British Royals Celebrate Christmas: Part 1

The British Royal Family started Christmas Day as they do each year by attending a service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in close to the Sandringham estate. After missing this tradition last year due to illness, Queen Elizabeth was back in fine form this year in a new hat. In orange straw covered in the same orange silk wool crepe as its accompanying coat, the design features rounded lines in a gently upswept brim and flared crown. The hat is trimmed with a brown straw bow and white tipped orange silk magnolia blossoms.

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It’s a good hat- the scale is great and I really like the visible straw on the upper side of the brim. The trim is well balanced and placed with a restrained hand, making even the twiggy bits look relevant and refined. Pumpkin orange, however, is not my favourite colour on Her Majesty and there’s a LOT of it here. Back in 2013, Queen Elizabeth wore another orange ensemble on Christmas Day, one that seemed a whole lot more festive and suited to the season.

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Designer: Angela Kelly
Previously Worn: This hat is new
The Duchess of Cornwall wore the brightest hued ensemble of the day, fulfilling my long held wish that she add a red design to her hat closet. In one of her go-to millinery shapes, this piece features a ruched wool crown and faux fur wide cuffed brim. The raspberry hued hat and coat are clearly made to coordinate and the black trim on both pieces adds sharply high contrasting punch. The crown on this hat also seems to be more rigidly pleated than it’s slouchier twins, something that makes it more polished and less Paddington.


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Designer: Lock and Co. 
Previously Worn: This hat is new
Duchess of Cambridge also was in a new hat yesterday, a black twin to the pale grey alpacca hat she debuted at the start of this year. It’s not my favourite style on Kate although I concede it’s a nice change from her usual perchers and upswept brimmed designs and it’s wonderful to see her experiment with new styles. With her plaid coat, the hat makes for a wintry and decidedly Christmassy ensemble. Between the hat and the coat, I prefer the hat.

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Designer: Peruvian Connection. It is the Vallnord Alpaca Fur hat
Previously Worn: This hat is new
This event saw something we’ve all been waiting for- the inaugural hat from the family’s newest soon-to-be member, Meghan Markle. She turned to the most prolific of all contemporary royal hat designers, Philip Treacy, for the design. In dark caramel felt, the hat follows the helmet/beret shape seen several times in Treacy’s 2018 Winter Collection. The bulbous shape of the hat is contrasted with a simple felt twist as trim. 

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I’ll admit- this hat surprised me. It is a bolder, edgier shape than I thought Meghan would choose for her first item of millinery – one that certainly won’t suit everyone (or be to everyone’s taste) and that requires some confidence to pull off. The colour is lovely against her complexion and reads neutral in larger group photos, a choice I suspect was deliberate for this first public outing with the extended family. With her warm brown boots, gloves and purse, the hat topped a coordinated but interesting outfit that looks pulled together without being overly matched. It’s a very strong millinery first step for Meghan that leaves me eagerly awaiting what we’ll see her in next.

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Designer: Philip Treacy
Previously Worn: This hat is new
The first four hats for the British royal women are all new designs – all, I think, with significant merit. Let’s dig in, dearest readers- I want to hear about what you liked and didn’t like about each one!
Photos from Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock; and Getty as indicated

47 thoughts on “British Royals Celebrate Christmas: Part 1

  1. Slowly but surely catching up!

    I was very excited to see this new hat and ensemble for HM! I think this shade of orange is fantastic for HM, and it’s nice to see a new color on her over the age of 90. The floral and twig trim is also done well. The one thing I’m not a huge fan of is the shade of blue on HM’s dress; I think a cobalt or more true blue would’ve been a better choice.

    It’s so nice to see Camilla experimenting with some color, and I think this fuchsia/cerise is a good one for her, but I’m not so thrilled to see this hat shape out again. Ah, well, this coat has potential for many more hat pairings, and I’m just glad to see a new color for her.

    This alpaca hat is not my favorite shape ever for Kate, but she wears it well, and I can certainly attest to the fact alpaca is very warm and much softer than wool (especially this hat!). But I agree with HatQueen that I much prefer the hat; the coat seems a little too themed for my tastes, and just doesn’t vibe very well with her hat for some reason.

    Meghan’s royal hat premiere was very much a success in my opinion! She chose a well-recognized milliner, but kept it simple, knowing we would all be on the lookout for her regardless. I’m looking forward to much more from her!

    I’m also disappointed to see no hats for the royal men, especially as more stylish and structured hats seem to be making more of a comeback for men here in the U.S. But concerning Harry’s outfit, the brighter shade of blue is definitely more modern (as is his slightly shorter overcoat), but both are very acceptable to me, as my main overcoat is the same length and I have a suit in a very similar shade of blue. I do agree that gloves would’ve been better visually rather than having the pockets be wonky after sticking his hands in them.

    Overall though a successful Christmas outing from this group, especially with HM back in fine form and the (almost) newest member making her premiere at this event!

  2. I have been away since Tuesday, in the FREEZING Cleveland climes, and there’s a lot to comment on the Christmas morning outing. I hope everyone has not moved on to the next topic of discussion yet. Next week, I’m headed for Ft. Lauderdale to thaw out!
    1. Coats and hats in church. Watch what happens at 1:10 with Harry and Philip. The vestibule is perhaps too small a space to remove heavy outerwear without some mishap. Years ago, being in a hurry, I charged through a doorway whilst putting my necktie on. I banged into both sides of the door frame with my elbows, and had severe bruises for weeks! Afterward, Mrs. Jimbo made a well deserved comment something to the effect that I must have been absent on the day the Good Lord was passing out intelligence! Ouch again.

    2. Harry’s coat length. As was Peter’s, is it safe to assume that younger men wear shorter coats these days? I personally prefer the longer coats, since my thighs get cold also, but they both looked very nice. What would have added insult to injury, IMO, would have been the choice of brown shoes with the medium blue (steel blue?) suit. I don’t care for brown shoes with blue or grey suits, which is very prevalent today among younger men. Harry wore black shoes, which I find much more satisfying to the eye.

    3. Balding pates. Being in the “follically challenged club” for years now, I wear hats year round, whether for warmth or for protection. Seeing all the hatless men trudging down the Sandringham path every year makes me wonder if in fact it’s more than a coincidence. Perhaps there is no place to put them once inside, except on their laps. Perhaps they want to be more visible to the crowd outside. (I doubt this theory.) I can vividly picture in my mind going to church as a 5 year lad, and seeing all the men’s hats lined up on the window sill, year round. As a little kid, my mind wandered during Mass (imagine not being drawn into the Latin and incense!) and I oftened wanted to go and switch all the hats around, so chaos would ensue. Anything the priest had just preached about “peace on earth, good will toward men” would have gone straight out the window, BEFORE the weekly riot ensued in the parking lot to get out first, so as to get a good table at Bob Evan’s.

    4. Queen Elizabeth. Never one to “blend in,” she looked great. LOTS of orange to be sure.
    5. Camilla. Great color and she looked cozy and warm.
    6. Kate. I loved that furry look, but immediately thought of a comment Matthew made recently about static electricity upon removal of the hat.
    7. Meghan. Great first outing which blended with her beautiful complexion. Smart girl not to upstage the boss!
    8. I need another cup of coffee!

    • As always, Jimbo, the conversation was incomplete without you! I adore the photo of the hats lined up on the windowsill. And your mental picture of congregants rushing out to Bob Evans. So true!

    • Welcome back, Jimbo, you were certainly missed! Was Cleveland also hit by that massive snowstorm that has buried Erie, PA? From your northern perspective, you will most likely find Ft. Lauderdale quite comfortable in the coming week, but I must say that those of us who live in Florida fulltime have been pulling our surviving winter clothing out of storage!

      Love your photo of the hats lined up on the windowsill, and I agree with you about the brown shoes.

  3. May I ask a question not specifically related to this group of hats? Having never been in a British church in the winter, I’ve often wondered about this. Every Christmas, and on other winter occasions that involve church services, we see the British royals going to church bundled up against the cold, and we never see what was under those coats, or the women with the hats removed. Do they sit through the entire service in coats and hats? Is this because British churches are unheated? Or do they remove their coats and hats but it’s considered bad form for photographs to be taken during church services? I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I’m seriously curious about this.

    • It’s standard practice for a woman to leave her hat on for church. I strongly suspect coats remain on as well because stone churches tend to be cold!

      In my experience, men’s hats are removed for church. Perhaps Jimbo, Jake or ChicagoChuck can speak to this more?

      • HQ, you have the hat-wearing etiquette correct of course. Women are allowed/expected to keep their hats on in church, men should remove their hats. In most churches I’ve been in there is a vestibule or narthex where a coat rack might be found, but not always. The small chapel at Sandringham might very well not have much of a narthex, hence requiring folks to keep their coats either on or with them. And, as you say, those old stone churches aren’t known for being toasty warm (or cool in the Summer).

        I’ve personally witnessed the queen keep her hat and coat on in St George’s Chapel. This was in mid-Spring so she was wearing her usual “uniform” of dress, coat, and hat. As I recall the Duke of Edinburgh might have kept his top coat on as well, even when reading one of the lessons. Interestingly, at a reception held after the St George’s service in Windsor Castle the queen had removed her hat. My summation of that was, she is home so took off her hat when she arrived at home. Had she gone into any other reception room she would likely have kept her hat on.

        I’ve also personally attended a different service in St George’s where I had a hat, as did my partner. We both put our hats under our chair during the service. And in other church services I’ve either put my hat on a rack in the narthex, if there is one, or kept it with me in the pew.

      • Thanks for the replies, HatQueen and ChicagoChuck! My observation in U.S. churches (totally on the east coast) has been a little different — in some churches, women wear hats and in others, they don’t, and it seems to be just whatever is the custom for that particular church, but I would say that even in the ones where hats are commonly worn, they usually seem to be decorative hats (such as Beatrice and Eugenie were wearing) rather than hats for warmth (such as worn by Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge). The warm furry or snuggly hats are usually removed and left with the coats. But I will admit that all of the churches I have ever been in (aside from the old stone ones as a tourist) have been modern well-heated buildings where wearing the coat inside was not necessary!

        But I do agree with ChicagoChuck that men always remove their hats — I can’t recall ever seeing a man wearing his hat during a church service even in winter.

        • Yes, traditionally women kept their hats on if they were outside of the house (especially in a place like church, which was often the place to debut a new hat for all to see haha), while men would usually remove them once they were inside somewhere (a simple search for “hat etiquette” should bring up the traditional rules). Of course, the rules and etiquette have been relaxed in the last few decades, especially for men; I will keep my fedoras or caps on inside restaurants, etc. if I feel like it. But I never wear my hats during a church service (although I’m most likely to be seen in a hat going to church), and only once or twice have personally witnessed guys wearing a hat in church (these being men who are balding, and I would suppose they are trying to stay warm); at the same time, I’m all for more hats being worn, and if someone wants to wear a hat in church, I won’t stop them! 🙂 Also, based on my experiences in UK churches, they are not heated and when it’s colder everyone keeps their coats on, or at least they layer more.

  4. What a feast of great hats for Christmas Day 2017!
    HM: Fabulous hat. Ditto the whole outfit. I agree that orange is not HM’s best colour, but if orange has to happen, this is the way to do it for HM– sharp and clear, with not a trace of burnt ochre about it. Love it.
    Camilla: Nothing lowkey about this hat (and outfit), it’s a big fairytale statement evoking a winter wonderland of snowy steppes and sleigh bells. Love it.
    Catherine: Is it just the glow of pregnancy? Catherine looks positively radiant in this hat, which, in a different way to Camilla’s, also has a romantic “snow queen” feel. It may be simple, but it suits her height and proportions well and provides a perfect foil to that gorgeous tartan. Big and fabulous.
    Meghan Markle: 11/10. I looove this Philip Treacy hat; and the coat may be the first wrap-style coat I’ve ever seen which doesn’t look like a dressing gown! Bonus points for the gloves, fabulous bag and boots. ( Ok, I know the boots don’t fit well, but with so much else that is right, I dont mind 🙂 ) This is an awesomely on point maiden hat appearance from Ms Markle; and she could not make a better choice than Philip Treacy..
    Like Queen Letizia, Meghan’s years in television mean that she is already familiar with working under the guidance of a stylist and hair and makeup artists; and through her contacts in the media, she may well have access to more sophisticated styling advice than we might expect a newcomer to royalty to have. I hope this hat (and outfit) are a taste of more fine things to come!

      • AU CURRANT? What on earth is that? Perhaps you wished to use the French expression AU COURANT, but in no way could it be used to describe a fashion trend. I leave you to look up its precise meaning in your dictionary.
        And please don’t take time out to thank me. I am glad to be of service!

        • Or, George, it is possible that HatQueen was referring to a future time when fashionable hats will be trimmed with pieces of fruit, Carmen Miranda-style, instead of flowers and feathers!

        • Not to belabor the point but here is Merriam-Webster’s definition (note definition b): Definition of au courant

          1 a : fully informed : up-to-date trying to stay au courant
          b : fashionable, stylish au courant outfits

          HQ, while your spelling was a bit off, your usage was spot on it seems to me. But what do I know? Happy New Year everyone!

  5. I had expected that Meghan would not wear a hat so was pleasantly surprised. I think her outfit is the most well put together of all the royal ladies, the hat together with the other accessories complement each other and her. coat. This is the first outfit Meghan has worn in her short Royal life to date that I have liked and thought stylish and appropriate. Whilst I personally I don’t like her hat that much & agree with other it seems to large for her petite frame I applaud her for wearing this edgy but stylish hat.

  6. My first thought when I saw the Queen was that she must have got a deal on orange fabric. I loved Kate because a tartan coat will always get my vote. Camilla looked nice. A nice first effort for Meghan. It was a tad self conscious, but had a right to be. It will be interesting to watch further developments. On the whole this year’s hats have been unexciting.

  7. Like many, I was very surprised by the shocking orange of Her Majesty’s hat and coat. I don’t mind the color but what I do mind is the fact that there was some brown trim on the hat and the coat buttons were also bronze/brown but then she wore black gloves and shoes. Sorry, Your Majesty, I just can’t get around that!

    I think Meghan’s first hat outing was very, very good. Stylish without being crazy, simple color palette that didn’t scream out. Very nice!

    Can someone please purchase some hats for the gentlemen?!?! As a balding man myself, those poor guys with their thinning or almost non-existent hair need a head covering. Especially since they are walking a bit of distance from the house to the church and back. What a great opportunity that was missed for some nice gentlemen’s chapeaux.

    Lastly, a bit off topic but related – Prince Harry’s top coat was much too short for him. It is probably a style that is meant to be worn that short but, I’m sorry, it just didn’t look good. It looked to me like he tried to wear a coat that he’s really grown out of but likes so he wore it anyway. And I’m really not a fan of the blah grey of the coat. Take some lessons from your grandfather, Prince Harry. The Duke of Edinburgh’s coat was formal enough for the occasion but had a nice touch of country gentleman with the color and styling (but he did need a hat!)

    • On what was clearly a chilly day, it is rather surprising not to see any of the men in hats. Surely, there would be somewhere to place them in the church (even on one’s lap, if necessary). There have been so few men’s hats this year that it’s not worth us polling them to find a favourite. So sad.

      • I agree with you HatQueen. So sad that the men are not wearing hats, specially in the winter in England. When a man “gets a little thin on top”, which is the way my husband used to describe his balding pate, a nice fedora or trilby makes a huge difference in their appearance. Prince Edward and Prince William could use a little cover up in these situations as could Prince Philip!

  8. That’s a lot of orange in HM, but as Halloween isn’t such a big thing here, it doesn’t read as season inappropriate to me at all. I rather like it in fact.

    Meghan has got off to a cracking hat wearing start. I like this look a lot, the browns combine to make a very luxurious looking outfit. Kate looks good too, but I’m not loving the hat.

    Camilla – I love the colours, I just wish she’d gkne for a more structured hat for the coat, but weve all made our feelings known on these showerproof hats (I always imagine her wearing them in the shower, which makes me laugh!)

  9. I like Cams in her hat/coat set. Not too sure about Meghan’s hat – I want to like it, but it seems too big on her head perhaps. Maybe it’s just too over done of a fashion statement for the event. This is more about country genteel looks. I like Kate’s new hat. I really like her new coat.

  10. The Queen’s hat is very nice but my goodness that’s an ORANGE outfit! Might have been nice with a touch of teal on it as per the glimpse of her dress. Camilla’s hat and coat are spot on and I love this colour. Kate’s hat is beautiful for winter and the plaid of her coat is very nice, but … I wish the coat was longer so she could wear boots, and I wish she’d get over the double brass button thing (also the small buttons on her hips, what?). Megan’s choices are spot on. Lovely coat and hat in a colour that suits her. Classy without shouting. Good job.

  11. I share the reverse opinion with you, Hat Queen. Kate’s hat looks toasty warm, which is nice, but doesn’t wow me. Her coat, however, is delicious, but then I have a penchant for plaid. I love the traditional Christmas colors, a black velvet collar is festive for the season – a hint of a velvet Christmas dress. The gold buttons evoke a nice military feel, like a Nutcracker. And the back band and pleat are lovely.

    Although I realize we’re supposed to focus on the hats here, coat and hat make the whole ensemble. But now, having said the above, I think the hat is also a nod to a Russian Winter, so all in all, perfect outfit!

  12. These hats are all fine, quite typical for the Queen and Duchess Camilla. Duchess Kate also stuck with traditional and her whole outfit is my favorite— seasonally appropriate, well tailored, plush materials, everything perfect and beautiful. I too applaud Meghan for her “bold, edgy” hat (even though it is too bulbous for my taste). She is not timid and that bodes well for hat watching enjoyment in the years to come. I do think the kind of architectural style of the hat and her purse offset the slouchy boots and loose coat for the better. With a traditional soft beret it would have all been too casual maybe.

  13. I like the hats of the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge. Nice color for the Duchess of Cornwall. I’m disappointed with Meghan. I think her hat is big on her head and wish if it was a bit smaller.

  14. I have a slightly off-topic question for the Hat Queen and our British readers: Prince Harry wore a medium blue suit both for the Christmas Day service and for his engagement photos. In the United States, medium blue is considered a more casual color for men’s suits. For these two occasions, in the United States, a gentleman would have worn dark blue, medium or dark grey, or black. Is this a difference in custom in Britain from the United States or is Prince Harry venturing out of what is expected? Thanks.

    • Here in Canada, young men wear suits of all colours for even formal engagements. Among his contemporaries, I don’t think Prince Harry’s suit would be considered casual here.

      • Dear Hat Queen, I did not know you were Canadian! I also am Canadian, so delighted to make your acquaintance. Just to add to this thread, my husband is a lawyer, and is able to wear to work suits of any colour, including brown. I recall reading in several places that in the UK, among the upper crust “brown is not worn in town,” that is, it is reserved for country wear. So suit colour may well be a slightly different cultural norm from North America to the UK. I, too, think Prince Harry’s suit colour is fine. However, I wish he had worn gloves so he did not have to jam his hands into his coat pockets. The pocket flaps were quite rumpled in several photos, and it really did spoil the line. I echo those above who wish that the gentlemen had worn hats.

        • So fun to meet another royal hat admiring Canadian, Lady Anne! Interesting that in law, one area where I would suspect more traditional dress codes have hung on, suits in any colour are fine. Can one of our UK readers (where are you JamesB ?!) comment on suit colour suitability over the pond?

    • I respectfully disagree with you Christina. A medium blue suit is perfectly appropriate for the occasions you mention. I believe on both occasions Prince Harry wore a white shirt and simple blue tie. That’s pretty formal as an ensemble.

      I live and was born in the US and, sadly, we’d be lucky to see a young man in any color suit here. The sartorial trends in the US are horrible. Business casual (whatever that is) for virtually all work situations and don’t even get me started on what men of Prince Harry’s age wear to weddings and funerals.

      • Thank you for your comments, ChicagoChuck. Perhaps I’ve spend too much time in Washington, D.C. I completely agree with you on sartorial trends. And please don’t get me started on patent leather shoes in the winter and the length of young women’s dresses and shirts at religious functions. I suspect we agree more than we disagree.

  15. I do like the Queen’s hat, I think the trim is well done, it’s large enough to make an impact (sometimes the trim is a bit small and fiddly.)

    Camilla’s hat and coat look shocking pink to me, not red at all… However, I do like the colour and the outfit as a whole. It isn’t a style of hat that I’m fond of, but I think it does suit this kind of formally-informal event (ie a public appearance in winter but not a proper engagement). The same is true of Kate’s hat, it looks good in this context.

    I really like Meghan’s hat, and I think she chose extremely well. It’s an interesting hat, but the neutral colour ensured that she couldn’t be accused of trying to steal the limelight.

  16. I admit that the orange color the Queen wore was not the best color for her, but I did like the hat. Kate and Camilla looked wonderful, and Meghan’s hat isn’t one I would wear, but she carried it off well. It looks better in videos than in the photos. Sophie wore a fascinator and a long burgundy coat dress. She looked amazing, but it was more dress than coat, and didn’t look warm enough. I saw pictures at What Kate Wore, so I did see some of the younger royals.

  17. I thought The Queen looked wonderful. The hat embellishments were “just enough.” The Duchess of Cambridge looks very “Christmasy,” but I prefer her in a percher than that style of hat. Ms Markle looked very nice. I adore her coat and handbag, and the hat was modern and stylish. I’m not a fan of how bulbous the hat is, but she pulls it off very well.

    • I am putting my comments in here because I have to swim against the tide and agree with Shanon… I think her Majesty looks Outstanding. Yes, thats a lot of pumpkin orange as you call it HQ but I LOVE IT!! Only QE2 could carry it off and I think she does so with ease and magnificence. Brilliant. I also liked Camilla’s bright ensemble too, the stiffer crown works much better. Not a real fan of Catherines hat but like it way better than the grey one from earlier this year. That only leaves Meghan…my children had a field day with this one…gumnut, malteser….you get the idea but I actually quite liked it…it suited her cheerful personality I thought and the colour was fab on her. She looked apprehensive I thought, in contrast to her first outings and I would love to have someone lipread what tips the other 3 were giving her as they waited for HM to depart!! A very enjoyable showing overall. Thanks.

  18. I’ll dig in with a “wow”to Meghan Markle’s caramel-colored beret. I really like it. Duchess of Cambridge seems as though ahe’s going for warmth on what was described as a “chilly”day. Both the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall added some bright color to the festive season.

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