I have to admit that for the past weeks my money had been on Jazzy Conran for Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress because there was simply too much buzz around Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton and because the suicide is still fresh in the collective fashion memory. Add to this Sarah telling Lee McQueen’s best buddy Shaun Leane that she wasn’t designing the dress and I thought we’d got that sussed. However, what a jolly good choice the new Duchess of Cambridge made. She was absolutely pitch perfect from the second Miss Middleton stepped out of the Rolls Royce.
Immediate comparison were made between Miss Middleton and the late Princess Grace of Monaco. There were similarities but I think Sarah Burton’s dress surpassed even Amazing Grace. The long sleeve lace body hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace was a dream. The ivory and white satin boned bodice with wasp waist, padded New Look hips and a train unfolding like the petals of a flower ended exquisitely with a modest train. Absolutely adored the veil that had echoes of the groom’s great grandmother Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. As for the tiara…
You know I am a sucker for tiaras and as soon as it was announced the couple would be titled the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge I seriously wondered if the Queen would not loan Princess Catherine the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara – ‘acquired’ by Queen Mary when the Romanovs fell – hung with the teardrop Cambridge emeralds instead of the pearls usually suspended in the diamond circlet when the Queen wears this magnificent piece. Queen Mary’s grandmother the last Duchess of Cambridge won the emeralds in a raffle and the late Diana, Princess of Wales famously wore the Cambridge emerald choker as a bandeau tiara when dancing with her Prince in Australia many moons ago.
But the Queen rather likes the Vladimir tiara so it was a long shot. As it turned out, the Queen made a sentimental choice by loaning the Duchess of Cambridge the halo tiara set in 1936 for the Queen Mother by Cartier, given to the Queen on her 18th birthday and then not given another outing for decades until Princess Anne wore it in the 1970s. The Halo tiara is a baby when you consider the vast private collection of royal jewels at the Queen’s disposal. But how appropriate for a young Duchess to wear a modest garland of diamonds instead of a bloody big fender such as the Queen Mother’s Greville tiara that has been sported by the Duchess of Cornwall of late.
Very nice to see the Queen wearing a diamond garland brooch once worn by her mother. Equally lovely to see Her Majesty in a primrose yellow coat and matching hat designed ‘in-house’ by her dresser and personal assistant Mrs Kelly. It is marvellous to see the Queen in her signature colour blocks and equally marvellous to see how well judged most of the British royal family and the Middletons for that matter were in avoiding limelight colours in favour of more muted, misty pastels. One does not compete with the Queen, got it? Good. Disappointing for Rachel Trevor-Morgan and Stuart Parvin who were in with a chance on the big day for the Queen’s chapeau and coat dress. The ensemble may be seen at Royal Ascot later this year.
I rather adore Mrs Trevor-Morgan. She is I believe one of the finest of the Queen’s milliners and she always does the sovereign terribly proud at Ascot. We teamed-up to do BBC News together at around 4.15pm on the big day: she in a marvellous Stuart Parvin navy dress and delightful deep orchid-pink hat and I in my Huntsman blue and red pinstripe three-piece cut with dash and wit by Pat Murphy. We then did a tour of BBC national radio; teaming-up with Savile Row Bespoke chairman Mark Henderson for BBC 5 Live, on our todd for BBC Wales (where I was rather distracted by a guardsman) and then on the BBC World Service. Such fun.
A word about Mrs Middleton. Didn’t she do well? That Catherine Walker misty blue silk coat, dress and matching hat and shoes was totally correct and nodded to Princess Diana’s most favoured British designer. I think she behaved with great elegance, deportment and a modicum of humility. When Huw Edwards on BBC1 pondered what she and son James were thinking in the cars en route to Westminster Abbey were thinking, I guessed it would be something along the lines of ‘we’re in, kid’. But this never showed. James Middleton’s reading actually brought a tear to the eye and he looked resplendent in Gieves morning tails. I am sure more than a few hearts on Old Compton Street were beating fast when he stepped up to the lectern.
Wasn’t the Bishop of London’s address awesomely solemn and apt? When he preached at the rededication of St George’s, Mayfair, I likened him to Gandalf. ‘You SHALL NOT PASS’ I imagine him saying swinging his chasuble. A word on the Duchess of Cornwall. The lady looks and behaves increasingly like a Queen Consort. She is magnificent and a great asset to the Prince of Wales and the country. Her Anna Valentine pleated, embroidered coat and dress – plus Philip Treacy’s magnificent hat with broadly upswept brim – was simply sublime in its understated chic.
The boys certainly did Savile Row proud. Prince Harry – cheeky monkey – won the spurs with his full metal jacket (or tunic of the Blues & Royals with fabulous gold aiguilettes) expertly tailored by Dege & Skinner. The Prince of Wales had ‘put on a bit of muscle’ since he last wore Admiral’s Full Dress so Malcolm Plews at Welsh & Jefferies cut him a new uniform and trimmed it with the gold lace from the discarded Gieves piece. Whisper who dares, but Prince William’s scarlet tunic of an honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards – by Kashkets – didn’t fit.