Hats From The Past: The Prince of Wales’ Investiture

A Flashback 45 years ago today, Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales.

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On July 1, 1969, the 20-year-old Prince received the insignia as the 21st Prince of Wales from the Queen at an outdoor ceremony before 4,000 guests at Caernarfon Castle in north-west Wales. The medieval castle was inspiration for the visually austere ceremony (directed by Princess Margaret’s husband Lord Snowdon, who designed the set and decor).

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The Queen’s hat, in pale yellow silk, was inspired by a Tudor era French hood and designed by Simone Mirman. The crown was embroidered with seed pearls and the attached hood, with hand stitched pleats, wrapped around the back of the Queen’s head. The hat had a distinctly round overall shape and remains one of the more unusual pieces in the Queen’s millinery past.

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The 2016 exhibition “Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe” provided a fantastic, close-up view of this hat, confirming its pale yellow colour and a level of execution that is astounding. Jump over to this post for our 2016 discussion on this hat.

Prince Charles’ grandmother, aunt and sister wore a trio of sorbet hued hats. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother wore a voluminous hat with upturned, halo brim. The hat was entirely covered in wispy osprey feathers dyed to match her acid green lace dress.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, July 1, 1969 | Royal Hats Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, July 1, 1969 | Royal Hats

Princess Margaret wore a coral pink turban-inspired calot with a trailing hood.

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While Princess Anne’s hat, a large turquoise pillbox designed by John Boyd, was a more timeless shape, the giant circle of turquoise and white ruffles at the back firmly dates it in the late 1960s as well.

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 I adore all three hats for the bold style statements they individually made (and have always wondered if Lord Snowdon assigned them each a colour to coordinate with the heraldry hanging around the castle!).

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There is no question these hats are from the 1960s- the colour and style of both hats clearly reflects the fashion of this time.I am curious to hear your thoughts on these hats, particularly as they seem rather stuck in time and I suspect, have been forgotten.

** While the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra also attended this ceremony, photos of them seem to be scarce. Any links you can provide would be most helpful.

Photos from Central Press/Stringer, Anwar Hussein, Anwar Hussein and Popperfoto via Getty; Alamy via The Daily Mail; Hulton Archive/Stringer and Anwar Hussein via Getty

33 thoughts on “Hats From The Past: The Prince of Wales’ Investiture

  1. I thought it was hilarious that the only way the maker of Charles’ coronet could complete the design was to embed a pingpong ball into the surmounting orb! Who knew?
    I recall at the time, that HM’s hat was not widely admired, but it was understood to carry a Tudor vibe to signify the historic nature of the event.

  2. I recall this event being broadly covered in the Australian press and in particular, the colour photographs in the broadsheet sized Australian Women’s Weekly. Hats for women had declined in favour of teased hair and I can remember thinking that the Princesses Margaret and Anne led the fashion stakes as their hats were sublimated to their long hair ( long hair was a big deal in the late 1960s as girls were wearing it sleekly undressed and shine was highly prized).
    Nowadays as a milliner, I appreciate the workmanship in the acid green osprey painstakingly handsewn to a sheer base, the construction of Merman’s medeaval headdress and the deceptively simple flyaway lightness of the coral coloured snood.
    Margaret would fall back onto this colour way for Charles’ wedding in the early 80s as indeed did the Queen Mother repeat osprey feathers for the same occasion.

  3. Late to this party. The swinging sixties just don’t translate for a formal, pompous ceremony. Possibly the worst hat QE11 has ever worn.

  4. At the time, everyone understood the Tudor significance of the Queen’s hat which was more of a headdress than a hat. The QM’s was of osprey feathers for which she paid a small fortune.

  5. I hate the Queen’s hat. It is ridiculous. And the PoW’s coronet looks so 60’s as to be ridiculous, as well! I love QEQM’s hat but not the color. Anne and Princess Margaret look great.

  6. I recall the Investiture as a time when the UK went Wales and the Welsh mad, everything had a Welsh angle and there were explanations of the ceremony and how and why the eldest son of the Monarch was called Prince of Wales, basically a way of subjugating a conquered people and attempting to end any Welsh nationalism, as a proud member of Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationalist Party I can state that has not been successful! and as an English royalist I also love the symbolism of a chivalric ceremony.The whole ceremony idea was invented by Lloyd George for George V and Edward (VIII and Duke of Windsor) Great fun and an excuse for hats and flags.
    In the late 60s anyone wearing a below the knee skirt looked very odd so above the knee on anyone was the norm, a few years later of course that switched around and below the knee was the norm. The medieval hat was certainly a talking point and the Queen carried it off with aplomb!

  7. You’ve made my day with this item, hat queen!

    Love queen E’s hat because of its reference to history. Although not fully visible I would say that princess Alexandra’s hat and coat would still be wearable for Ascot. Although fashion is fun, she is the one with real class imho. Remember that I once read that Anne thought her legs to be her greatest asset, therefore it makes complete sense that she wears her skirt a little short.

  8. I think you are all rather harsh! LOL. At the time I can remember thinking that the Queen’s hat wasn’t fantastic but what really shocked me was seeing her in such a short skirt! Those were the days!

  9. HM hat is interesting, if put in the context of the theme of the day as decreed by Lord Snowdon. The ruins of the welsh castle were juxtaposed with a spectacularly 60’s mod acrylic arch. (A rumour has been that the ball on top of the Prince’s coronet was a gold sprayed table tennis ball, as even a hollow gold orb of that size would have been hugely heavy….who knows, but MrFitzroy loves that fable.)
    Since the Queen’s hat was intended as a bit of a statement of historical shapes taken to a modern conclusion…makes a bit more sense that it was never intended to be fashionable.
    It’s interesting to compare it, in that context, to the “elizabethan” hat she wore for the Jubilee barge event. A hat also not particularly fashionable in the context of the day, but certainly sending a lovely message.

    Is it obvious MrFitzroy LOVES the investiture hat? This event was the first time MrF became aware that there really WAS a Queen of England! Tremendous!
    Here are the original sketches of HM and Princess Anne’s outftits (including the dress worn under the coat by HM…AND Hats — with a great detail view of the back of Anne’s hat!


    • Thank you for this marvelous link. I adore the legend of the gold tennis ball!

      That’s not the only millinery sports ball at this event- I remember seeing photos of this event several years later as a child and thought that from the front view, the Queen’s hat looked like a soccer ball with a cut out for her face. Thankfully, my mother dissuaded me from creating one for myself.

    • Discussion around the 30th anniversary has confirmed the orb in the crown is indeed, a gold-covered table tennis (ping pong) ball! Amazing!
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  10. Egad, that was certainly not the finest day in British millinery history. Of all the Queen’s odd hats (and there are many) this has to be the oddest. But HM did look lovely in cream and the pearl accents on the hat and coat were a nice touch. The Queen Mother’s hat was my favorite of the day. Here is a view of it from above showing how both the upturned brim and crown were both covered with feathers.

    The 3 junior royal ladies’ hats can be seen here, but unfortunately not in detail.

    • Wonderful! Thanks so much for linking to these photos. It looks like the Duchess of Gloucester was in navy feathers, the Duchess of Kent in a pink halo hat and Princess Alexandra of Kent in a mustard yellow hat with white brim. The pink hat seems like a very 1960s silhouette to me but the others are more classic shapes, aren’t they?

  11. This happened 6 years before I was born… But a a child this was one of the events that got me obsessed by royalty. I remember reading that Hartnell thought the Queen should be in ‘one colour, hat to hem’, and this embodies it. You my not like the outfits now, but at the time. They stood out. And that was the point.

  12. I need to qualify my admiration of Princess Anne’s hat… lol! I just watched the video and now I see why it is firmly rooted in the 60s. From the photos, all I could see was a cluster of flowers on the back. 🙂 By the way, I *loved* this post! I’d love to see more Flashbacks.

  13. I don’t care for the Queen’s hat or the droopy bit on Princess Margaret’s hat, but I love the Queen Mother’s and Princess Anne’s hats! I don’t think they look dated at all, but then I’ve only recently been following royal hats.

  14. I am in trouble…I always thought the Queen’s hat had some tradition connected to it. The ear muff part is confusing. Reminded me of the wigs the legals wear. I actually liked the other outfits too. Far better than what we have seen lately. I would rather look at that hat the Queen is wearing than the constant stream of the same thing over and over that we see today. I will never adapt to liking the outfits the York princesses wear.

  15. Styles change, but the Queen’s hat never was in style. I can’t find any angle from which that hat is attractive. The other outfits, while dated now, look like clothes from that era. But the Queen’s hat always has resembled some sort of head bandage.

  16. That is the ugliest hat and the ugliest coronet. In the late ’60s did aliens abduct common sense and style?! And I bet you $5 Anne has that hat in her closet somewhere!

  17. Oh dear. These were trying times. I graduated from High School in 1969 and I remember thinking the Queen’s hat at this event was ludicrous. If a helmet were to have a love child with a pair of earmuffs, this would be the result. It’s awful. As already noted that acid green does the Queen Mother no favours. In fact, it looks like the entire clan wore outfits and colours they would never repeat. I remember people commenting on how forward thinking Lord Snowdon’s “zoot suit” was too. Now he also looks silly.

  18. I remember this well and thinking how out of touch with the times their hats were. HM hat was mistaken by many as being another turban style which she and Princess Grace of Monaco had been wearing in the 60s. Indeed still today HM looks terribly frumpy in this hat!

  19. Well, even Angela Kelly can’t do worse than that “helmet hat” the Queen wore for that investiture. Although, the one for her Diamond Jubliee was a close second. These historical renditions don’t work in my book. I rather liked Princess Margaret’s hat and color assignment. The Queen Mother’s color was horrid. Princess Anne’s was nice for her. Don’t you wonder what the Queen thought when she put that hat on?

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