There is very little wiggle room when it comes to dressing for a ceremonial royal funeral.
Black is a given, introduced by Queen Victoria upon the death of Albert in 1861. For women, a hat or head covering, black tights and, most importantly, pearls to denote tears: a tradition since Roman times.
Only white diamonds: nothing of colour. Dressing for a funeral is much more difficult than for a wedding: nothing rainbow, nothing that screams ‘look at me’, especially important given this was the first royal funeral of the Instagram age. Nothing witty.
It was also the first royal funeral where the participants wore masks — the Queen‘s was edged in white, which helped to ‘lift’ her face — meaning that everything had to work that little bit harder. Which is probably the reason the younger royal women decided to teeter on vertiginous heels, despite the cobbles, the marble, the steps. Kate’s in particular — by L.K.Bennett, of course — were worthy of Meghan herself.
The Duchess of Cambridge sported a perfect chignon, well defined eye make-up and brows above her black mask and beneath her Philip Treacy pillbox, and an expression that marks her out as dignified, stoic, reliable
Despite all the constraints, there were two stand-out sartorial stars. The Duchess of Cambridge, sported a perfect chignon, well-defined eye make-up and brows above her black mask and beneath her Philip Treacy pillbox, and an expression that marks her out as dignified, stoic, reliable.
Her choice of Catherine Walker to make her shapely princess-line black coat is hugely significant. She could have chosen her go-to, Sarah Burton, of Alexander McQueen, but that would have been too overtly ‘fashion’.
Instead, she chose the design house that was Diana’s favourite, giving a subliminal hug to William and Harry. She shows she has learned from the Queen, too, keeping the neckline low and simple — here, it’s draped in a bow — in order not to ‘muddle’ jewels at the throat.
Royal favourite: If Kate’s 1970s pearl choker looked familiar it’s because she borrowed it from the Queen, as did Princess Diana
The dress beneath is by Roland Mouret, the French-born, London-based designer famous for making body-con red-carpet gowns that ooze sex appeal.
What Kate chose to wear on such an historic day is already being seen as iconic. She has thrown down a gauntlet, taken it all up a notch.
Her demeanour was grown up . . . and worthy of a future Queen. Her outfit was impeccable. The other star was the Countess of Wessex, who made sure she placed a reassuring hand on each of her children’s backs as the cortege passed.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, chose a very demure tailored silk crepe coat dress with contrast silk satin panel by Suzannah London
She chose a very demure (for which read, almost floor-length) tailored silk crepe coat dress with contrast silk satin panel by Suzannah London, the couturier who cut her teeth at Marks & Spencer, and is now famous for dressing royals including Eugenie and Beatrice for weddings and events such as Royal Ascot. Sophie’s restrained headpiece is by Jane Taylor.
The Queen was dressed, of course, by her private dresser and confidante, Angela Kelly. She wore her grandmother Queen Mary’s pearl and diamond Richmond brooch; it has a detachable pear-shaped pearl drop, removed here.
I am sure Meghan, watching from home in California, recognised it as the brooch worn to her wedding to Harry; I hope she felt a warm tingle. God of course was in every detail.
Philip’s friend, Penny Brabourne, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, wore a fern brooch, which in Victorian times denoted sincerity
Princess Beatrice, pictured with her husband Edoardo Mapelli, eschewed the traditional black tights
Princess Eugenie wore a double-breasted and boxy coat (almost £6,000) by Gabriela Hearst, the designer beloved of influencers, and now at the helm of Chloe
Philip’s friend, Penny Brabourne, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, wore a fern brooch, which in Victorian times denoted sincerity.
Full marks, too, to the Duchess of Cornwall, in immaculate Anna Valentine coat and matching dress with piping, sensible heels, bag and Saturn hat.
It’s in hand: Eugenie’s concertina bag by Gabriela Hearst is called Diana, although it was named after Diana Ross not the Princess, and would set you back £1,400
A couple of younger royals broke rank. Eugenie and Beatrice chose not to wear black tights, and to carry gloves rather than wear them.
Eugenie, a new mum, can be forgiven for appearing a little less glamorous in an over-long, double-breasted and boxy coat (almost £6,000) by Gabriela Hearst, the designer beloved of influencers, and now at the helm of Chloe.
She finished it off with a rather ‘interesting’ concertina bag, also by Gabriela Hearst; perhaps Eugenie chose it for its name, Diana.
Camilla’s jazzy face mask will have raised eyebrows, but I am sure the sight would have made Prince Philip chuckle.
Oh, and the one thing to unite the royal women? They all chose waterproof mascara. When they stopped to read: ‘In loving memory, Elizabeth,’ there wasn’t a dry eye in the house . . .