Carrying Hats Into Royal Life

 Reader Matthew recently asked, “Are there any occasions anyone can recall where a new royal bride wore hats for official appearances that she already owned in her non-royal life?”

Good question, Matthew! For the purpose of clarity, I’m going to consider “non-royal life” as everything before the royal engagement!

A quick survey of continental European royals has brought few examples, likely because hat wearing beyond casual or sporting designs in mainstream European culture is not common. Aside from Princess Mette-Marit repeating a navy knit ski hat, Sophia Helqvist borrowing one of Crown Princess Victoria’s hats for Princess Lilian’s funeral and Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy borrowing one of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa’s hats for Princess Estelle’s christening in May 2012 (neither which has been repeated, so they don’t really count!), I’ve only come up with one such repeat:

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Black textured straw hat with lace trim worn Nov 5, 2002 to the Melbourne cup and again in Aarhus, Jul 26, 2004

In the UK, however, where hats are more commonly worn for weddings and other events (and several multi-year courtships saw royal girlfriends attend public events), I’ve come up with a few hats worn by royal brides both before their engagements and after their marriages:

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Tall brown felt hat with burgundy velvet trim worn Nov 20, 1997 and Jan 31, 2003

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Chocolate felt hat with faux fur brim from Lock & Co. worn Dec 8, 2002 and Mar 14, 2012

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Black felt Philip Treacy sidesweep with signature bow worn Dec 15, 2006 and Nov 12, 2017

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Ecru straw wide brimmed Philip Treacy design with feathers worn June 2, 2003 and June 9, 2005

OK magazine reported in this article last weekend that the Duchess of Sussex had brought her much worn Madewell fedora into her royal life, incorrectly citing its appearance at Wimbledon. The panama Meghan actually wore to Wimbledon was a finer quality hat from French millinery brand Maison Michel- the Virginie design.

I thus appeal to the marvelous millinery memories of you, dearest readers- can you remember a royal bride bringing a hat from her pre-engagement life forward into her royal one? I imagine these two Philip Treacy designs, worn in 2003 and 2004 by the then Camilla Parker Bowles, were repeated at some point…
Embed from Getty Images  June 1, 2004 in PT | Royal Hats
Photos from Getty as indicated; and Getty Images

5 thoughts on “Carrying Hats Into Royal Life

  1. HatQueen, thank you, it’s so nice of you to remember this! I went back to my “Diana File”, she being the royal whose wardrobe I know best, and I only have one photo of her in a hat before her engagement, which I cannot find repeated afterwards, though she did continue to wear quite a few of her old clothes that first year, especially coats.

    I did ask the question out of genuine curiosity, and will continue to search, and perhaps others will also find examples.

    • It’s an interesting question! Diana wore a few hats during her engagement (Soames wedding, Ascot, BP garden Party) that all were just before the wedding, and at royal (or almost royal!)- not something to count as a ‘pre-royal life’ event.

      • You are correct, HatQueen, that the hats Diana wore during her engagement were all new — even before the internet, there was obsessive interest in everything about her, and her hats were particularly well-documented. The one pre-engagement hat I’m referring to appears in a photo (I think just someone’s personal photo that’s floating around the internet so I can’t link it here) labeled “Coleherne Court” which is where she lived from 1979 to her engagement. It’s a very small boater, sort of beige, probably straw, with a narrow blue hatband that is shiny, so possibly just plain ribbon. The outfit must have been one she liked, because she continued to wear it for several more years, but the hat never appeared again. If you want to see it, it’s the first photo in my “Diana 1981 pre-wedding” board on Pinterest, id=matthew951. (If you click on the pin, you’ll get to a much larger version of it on the blog the pin came from.)

        I’m actually surprised that there aren’t more photos of Diana in pre-engagement hats — I would have thought at least weddings or garden parties, since her family was part of the aristocracy. The only thing I can think of is that she was only 19 when she got engaged, and maybe in those days was not yet considered old enough to require a hat, or alternatively, since her parents were divorced at a time when that was still considered to be a society no-no, maybe the family wasn’t invited to a lot of those type of events. Just speculation on my part.

  2. I believe the Duchess of Cambridge also wore a brown fur hat before & after her marriage. I don’t have a photo or event to cite but it’s a Lara (from Dr. Zhivago) style. My recollection is that the first time she wore it was with a long, camel-coloured coat, which was later shortened.

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