Britain

Masterpiece Theater – Evolving Style of a Modern Princess

Hat Tip to our own geogirl for the information on the wedding dress!

We are going to reach way back and look at the life of one of the Edwardian era’s most sparkling princesses, Princess Patricia of Connaught. She was born in 1886, the youngest child of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. Her grandmother was Queen Victoria, and her older sister was Princess Margaret of Connaught, later Crown Princess of Sweden.

In her day, she and Margaret were considered two of society’s great beauties. Their activities were followed by the public with the type of attention that is only known by celebrities today. So great were their charms their Uncle King Edward VII shopped them around as potential brides to most of the crowned heads of Europe. Margaret, of course, married the future King of Sweden, but Patricia married a Scot, and a commoner, for love.

Young Patricia
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

While unmarried, Patricia attended many high profile events. When Margaret married Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf in 1905, Patricia was a bridesmaid. As they were close relatives, she was an attendee at Edward VII’s coronation and the coronation of George V. It was a glittering life, and the tightly corseted, hyper feminine clothes suited the princess. Her hair also suited the full and fluffy styles of the times.

Right: Princesses Patricia and Margaret in coronation robes for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. Left: The entire Connaught family, with Princess Patricia in profile, at George V’s coronation.
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

The 1905 wedding of Margaret of Connaught and Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf. Princess Patricia is at the far right.
Wikimedia Commons

When Patricia married Alexander Ramsay in 1919, she relinquished her title, although she did set a trend by being the first royal to marry at Westminster Abbey in almost 600 years. She wore a gown embellished with silver wire embroidery in a lily motif, a cloth-of-silver train and a lace veil anchored with a wreath of flowers. The dress silhouette is a reflection of the post World War I years, when women’s clothes lost the strict structure of the Edwardian era. The dress reflects the lack of corsetry and soft draping of that fashion era.

One of the issues I perceive in the clothing of women from this period is that the very details that made the clothing comfortable and freeing for women also obscure the figure. Thus, they don’t photograph well. Also, the flash photography does “white-out” much of the dress detail. I suspect this dress, with the silver embroidery, was spectacular in person. It must have sparkled mightily in the light.

The wedding dress of Princess Patrica, who left Westminster Abbey as “plain” Lady Patricia Ramsay
National Portrait Gallery

The dress itself continued on an interesting journey after the wedding. It is now part of the collection of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Museum, in Calgary, Alberta. It is the only British royal wedding dress to be housed outside of the UK.

What at first seems unlikely is actually a natural progression. Princess Patricia was born in England, at Buckingham Palace, no less. The family moved to Canada when the Duke of Connaught was appointed governor general in 1911. She was a fixture on the local scene, even attending the first Calgary Stampede. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry took her name and the Princess and her family lived in Canada until 1916. The wedding dress was gifted to the LIght Infantry museum by Lady Saltoun, Flora Fraser, Princess Patricia’s daughter-in-law,

The wedding dress on display.
CBC News
The dress train, with its heavy embroidery.
CBC News

The dress is stored in a climate controlled environment and has been displayed only once before, in 2006.

Princess-Patricia-she-was lived out her life as plain old Lady Ramsay. She had one child, a son, and continued to appear in a lower key way at royal events. Stylistically, she embraced the 1920s, bobbing her hair and wearing long strings of pearls. Greatly influenced by Gauguin, she became an accomplished water color painter in her own right. She remained married to her husband until his death in 1972, and she herself died in 1974.

Lady Patricia Ramsay in the 1920s.
National Portrait Gallery, public domain

What is your take on Princess Patricia’s dress and story? Did she evolve with the times? Was she a modern princess with a wedding dress to match?