Queen Elizabeth’s Biggest Bows

Two weeks ago, we enjoyed a lively discussion here about the largest brimmed hats we have seen Queen Elizabeth wear. Following a cheeky reader suggestion (thanks, Matthew!), we’re going to dive into debate again today, this time over which is the biggest bow to top one of Her Majesty’s hats.

Here are a few of the major bows that pop out in my mind:

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Blue  straw and silk Aage Thaarup design worn 1980 in Morocco

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Patterned pillbox in August 1985; arriving in Spain Oct 17, 1988 in a blue Philip Somerville saucer

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“Bows At the Back” on a pink design June 18, 1998 at Ascot and yellow in November 1999

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Black straw & white silk confection by Philip Somerville last worn April 25, 2015;
patriotic blue and red Rachel Trevor Morgan design last worn in Scotland in 2016

However, I think the one to top will be the red velvet bow on the bonnet she wore for Prince Charles’ christening on December 15, 1948. When it comes to millinery embellishments, it’s a whopper topper.

Dec 15, 1948 | Royal Hats

I turn this quest now over to you, dearest readers, to bring on the bows. What other large bows have topped Queen Elizabeth’s hats? Is the one bigger than this?

**A gentle reminder to please share links to original sources. Pinterest and Google images links will be deleted.

Photos from Sterling Henry Nahum via the National Portrait Gallery and Getty as indicated

57 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth’s Biggest Bows

    • I seem to remember a photo of her not wearing a hat for Andrew – but I’m sure if you Google you’ll find some other pictures !!☺

      • Can hat queen or anyone offer an explanation as to why (in a hat wearing period) she would not wear them to the Christenings. A significant event. Also prince Charles also took place in the palace so it’s not for Church reasons and all Christenings were private family/friends events so that’s not reason either?! But then for all grand/great grandchildren they were hatted events?

  1. This is not the largest bow, but it should be included in this menagerie of headgear.

    June 24, 2015; Berlin
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    HQ, your next tutorial could be on cropping photos, to remove unwanted people or things. Just an idea. We’re all learning a lot here.

  2. Malta, 2005 and a trio of hats to conjure with Ascot, 1991.
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    Impossible to tell if this is a bow at the back or if it just spirals off into polka-dot madness. The hat by Marie O’Regan was worn in Hungary in 1993 (this was the same tour that saw the pixie-twirl pith helmet from the large brim collection); Kalgoorlie, Australia, 1954.
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  3. 2015, London

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  4. Frederick Fox hat, from 1989, worn in Singapore

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    2011, Kildare, Ireland, there’s a lot going on but it looks quite pretty nonetheless:

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    2014, London, an almost-bow by Philip Somerville

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  5. How to dress your Queen to look like a chocolate box. 2007 Epsom Derby,

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  6. I’m sorry I can’t resize the images, HQ. Maybe you could give us a tutorial on how you make a ‘photo album’.

    Anyway, I’m entering this hat because I reckon the non-brim is supposed to be like a giant bow (shudders). Worn at the start of her Golden Jubilee Tour in Falmouth, 2002.

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    • On my lovely Queen … this looks SO wrong !! maybe she bumped it getting out of the car ! …. but I digress I’m supposed to be talking about bows …. that one looks like twisty adornment to me not really a bow 😉

    • Resizing tutorial- here’s how to resize an image from Getty.

      Copy the embed code of the photo you want to embed. For this photo, the embed code looks like this with brackets on either end (I left them out to prevent the code from embedding!):

      a id=’KBTjaWSoRAVO8RdUXu2Ggw’ class=’gie-single’ href=’http://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/52101643′ target=’_blank’ style=’color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;’>Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’KBTjaWSoRAVO8RdUXu2Ggw’,sig:’tM07MyzjByPILwoHGGZWIfOtoxjf37hwrlnx0mhTQmA=’,w:’418px’,h:’594px’,items:’52101643′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});</script

      Near the end of the code, the width and height pixel size is listed as follows: ",w:'418px',h:'594px" Before you publish your comment, change the pixel size (either width or height) to change the size of the image that embeds. I find a height of 400 pixels is a good size for page loading speed and for visibility. For a horizontal photo, a width of 450 pixels works well.

      Once you change the pixel size, you can publish the comment. For photos in a row, just post the next photo's embedded code after the first one, leaving a space in between the two photo codes.

      Does this help?

  7. A knot/bow and a stylised bow

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    • A knotty/messy bow, Ascot races, 2000:

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  8. I suspect she has had a number of hats with bows at the back, while we generally see her photographed from the front.

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  9. Oh, such a lovely selection if photos – and to think that blue-and-white side bow, below and above brim started it all! Well done HQ and everyone else. As I’m so late to the fun, I’m cheating slightly:

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    The Queen at Chelsea Flower Show in the hairnet arrangement she has used for decades.

  10. What a fun post! What’s next — over the top floral trims? Anyway, I think the black and white Phillip Somerville is the most successful of these. The 1998 pink and 1999 yellow are not bad. Maybe some bows are better seen going than coming.

  11. MrFitzroy’s personal bowed favorite, the pink, soft serve ice cream, swirl — complete with giant bow accent!

  12. Thank you for posting the photos for me HQ … I can’t do that bit !! 😕 funny how one looks navy blue and the other royal blue ! (unless it’s just my monitor !))

  13. Here are a few more:

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  14. April 21, 1989 – HM’s birthday at Powis Castle, in Wales.
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    • I’m not fond of the ones where the bow is sort of saggy and laying down, as if the ironing lady forgot to use starch! #22 is great, though — “Because sometimes, one bow just isn’t enough.”

    • Here are the two you have referred to, Nonie. The purple one is by Philip Somerville and I suspect the blue and white one is as well.

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          • OMG, if I had to wear a hat like that, I think I would have that facial expression as well! Definitely not among my favorite Somervilles. (But thanks, HatQueen, for finding the photos!)

  15. I like the patterned pillbox, rather to my surprise. The Somerville saucer puts me in mind of some of the Princess Royal’s hats, or perhaps it’s the queen’s expression.

  16. June 22, 2001 Royal Ascot
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    June 29, 2010 Halifax, Canada
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  17. “Whopper topper”. HA!!!! It’s a huge bow on that christening hat but I like it. The 90s bows on the back of the hats are SO bad!

    • Janae, the bow in the front isn’t too much better! Kinda dweeby!

      October, 11, 2010
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  18. I’ll start with the bow to end ALL bows, from November 26, 2009 Bermuda. More are forthcoming when time allows.

  19. The black and white Philip Somerville was last worn on April 25, 2015 at the Gallipoli centenary observations. Original post is here (not linked above): https://royalhats.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/british-royals-commemorate-anzac-day-and-gallipoli-centennary/
    In that post, it is noted that the hat was previously worn in 2008 on a trip to Slovakia, so clearly a favorite and less a “bow fad of the moment” than some other bow hats on various royals sometimes are. This hat, matched with the black coat, seems appropriate for occasions when a serious or somber tone needs to be set without being positively funereal.

    This array of photos leads me to realize how many more aspects of a hat bow need to be evaluated than just the size and type of the two loops!

  20. Hi i am a longtime reader but this is my first time commenting.
    Bows are perhaps my all time favourite millinery embellishment and I love that yellow Ascot hat on Her Maj. Its delicate and feminine and suites her very well

  21. I really like the patterned pillbox. I’d wear it! 😉 As to a few of the others, my mom always taught me that if I didn’t have something nice to say, I should say nothing at all.

    • The Somerville saucer is “interesting.” I wonder if it might look more attractive placed lower on the forehead or with a different hairdo.

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