A new exhibition of George VI and his family’s coronation robes has just gone on display at The Queen Mother’s childhood home of Glamis Castle.
The display – begun on 12th May to coincide with the 80th anniversary of George VI’s coronation – includes the robes, dresses and coronets worn by the Queen Mother, and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to the grand event. The Queen had to give her permission for these items to be taken for display, as they are part of her personal collection.
The Queen Mother’s dress was made by Madame Handley Seymour, who also made her wedding dress. It features a thistle and rose design with pure gold thread embroidery, with flowing lace sleeve detail.
The robe of the Queen Consort was woven on handlooms by Warner and Sons and took 40 embroideresses, in shifts of 12 at a time, two months to complete. It consists of heavy purple silk velvet, lined with ermine and featuring ten different types of gold thread. The design includes emblems representing the countries of the British Empire: the thistle of Scotland, the Tudor rose of England, acorns for the UK and colonies, the fern of New Zealand, the protea of South Africa and the lotus flower, symbolising her status as the last Empress of India.
Norman Hartnell designed the dresses worn by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.
Tommy Baxter, General Manager at Glamis Castle, explained how his plan for the display was conceived: “The idea came to me last year when I was reading a book about the Coronation of King George VI and realised that 2017 would be the 80th anniversary of that historic occasion.
“I wondered if this was being marked in some way by any other royal households in the UK and got in touch with Jonathan Marsden at the Royal Collection. He steered me in the right direction and provided the wonderful sketch of Claude, 14th Earl of Strathmore, which has never before been on public display and is usually held in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.”
Her Majesty’s dresser, Angela Kelly, transported the pieces from London to Scotland on the train with the help of her assistant, Jackie Newbold. Kelly helped set up the exhibition, too.
The robes worn by the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore, Claude and Cecilia, to see their daughter and son-in-law are also on show, plus a sketch of The Queen Mother’s father; the piece, from the Windsor Castle royal archives, has never been on public display until now.
Other items on loan for the display include pieces from the Lord Lyon King of Arms (the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland), as well as personal letters relating to the Coronation from the Glamis archives, written by a young Queen Elizabeth II to her grandparents, the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
Neither George VI’s robe, nor his wife’s crown will be on display, as they are part of The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and Royal Collection respectively.
Glamis (pronounced ‘glaamz’) is located 12 miles north of Dundee and is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Strathmore, now also Earls of Kinghorne. The Victorian gothic castle was the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Sir John Lyon was granted the title by King Robert II of Scotland in 1372. In 1376 Sir John married the King’s daughter and since then Glamis has been visited and lived in by many members of the Scottish and British Royal Families.
Open daily until 29th October, the exhibition is included in regular admission to Glamis Castle.