Hofdame Note: Thank you to our Baguette Elizabeth Davies as she finished her mini-series on Queens Consort in the twentieth century. Bravo and thank you, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth, like Mary and Alexandra before her, had a new crown made for her by royal jeweller Garrard. Her crown has only four arches and incorporated the Koh-i-Noor diamond. It was also the first crown made of platinum, so was relatively lightweight.
Fashions had changed since 1911 and Elizabeth did not pile on further jewels to anything like the same extent as her predecessors, choosing items with historic resonance, like the Coronation earrings and collet necklace – made for Queen Victoria and worn by every Queen since at her Coronation. She wore a second diamond collet and two long strings of historic pearls (possibly dating back to Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I) and, pinned to her bosom, the starburst section of the enormous Cockade Brooch, also worn by her two predecessors. Diamond bracelets on both wrists completed the relatively restrained look.
The Queen chose Madame Handley Seymour to make her Coronation gown. It was of ivory silk, embroidered in gold with the floral emblems of the Commonwealth. The toile for the gown was on exhibition at Kensington Palace recently and I was able to see it.
Not only did the toile serve to get a perfect shape and fit, but it allowed the embroidery design to be painted on and, as the basted on patches show, adjusted for best effect before the real gown was created. The crafters of the Royal School of Needlework embroidered the final design, as well as the intricate gold work on the velvet Robe of State, which is clearly visible in the official portrait of her with her six Maids of Honour, who hold it up for display.
The Queen’s Maids of Honour were, as we are used to by now, all the unmarried daughters of Dukes, Marquesses or Earls. Left to right, they were Lady Diana Legge; Lady Victoria Margaret Cavendish-Bentinck; Lady Ursula Manners; Lady Elizabeth Percy; Lady Elizabeth Paget, and Lady Iris Mountbatten.
Lady Diana Legge (1910-1970) is from a family known to you. She was a maternal niece of Lady Victoria Wynn-Carrington, a Maid from the 1911 Coronation, and her father was the 7th Earl of Dartmouth, whose nephew the 9th Earl was the first husband of Raine, Countess Spencer, stepmother to Diana Princess of Wales. Unfortunately I have no other photo of her.
For Lady Victoria Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (1918-1955) daughter of the 7th Duke of Portland, this was her second royal occasion. At the age of 5, in 1923, she had acted as bridesmaid for Princess Maud of Fife (whose grandson, the current Duke of Fife, is 77th in line to the throne).
Lady Ursula Manners (1917-2016) was the daughter of the Marquess of Granby, later the 9th Duke of Rutland. She received international fame when a photograph of her with the Royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Coronation circulated in the news. The reports focused on her distinctive hairline and led to a famous letter being written to a newspaper by an American, asking “who is the girl with the widow’s peak?”, which was later used as the title of Ursula’s 2014 memoir, The Girl with the Widow’s Peak: The Memoirs. Her youth, beauty and distinctive hairline lead to her being nicknamed “the Cygnet” by Winston Churchill when she later accompanied the king and queen on their royal tour in France in 1938.
Lady Elizabeth Percy (1916-2008) was the daughter of the 8th Duke of Northumberland and eventually became the wife of the 14th Duke of Hamilton. I know little else about her, other than the black and white coronation photos did not do justice to her strawberry golden hair, here shown to better advantage in a 1922 portrait of her as a child by de Laszlo.
Lady Elizabeth Paget (1916-1980) was the daughter of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey. She was another celebrated beauty of her day and a friend of the artist Rex Whistler, who painted her portrait in 1938 during one of his visits to her home of Plas Newydd, where he also painted a famous mural in the dining room. Lady Elizabeth married Raymond von Hoffmannstal and her grandson Rodolfe is the husband of Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, half sister of Lady Sarah and the current Earl of Snowdon, being the daughter of Princess Margaret’s ex by a later wife.
Lady Iris Mountbatten (1920-1982) is our last Maid. She was Queen Victoria’s youngest great grandchild, as a granddaughter of Princess Beatrice. Princess Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenburg. In 1917, her son Prince Alexander relinquished his German titles and became Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marques of Carisbrooke, so his daughter, born in Kensington Palace, was Lady Iris Mountbatten. She was also first cousin to Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess Alice of Battenburg, later mother of Prince Philip. Like her fellow Maid, this was Iris’s second royal occasion, as she had been bridesmaid for Princess Marina of Greece and Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1934, alongside Princess Elizabeth of York and some other famous faces!
Lady Alice was married three times, and spent the latter part of her life living in Canada with her actor husband William Kemp.
PS. Some of you asked about the King and his pages. Here is a bonus picture from 1937 – the King and his attendants. His pages, not in photo order, were his nephew Viscount Lascelles; his second cousin Alexander Ramsay of Mar; Earl Haig; Earl Kitchener; Raymond Seymour; George Hardinge: Montagu Elliott; Lord Herschell, and Earl Jellicoe. Although some were aristocrats, the names are the clue – their grandfathers had been ennobled after giving military or naval service in the First World War.