January 21, 2018

{Coronation Gowns / Excerpt No. 2}

With the beginning of Season Two of Victoria on PBS, I'll continue sharing excerpts from one of my guest-speaker presentations, “SOMETHING MOST ROYAL: Recreating Crowns & Gowns for Victoria & Elizabeth, featuring costume design stories from both Victoria and The Crown on Netflix. Below is the second in the series (first one posted on November 18, 2017) about Queen Victoria's ornate coronation garments.

Queen Victoria kept a detailed Journal during her lifetime and wrote a long description of her coronation day, a unique record of the event. When she arrived at Westminster Abbey, the heavy red velvet and ermine mantle of her Parliament robe, with its eight-foot-long train, was added for the procession down the nave to the prepared ‘theatre’ in the Abbey.  (The robe is made up of a kirtle and mantle: the kirtle fits over the gown or uniform like a tunic/weskit; the mantle is an over-garment with a train, worn over the kirtle.)
According to historian Kay Staniland in In Royal Fashion, “following the formal rituals of the recognition and oath,” the Queen, in the privacy of St Edward’s Chapel (which is hidden behind a stone wall behind the high altar) “was divested of the Parliament robe…. Normally a king was disrobed in full view of the congregation; however, from motives of delicacy, anointing on the breast was omitted at Victoria’s coronation and she therefore re-entered the ‘theatre’ already wearing the cloth of gold supertunica over her colobium sindonis.” 
The linen colobium sindonis is a plain linen garment, with sacred ritual associations—“a simple, humble gown which contrasts with the regal splendour of the robes.“ This is tied or sashed over the queen’s satin gown…kind of like a full-size bib to cover and protect the formal gown. Then this richly woven gold supertunica is worn over it all and “is the second robe used in the ceremony”; there will be others! 

“Seated on St Edward’s chair, beneath a cloth of gold canopy held by four knights of the Garter, Victoria was anointed, on her forehead only, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is the most solemn part of the coronation ceremony.” Moving from the sacred chair, “the Queen was then robed in her dalmatica and returned to St Edward’s Chair for the crowning and investiture with regalia.” 
(The dalmatica for Victoria—another “cloth of gold” but this one has a train—was "crafted in a resplendent gold tissue cloth embellished with British emblems in an ornate print: purple thistles, pink roses with green leaves, golden eagles and green shamrocks"…. ) 
“When the homage and remainder of the service were completed, the Queen retired to the privacy of St Edward’s Chapel to be divested of her cloth of gold robes” (there were two by now!), “which by tradition were left at Westminster.” 
Now arrayed in a purple velvet robe (ie, kirtle and mantle)—not the red velvet Parliamentary robe she wore in—and “wearing the Imperial State Crown…” (and, indeed, a special crown had to be made to fit Victoria’s petite head!) “…and carrying her scepter and orb, she processed back down the nave and out the Abbey to the state coach, which took her back, in a long impressive procession along a crowded route [of cheering subjects], to Buckingham Palace.” Back home at last!!

The marvelous costume designer for the first season of “Victoria” on PBS, Rosalind Ebbutt, had to either faithfully recreate all of this coronation finery—gowns and robes and tunics and more—or “hire” pieces from the various well-stocked-up-on regalia costume houses in London! ~

[Images above are slides from my "Something Most Royal" presentation.]

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