The Deeper Meaning Behind Princess Charlotte’s Prim-and-Proper Sailor Suit for Trooping the Colour
Fashion

The Deeper Meaning Behind Princess Charlotte’s Prim-and-Proper Sailor Suit for Trooping the Colour

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Over the course of her 63 years on the British throne, Queen Victoria established a wealth of traditions still upheld by the royal family today, from summering at Balmoral (Prince Albert purchased the castle for his wife in 1853) to erecting Christmas trees come advent each year (although the late Queen preferred to celebrate the holiday at Osborne on the Isle of Wight rather than in Norfolk or Windsor). One of Victoria’s more peculiar legacies, however? A royal affinity for nautical-inspired dress.

The future King Edward VIII and King George VI as boys. Photo: Getty Images

The Queen first commissioned a miniature sailor’s uniform for her eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, in 1846, intending for the four-year-old to wear it aboard the royal yacht while sailing around the Channel Islands. “[It was] beautifully made by the man on board who makes for our sailors,” the monarch later wrote in her diary, noting that “the officers and sailors who were all assembled on deck to see him, cheered, and seemed delighted.”

Prince William in a sailor suit later worn by Prince Louis to Trooping the Colour. Photo: Getty Images

No one, however, was as taken with the look as Prince Albert, who commissioned a portrait of his son wearing the suit by German artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter as a Christmas gift to Victoria. When the royal family exhibited the picture of the future King Edward VII in St James’s Palace the following year, more than 100,000 visitors came to see it, with prints and miniatures circulated widely among the public—kickstarting a Victorian craze for nautical children’s fashion that spread through the British aristocracy and beyond. The trend continued through the late Victorian period and into the Edwardian era. Vogue frequently ran articles devoted to the trend in the early 20th century; for “the little fellow”, it declared in a 1909 issue, Russian blouses and sailor suits were “still the leading styles.”

Princes William and Harry in sailor suits at Westminster Abbey in 1986. Photo: Getty Images

This extended to the children in line to the throne: brothers King Edward VIII and King George VI were both pictured in the style, as was Prince Philip during his childhood. (Notably, while Edward trained for the Royal Navy, both George and Philip actually served.) And when Diana, Princess of Wales welcomed Princes William and Harry with the future King Charles III in the ’80s? She not only took every opportunity to dress her sons in sailor suits, but made sailor dresses her style signature throughout much of the decade. Exhibit A: the outfit Diana wore to Buckingham Palace immediately after the Privy Council approved her marrying into the royal family in 1981.

Diana in a sailor dress after the Privy Council approved her marriage in 1981. Photo: Getty Images

This extended to the children in line to the throne: brothers King Edward VIII and King George VI were both pictured in the style, as was Prince Philip during his childhood. (Notably, while Edward trained for the Royal Navy, both George and Philip actually served.) And when Diana, Princess of Wales welcomed Princes William and Harry with the future King Charles III in the ’80s? She not only took every opportunity to dress her sons in sailor suits, but made sailor dresses her style signature throughout much of the decade. Exhibit A: the outfit Diana wore to Buckingham Palace immediately after the Privy Council approved her marrying into the royal family in 1981.

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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