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History of coronation fashion: from Queen Victoria to the late Elizabeth II

Ahead of King Charles III's coronation, we take a look back some major moments in royal fashion history

Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and Queen Elizabeth II in Coronation attire
Orin Carlin
Content Writer
May 5, 2023
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Union jack flags, street parties, cucumber sandwiches and an overarching sense of jubilance will be out in full force on May 6. The impending coronation of King Charles III will be watched by audiences worldwide, keen to steal a glimpse at history in the making.  

Expected to be steeped in pomp and pageantry, the event will be an illustrious affair, especially in the fashion department. From priceless jewels to opulent gowns, no doubt the level of regalia on display will be next-level lavish.

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Hello! Fashion looks back on nearly two centuries of coronation fashion:

Queen Victoria – 1838 

A painting of Queen Victoria on the throne in her Coronation robes© Getty
A painting of Queen Victoria on the throne in her coronation robes

Queen Victoria was just 19 when she was crowned in 1838. For the journey to Westminster Abbey, she wore a white satin dress layered under a crimson velvet robe, and then after being proclaimed queen she donned a lighter white lace-trimmed linen gown. London jewellers Rundell & Bridge crafted the Imperial State Crown, used to crown Queen Victoria, with over 3,000 gems. 

King Edward VII – 1902

King Edward VII with his consort Queen Alexandra on the day of his Coronation in 1902© Getty
King Edward VII with his consort Queen Alexandra on the day of his coronation in 1902

King Edward VII also wore the Imperial State Crown (rather than the heavier St. Edward’s Crown which the custom before Queen Victoria), worn alongside the Coronation Mantle. This was essentially a gold cloak embroidered with coloured floss silks depicting the "national emblems of the United Kingdom including roses of England, thistles of Scotland, shamrocks of Ireland, crowns, eagles, olive branches and passionflowers", according to the Royal Collection Trust.

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King George V – 1911

King George V and his wife Mary of Teck in their coronation robes© Getty
King George V and his wife Mary of Teck in their coronation robes

King George V wore the Supertunica in 1911, a floor-skimming long-sleeved gold silk coat created especially for the occasion. The piece featured a long strip of fabric arranged around the neck and over the main body, adorned with botanical embroidery. A belt in a similar style cinched it in at the waist, decorated with roses, thistles and shamrocks. "The Supertunica, like the other coronation robes, relates to priestly vestments," the Royal Collection Trust writes. "This link with priestly robes was a reminder of the divine nature of kingship. The sovereign is invested with the Supertunica following the anointing ceremony. "

History buffs (or avid fans of The Crown) will already know that the coronation of his successor, King Edward VIII, scheduled to take place in 1937 but never went ahead as a result of his abdication.

King George VI – 1937 

King George VI sporting his coronation robes© Getty
King George VI sporting his coronation robes

Next in line was our late monarch Queen Elizabeth II's father, King George VI. He wore the same gold Supertunica as King George V and his Robe of State (aka the Imperial Robe, worn for procession of the monarch from Westminster Abbey to the Gold State Coach) was made of crimson velvet, trimmed with ermine and featured a gold lace border. After his death, the piece was draped over his coffin during his lying in state, and on May 6 his grandson King Charles III will wear the same robe for his own coronation. 

Queen Elizabeth II – 1953

Queen Elizabeth II wearing her Coronation gown designed by Norman Hartnell © Getty
Queen Elizabeth II wearing her Coronation gown designed by Norman Hartnell

British fashion designer Norman Hartnell was entrusted with the immense task of designing Queen Elizabeth II's coronation gown. After conducting some preliminary research he submitted a selection of designs to the Queen and she accepted the eighth version, after expressing her preference that some coloured embroidery should be added to differentiate the dress between that which she wore on her wedding day. 

The finalised sketch included all the emblems of Great Britain and Ireland (The Tudor Rose for England, The Thistle for Scotland, The Shamrock for Ireland and The Leek for Wales), and emblems from all the other Dominions at the Queen's request. Crafted from the finest white duchesse satin, the piece featured lustrous silk embroidery in gold, silver and pastel colours as well as rich embellishment including seed pearls and crystals. She also wore the Robe of State created for her father, King George VI. 

King Charles III – 2023 

King Charles takes the throne at the Queen's funeral
King Charles III will be crowned on Saturday

It has been confirmed that King Charles III will wear the Robe of State worn by both his grandfather and mother at their own coronations. For the investiture, he is expected to wear the Colobium Sindonis, a sleeveless white linen garment, and an embroidered band of gold silk to wear around his shoulders, known as the Coronation Stole. For the crowning, the aforementioned Supertunica. He is due to have the St. Edward's Crown bestowed upon his head and to change into the Robe of Estate at the service's close, ahead of leaving the Abbey.

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