queen-mother

Why the Queen Mother wore white after her mother's funeral

The Countess of Strathmore passed away in 1938

Grace Lindsay

Since the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh last Friday, many have become fascinated with the royal protocol that must occur after a death is announced in the family.

As the family enters the royal mourning period, it is expected that they must wear black or dark colours, a tradition that has been part of royal culture for centuries.

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In fact, Queen Victoria famously wore black for 40 years after her husband Prince Albert died, which set a standard for the rest of the royal family to follow.

However, after the death of the Countess of Strathmore in 1938, the Queen Mother took a rather different route, and wore an entirely white wardrobe to mourn the loss of her mother.

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Queen Victoria wore black for 40 years after her husband died ©Getty

Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, told The Telegraph: "The ultimate masterclass in making mourning dress into a regal fashion statement came in 1938, when Queen Elizabeth's mother, the Countess of Strathmore, died weeks before a pivotal royal tour to France. More than a mere charm offensive, this was the king and queen's first foreign visit since the abdication of Edward VIII and came as the prospect of war loomed gravely over Europe. A black wardrobe simply wouldn’t do, as it was imperative to come bearing optimism."

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He went on to say: "Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's couturier, Norman Hartnell, looked to the 'white mourning' or deuil blanc convention deployed by medieval royals and seen in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots after she lost her father-in-law, mother and husband within months of each other in 1560 for inspiration. Within weeks he had scrapped the original colourful outfits intended for the tour and crafted an entirely white set of looks in their place."

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The Queen Mother was photographed by Cecil Beaton in a Norman Hartnell gown ©Getty

The Queen Mother took an exclusively white wardrobe with her on her visit to Paris, intended to symbolize the link between the two countries, and although the reason behind her lighter wardrobe was a sombre one, it has become a key fashion moment for the royal family over the years.

It is reported that the reaction to the 'white wardrobe' was one of euphoria. Norman Hartnell's designs for the Queen Mother made her into a fashion icon, and she later commissioned the British fashion photographer, Cecil Beaton, to photograph her wearing the designs at Buckingham Palace.

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Although we don’t expect to see this regal fashion statement being made at Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday, we can expect the royal family to be wearing black in a much more elevated way, with possible military touches to pay homage to the Duke's naval career. 

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