Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth breaks a record

Today, September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will go into the history books when she overtakes her great-great-grandmother. Queen Victoria reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes (yes someone took time to work that out, and took into consideration leap years and the time of accession and death).

The hankie in the photo is a souvenir of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, who succeeded to the throne on the death of her father, King George VI on 6 February 1952. Her coronation was held on 2 June 1953, just over a year later which allowed for mourning the King and gave time to prepare for the great event.

The photo above  shows the Queen in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace wearing the wonderful Coronation Dress designed by Norman Hartnell. The gown, made of white satin, has embroidery in gold and silver threads and pastel coloured silks. It is encrusted with thousands of seed pearls and crystals giving it a glittering latticework effect. The design incorporated the floral emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The Queen and Mr. Hartnell worked closely together on the design of the dress and it was the ninth design that became ‘the dress’.

The silk for the dress came from Lady Hart Dyke’s silk farm at Lullington Castle and the embroidery was created by six embroideresses in utmost secrecy. Construction was done by three seamstresses. The fabric of the dress was backed with cream taffeta and three layers of horsehair. This solved the problem of the dress falling to one side due to the weight of the jewelled skirt and also gave the dress stability, by dispersing some of the weight over the whole bell shape. It was actually very light to wear.

Every country in the Commonwealth at the time was represented: the Tudor rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, the shamrock for Ireland (despite the fact that by that time only Northern Ireland remained), wattle for Australia, the maple leaf for Canada, the fern for New Zealand, protea for South Africa, lotus flowers for both India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute. Unbeknownst to the queen, a single four leaf clover was added on the left of the dress, just where her hand would brush throughout the day.

The Queen wore a robe of purple silk-velvet, embroidered by members of the Royal School of Needlework with wheat ears and olive branches to represent peace and prosperity, when she left Westminster Abbey for Buckingham Palace. This work alone took 3,500 hour and the robe is 21 feet long.

Queen Elizabeth wore this glorious gown six more times after Coronation Day: for receptions at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse as well as Parliament openings during her coronation tour in New Zealand, Australia, and Ceylon in 1954 and Canada in 1957.

Mr. Hartnell was also commissioned to make the outfits for the queen's six maids of honor, all single aristocratic girls who were in charge of managing and carrying the heavy train via invisible silk handles. Each wore white satin gowns with pearl blossom and golden leaf embroidery with gold tissue wreaths of forget-me-nots, freesia, and heather.

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