We’re joined today by longtime reader, hat aficionado (follow him on Instagram or Twitter) and dear friend of Royal Hats, Jake Short, for the start of an extended 2022 series that will delve into the different royal hats that have been worn on visits to the US capital. Thank you, Jake, for this leading us on another learning journey! Link to all of Jake’s previous posts here.
On a previous guest post, a fellow reader suggested I write about royal hats in Washington, DC, the city where I live. I’ve known about some of these visits (and even saw one in person), but decided to see what other royal hat visits were “hiding” in history. As the capital of arguably one of the most influential nations in modern history (for better or worse), Washington, DC has been host to many royals hats over the decades despite not ever having a monarch itself. So let’s dive in!
First, some of you may know Washington, DC is both a city and a district under separate governance (somewhat similar to Mexico City or Canberra, Australia); because of this, I will indicate if a royal hat was worn in DC (as we locals call it) or in a suburban area of neighboring Maryland or Virginia. Second, with many royal hats to discover and talk about, this will be an ongoing series. Today, I will start us off by taking us back to some of the earliest royal hats seen in DC, while future posts will focus on hats such as those worn during the numerous visits of Queen Elizabeth II, some donned by US-born Monegasque Princess Grace, the headdresses of many Middle Eastern royals, and everything in between!
The first hatted royal visit to Washington, DC I could find was that of the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), eldest son of Queen Victoria, in October 1860. He carried a top hat during a visit to the tomb of George Washington at the Mount Vernon estate, south of DC in the state of Virginia; since this visit, Mount Vernon has been a popular destination for royal visits.
As mentioned last year, Queen Kapi‘olani and Princess Lili‘uokalani of the then-independent Kingdom of Hawai‘i visited the White House in May of 1887 in hats typical of the late Victorian era. Today in the Capitol building, a statue of King Kamehameha I features the the mahiole feather helmet.
In October 1926, Queen Marie of Romania visited DC, where she wore a jeweled headpiece to a state dinner at the White House and a patterned cloche during a visit to Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. She also wore what looks to be a fur ringed cloche in Baltimore and Annapolis (cities near DC in the state of Maryland).
In October 1962, Crown Prince Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Senussi of Libya visited President John F. Kennedy wearing a rounded fez and gifted the President with a signed photo of himself wearing the same style of hat.
Perhaps one of the most interesting “royal” hatted visits to DC (or indeed anywhere) was that of Princess Fatima of Afghanistan in 1921. She can be seen below leaving the White House wearing a shawl/hijab while her three sons don different styles of hats, including a turban, one in a fez shape, and a pillbox-like karakul hat. Fatima and her sons make for a striking group in the photos taken of them. However, the truth of this visit makes for perhaps a much more interesting story. Fatima was not a Princess of Afghanistan (although she may have been a distant relative of the royal family) and instead was posing as an envoy unsuccessfully trying to meet with US officials. In the midst of her own deception, she in turn was helped and deceived by Stanley Weyman, a longtime con man who later apparently was able to gain an interview with Queen Marie of Romania during her 1926 visit. Weyman managed to get Fatima a visit with President Harding, but it didn’t result in anything and she was left high and dry by Weyman. Virtually nothing is known of what happened to Fatima and her sons after she managed to pay off the debts incurred (many thanks to Weyman) during her visit.
Finally, the Duke & Duchess of Windsor visited DC on a couple of occasions; the Duchess herself was originally from Baltimore, Maryland, which is about an hour northeast of DC. The Duke (as the Prince of Wales at the time) visited Mount Vernon in 1919 wearing a homburg hat,
and was later seen wearing a military officer’s cap on the same visit.
The Duchess can be seen in multiple small hats typical of the time during a visit to DC in 1940; places of note in the video include Union Station, the Library of Congress (Jefferson Building), and what would become known as the Eisenhower Executive Building.
In 1942, the Duchess can be seen in a small hat with a veil after a luncheon at the White House while the Duke was Governor of the Bahamas.
Stayed tuned for more royal hatted visits to Washington, DC!
A fascinating start, Jake, complete with an unexpected dose of imposters and mystery! Those small hats worn by the Duchess of Windsor are wonderfully chic.
Images from Getty as indicated