Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Royals, the Nearly Royals and Their Hats

No sooner had Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince William to Catherine Middleton than the inevitable comparisons between Kate and Diana began in earnest with honors going to one or the other, depending on the point of comparison.

Young Kate will need to tread lightly but firmly if she is to emerge from the shadow of the Diana comparisons, and I have every confidence in her ability to do just that. When she marries Prince William in April of 2011, she will be almost a decade older than Diana was on her wedding day. The difference in maturity, life experience and self-confidence from the early twenties to the late twenties is quite significant. Kate is already an internationally acknowledged fashion icon with a signature style, while the young Diana’s style was completely unfocussed, fussy and frumpy giving no clue to the elegant fashion icon she would later become.

Kate is usually referred to as a “commoner,” which seems to ruffle the egalitarian feathers of some Americans, but it simply means she has no royal blood. Don’t forget that, although called Lady Diana, Diana herself was a commoner as was the much loved Queen Mum, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. England and indeed Europe in general are full of “commoners” running around with titles. I personally know an Italian Count who owns an ancient Fiat that breaks down so often he just leaves it in front of the Trattoria he frequents and walks back and forth to the little apartment he shares with his mother, the Contessa.

So, how well will this lovely young commoner fit in to the royal family? I have no idea, but I do think they may find one very significant area of common ground – Hats!

Nobody loved hats more than the Queen Mum. Over her lifetime, she spent a Queen’s ransom on them. Early on she found a style that worked for her and stuck with it. Whether adorned with feathers, fur, ribbons or lace, the brim of her hats always swept back off her face the better to frame the warmth of the sunny smile that brought the Brits through the dark days of World War II.

Her daughter, the current Queen, continues the royal tradition of taking great interest in royal headgear. Queen Elizabeth’s style is clearly more eclectic than her Mother’s, sometimes to dubious effect, but she is said to be very hands on during the creation process and scrutinizes the results carefully before giving her royal approval.

And then came Diana, Princess of Wales, who changed the whole image of royalty as much with her hats as with her clothes.

This English Rose, a long-stemmed beauty with great bone structure, had the perfect face for hats. Whether they had (l to r) a broad brim, small brim or no brim at all, Diana always looked best in hats with a large crown.

And she wore them all to perfection.

And now there is Kate, an earthy beauty, whose classic girl-next-door (you should be so lucky to live next door to her, boys!!) good looks and style savvy will make her a royal to watch for decades to come. Whether it’s a jaunty beret, romantic Dr. Zhivago fur, classic black picture hat or Aussie rider there isn’t a hat she cannot wear to perfection.

Prince Charles is reported to have persuaded his son to pop the question to Kate by saying that they had been “practicing” long enough. Well, I’d say that practice makes perfect, and she will be the perfect Queen consort. I can already feel the breath of fresh fashion air wafting from Buckingham Palace.

Speaking of the Palace, they have assured me that my wedding invitation is in the mail, which means I have just enough time to chercher the perfect chapeau!!!

Photos courtesy of I-Village and Getty Images


  1. I have a hat that was made for me by a woman named Paulina ...

    I think I'll wear it today! It is a pretty shade of eggplant with black trim that would look lovely with my brick red wool coat with black trim!

    The English monarchs in their hats and your post inspire me to top off my style in fashion!

  2. How lovely your hat does sound. How about a picture of you in your "ensemble" on your blog??? Would love to see it.

    I'm told that one reason the Royal ladies love their hats is that they don't have to fuss with their hair as much, particularly when they are travelling.

    A great hat can neutralize a bad hair day any day of the week.

  3. Oh, I agree, M-T, about the hat/hair connection. I have very thick, wavy hair and I love to wear a knit cap in the winter to tame my mane.

    Prompted by your post and comment, I shall dress in my "ensemble" and photograph myself to share this week. Tomorrow night, we go out to dinner, and that can be on the agenda easily - it would be the perfect thing to wear to go out on the town.

    Catch you later!

  4. Oooh, I can't wait for the photo. Have a wonderful time tomorrow night at dinner.

  5. Some people look great in hats, I'm not one of them. These are inspiring me to try, though. See you at the wedding!

  6. When a pretty young woman such as you, Claudia, says she doesn't look good in hats, it's usually because she doesn't know what to do with her hair.

    When you're wearing a great hat, your hair should be styled away from your face to allow the hat to focus attention on your face. It's the hat that frames the face, not the hair.

    Check out the post I wrote in July on "Mad Women and Their Hats" about a lovely tea I had with ladies in hats.

  7. What a great post! Even though I am not much into the royals, I do find it interesting how they influence fashion.

  8. I agree with everything you say about Kate. I think she's brilliant and I look forward to seeing photos of her for years to come. However, Lady Diana's father was the 8th Earl Spencer and the Queen mother's father was the 14th Earl of Strathmore, they cannot be called commoners. Kate comes from a very wealthy family, but they are not of noble birth unless you go back a very very long way. In fact, I gather she and William are distantly related.

  9. I am delighted you agree with my take on Kate, Shelley. I truly think she will be a beautiful asset to the royal family and I am looking forward to the big event.

    In addition, you raise a very interesting point about the term "commoner," which, as explained to me by someone in the U.K. who knows more than I about these things, being of noble birth is very different from being of royal birth.

    According to my source, the children of Earls (one of many titles granted by a royal) are noble but not royal and strictly speaking are "commoners," which doesn't make them "common" as we understand the term.

    Is she incorrect? Would love to know.


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