Guest Post: Cultural Millinery Part 1

I’m pleased to welcome back New Zealand reader Sandra to Royal Hats again. Sandra has prepared a 3-part series on a category of royal hats we don’t often discuss. Welcome, Sandra!

We’re so used to seeing the best of millinery craft on royal heads but there are occasions when a conventional hat simply won’t do, isn’t appropriate or when a local hat has been gifted. Excluding ‘diplomatic dressing’, here’s a selection of how some royals, male and female, have met the occasion.

Queen Elizabeth in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in 1979. She pinned the turban’s long scarf with the beautiful sapphire and diamond Prince Albert Brooch, given by the groom in 1840 to his bride, Queen Victoria, the day before their wedding. This is the darker of two blue turban-style hats she wore on this trip with long daytime dresses.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

I feel that someone in Dubai was taking very close note of this 1979 outfit worn in Kuwait … someone who would go on to design the stewardess outfits for the Emirates airline. 

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The Dutch are a nation of pragmatists so it’s no surprise that Queen Beatrix took a no-fuss approach during a mosque visit in Abu Dhabi in 2011 – she simply donned a cloak, perhaps provided on site, and tied a scarf over one of her trademark ‘cake’ hats. Done!

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And again, this time in Oman in 2012 (I love Maxima’s entire outfit but particularly her shoes).

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth did something similar for her visit to The United Arab Emirates in 2010. The dress and pillbox hat she wore to step off the plane were designed with a matching embroidered coat and veil that attached to the hat she put on when she and Prince Philip visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

How diplomatic is it to wear a hat with echoes of a nation’s colonial past when one is a member of the former overlords? Perhaps the Duchess of Cornwall, pictured in India in 2006, is wearing this pith helmet sunhat with irony, or even in a post-modern conceptual way!

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

And proving that context is everything, I don’t find the same hat so disconcerting on this outing in Egypt on the same tour. Don’t you love the battered brim of Charles’ hat? I can imagine this might be his gardening hat at Highgrove!

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Thanks Sandra! This brings to mind another hat worn by Queen Beatrix. When she visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on March 1, 2007, her hat choice was not only blue, but one decorated with crescents all the way around the brim (the crescent a widely used symbol of the Ottoman Empire and, by extension, Islam).

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series tomorrow!. 

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Cultural Millinery Part 1

  1. Thanks Sandra, and looking forward to the next parts in this series!

    I’ve always loved how Beatrix looked in her cake hats wrapped in a scarf; elegant and occasion-appropriate, yet I think it suits her so well she could wear it anytime, anywhere. Not a huge fan of HM’s white and gold pillbox by itself, but adding the scarf and coat make a world of difference.

    And I suspect Camilla’s hat has that ridge in the middle to make it packable; I have a panama straw hat in what they call the “optimo” shape, which features a center ridge (though not quite as prominent as Camilla’s) which allows it to be folded in half and then rolled up (although I never do in fear of damaging it). The comparison with a pith helmet makes perfect sense, but is unfortunate at the same time due to colonial connections.

  2. QEII in the cobalt blue is one of her iconic outfits, and when you see a full height pic it suits her so well, she looks taller. I’m also a big fan of the Emirates stewardess look, but less keen on the more modern look; the silhouette is great but with the trimming the whole outfit has that slightly homemade quality we’ve come to know, and not love…

    • Here’s one for reference
      Embed from Getty Images

  3. Sandra and HQ, thanks so much for this beautiful post! Queens Elizabeth, Beatrix, and Maxima all look so regally magnificent. Can you imagine the gasps and cheers of delight from the crowd as Queen Elizabeth stepped off the plane, only to be even MORE radiant with the wonderful coat and veil added when visiting the Mosque?

    Recently, when searching for a specific hat, it occurred to me how many ensembles have been only once worn through the years for a particular engagement, only to be stored away somewhere, never to be seen again. However, one of the outfits shown here today was in fact worn at least three times by HM, each time with subtle changes. Several months after her Kuwait trip, Queen Elizabeth wore the same ensemble when greeting Queen Margrethe, but the veil was tucked behind, and inside her added coat. Then a year later, she changed into a straw hat. It’s interesting to see how she got more mileage from an ensemble. (more bang for the buck, as we Yanks would say!)

    May 18, 1979: Copenhagen
    October 27, 1980: Casablanca
    Simone Mirman straw hat detail (large rear bow)
    Embed from Getty Images

    • I don’t like the fez shape, nor the print, but am smitten by Margrethe’s orange and blue ensemble in the 1979 photo! Not to mention her statuesque carriage.

    • Thanks for the extra shots Jimbo. I’m afraid I’m not taken with the straw pillbox. It’s a fun fact that she simply tucked the trailing scarf into her coat for the Copenhagen visit, and odd that the scarf wasn’t detachable. I love how she used important brooches on her scarves – really adds to the ‘royalness’ of the ensemble.

  4. Thanks for this interesting post, Sandra. I think HM’s 2010 look is the most successful at balancing her regular look with the requirements of the appearance.

    Beatrix looks magical — like a fantasy character in possession of great wisdom!

    Yes, the pith helmet is a curious choice, one I suspect wouldn’t be repeated by royals in the future. Too bad about the symbolism since they sound very cool and sensible for warmer climes.

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