Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection

Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection

Court Mantua Dress

Historic Royal Palaces' collection of royal, ceremonial and court dress, has been designated as a pre-eminent collection of national and international importance.

Comprising 12,000 items worn by royalty and courtiers from the seventeenth century to the present day, the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is an unparalleled resource offering insight into the story of the British monarchy, life at court and the ceremonial tradition of the UK.

Items of clothing worn by some of the country’s most charismatic royals - including George III, Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret, The Queen, and Diana, Princess of Wales - all form part of the collection, together with prints, sketches, historic photographs, letters, diaries and scrapbooks.

The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection was established in the early 1980s, following the long-term loan of amateur historian Aubrey Bowden’s significant collection of court uniforms. The collection rapidly developed, its central aim being to represent the history of royal, court and ceremonial dress from the 17th century to the present day.

In 1989, responsibility for the collection passed to Historic Royal Palaces, who have continued to secure new items to expand and enhance the collection. The collection now includes items purchased or donated for the collection, alongside important loans from the Royal Collection and material from Princess Margaret’s family.

Artefacts from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection

19th century court suit

Savile Row tailors Henry Poole & Co. made this dark blue wool court uniform for George Florance Irby, 6th Baron Boston, in 1885. Lord Boston bought this suit in 1885 for his new role as Lord-in-Waiting, a member of Queen Victoria's household. He wore it when greeting political leaders during their state visits to the United Kingdom, and at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

King George III's waistcoat

The waistcoat is an interesting early example of clothing adapted for illness. In the last months of his life George III was very ill and pieces of fabric were inserted into the waistcoat sleeves to give more mobility to the sleeves to make dressing the King much easier.

King William III's green stockings

One of the gems of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, is a pair of bright green stockings which belonged to King William III. They are knitted out of a fine, very bright green silk. They have a design of a little flower, surmounted by a crown worked in at the ankle, and a ‘W’ in the cuff at the top.

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