Remembering A Millinery Great

British milliner Philip Somerville passed away earlier this week at the age of 84. One of the most prolific hat designers during the 1980s and 1990s, Somerville designed hats for Queen Elizabeth, Queen Silvia, Queen Anne-Marie, Princess Diana and numerous other members of the British, Greek, Danish and Dutch royal families. His obituary in the The London Telegraph details his life and beautifully describes the near 30 years he spent making Queen Elizabeth’s hats. While I did not always like his designs, his creativity and millinery craftsmanship are something to be deeply admired.

I thought we would pay tribute to this brilliant man with a look at just a few of the many hats he designed for the Queen. The first, below, was worn in 1988 and the last, at a Buckingham Palace Garden party just a few months ago. This small snapshot into Somerville’s vast talent shows how truly remarkable it was.

Queen Elizabeth, October 17, 1988  Queen Elizabeth, October 1, 1989  Queen Elizabeth, October 14, 1989   Queen Elizabeth, October 15, 1989  Queen Elizabeth, May 17, 1990

Queen Elizabeth, late 1990s in Philip Somerville  Queen Elizabeth, April 8, 1993,   Queen Elizabeth, October 21, 1993  Queen Elizabeth, February 22, 1996  Queen Elizabeth, June 1995

Queen Elizabeth, November 19, 1997 in Philip Somerville | Royal Hats  Queen Elizabeth, February 20, 2002  Queen Elizabeth, February 19, 2002  Queen Elizabeth, October 30, 2003  Queen Elizabeth, October 14, 2004

Queen Elizabeth, March 17, 2006  Queen Elizabeth, January 8, 2004  Queen Elizabeth, October 24, 2006  Queen Elizabeth, June 30, 2007  Queen Elizabeth, November 29, 2007

Queen Elizabeth, June 7, 2008  Queen Elizabeth, June 11, 2009  Queen Elizabeth, June 27, 2011  Queen Elizabeth, June 10, 2014

Photos from Getty, Zimbio and Corbis. Please click on each photo to link to the original photo source which includes a description and date of the event. 

18 thoughts on “Remembering A Millinery Great

  1. I think that his hats moved the Queen into quite a fabulous phase. They don’t all work, but before these, in fact, before the fabulous blue hat at Prince Andrew’s wedding, the Queen was in a hat rut. These show how Philip Somerville moved her out of it. Also, do t forget he made hats or Princess Diana too, and these were fabulous. A shame to see him go.

  2. I have long held the view that the Queen is a bold and adventurous hat wearer. These hats show a wide variety of colours, shapes and materials and sometimes a level of ornamentation that makes Angela Kelly’s efforts look quite subdued and “minimalist”! IMO some lack the absolute elegance and class of Rachel Trevor Morgan’s best efforts but they are never dull and do suit the Queen. However, I think the Queen is still well served by her current milliners although I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these again mixed in with AK’s and RTM’s models. In general I find them preferable to the rather drack ruched calots and burlap bandages favoured by Maxima and Mathilde lately.

  3. I really like how No. 4 frames the Queen’s face. I’ve always thought that style of hat, which I would describe as a picture hat, is most attractive on her. I wish she wore them more often. And I love the deep, all over blue in look No. 18.

    • I agree christinecarson2014, hats No. 4 and No. 18 are my favorites here. Overall, I don’t really like most of the hats Philip Somerville designed for royals. However, I do appreciate the enormous challenge of designing hats for such famous, demanding, widely photographed women.

  4. Lovely tribute and loved seeing a selection of the hats made for the Queen. i am quite fond of the mint green one second row left. Appreciate all the work involved assembling that collection. Thank you.

  5. Thankyou for doing this feature on the work of Mr Somerville and including the obituary from The Telegraph. My personal favourite is the pert little dark purple one, extreme right. Amazing colour and good size. Love it. Actually when I look at these hats, they are all very well proportioned. Interesting what he said about the hats being worn frequently and getting worn out. Well done on an illustrious career.

  6. I am not a milliner, I am a mannequin head artist (…however, I do realize how how talented Mr Sommerville was to successfully design the many many hats he did for the Queen, having to stay within her conservative requirements. His designs always complimented her face and fashion….always in good taste.

      • i wouldn’t call it a favourite, a bit halloweenish due to the colourcombination, which, however, suits her majesty rather well (i would love to see a full shot of the coat!).

        but this creation is certainly an eye-catcher and reminds me of a slightly mis-placed captain’s hat. the old shanty ‘what shall we do with a drunken sailor’ springs to mind.

        not all these hats i do find breathtakingly spectacular, but like another poster said, they all suit the wearer very well and after all, that’s what counts. obviously QEII was content with this gentleman’s efforts, given the long period of time he worked for her.

        may he rest in peace.

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