It’s lovely to welcome reader Sandra, who hails from New Zealand, back to Royal Hats again with the second of a 3-part series on the cultural side of royal millinery. Over to you, Sandra!
It’s impossible to refuse ceremonial bits and pieces from your hosts and Queen Elizabeth, with all the Commonwealth at her feet, has probably donned more than most – head-dresses, necklaces, cloaks, etc. The rather charming, and restrained, head-dress of beautifully perfumed stephanotis flowers was worn in Tuvalu, in the Pacific, in 1982, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were equally feted on their visit in 2012.
Fascinatingly, it was a royal headdress of South Pacific origin that received much attention at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. Queen Salote of Tonga attended the event in a tall woven headpiece of pandanus leaves and feathers.
Queen Salote, who was an imposing 6’ 3” herself (and a good friend of Queen Elizabeth), became a hit with the British press when she rode – and smiled – her way through a London downpour in an open carriage, refusing to raise the roof (history doesn’t record the thoughts of her carriage partner, the Sultan of Kelantan). She became a household name overnight with babies christened Charlotte (Salote), a racehorse named after her and songs penned in her honour, including: “Linger longer, Queen of Tonga” (which requires the English hard ‘g’ mispronunciation of Tonga to work).
Being received by indigenous people and inaugurated into their society is an honour that has been regularly accorded members of the British Royal family. The Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, was invested with the title of Chief Morning Star by the Stony Creek tribe (now known as the Saik’uz First Nation) in Western Canada and sat for a 1930s portrait in his Chief’s headdress.
Here’s Prince Charles being inducted as Chief Red Crow of the Blackfeet Nation during a visit to Canada in 1977.
Also in Papua New Guinea in 1984:
And in the Iwokrama Rainforest of Guyana, South America, in 2000
Diana, Princess of Wales, donned the cap of the Chitrali Scouts (a Frontier division of the Pakistani Army), on a visit to Peshawar, Pakistan in 1991. The soft, woolen Chitrali cap, or pakol, is widely worn by men in northern Pakistan. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge each wore the same type of cap when they visited Chitral in 2019.
Twenty-five years after Diana’s visit to Pakistan, her son Prince Harry visited Nepal where he wore a cotton Topi, part of the Nepalese national dress, while in another community where he spent the night with a Gurkha family, he was given a cotton pheta turban and made honorary village head.
Thank you, Sandra. This reminds me of a 2015 article in the New York Times by Cherokee academic and activist Adrienne Keene who wrote, “For the communities that wear these headdresses, they represent respect, power and responsibility. The headdress has to be earned, gifted to a leader in whom the community has placed their trust.” Thus, the invitation for a royal to wear an indigenous headdresses is clearly one of meaning, honor and great significance.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Sandra’s third and final installment in this series.