty The Queen (The Queen’s Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe), as well as In-house Designer.
Her book, which is exclusively serialised in HELLO! this week, goes on sale on Tuesday 29 October 2019. 

The Other Side of the Coin by Angela Kelly (HarperCollins, £20).

Read the full report in this week's issue of HELLO! magazine, out on Monday.

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