Queen Elizabeth II had an extraordinary story: a young woman who ascended the throne of United Kingdom, that she never wanted, travelled the world over several decades, steered the monarchy in both turbulent and calm times, and supported the British Parliament with a generous smile and glamour. She is, truly, unforgettable.
By: Tripti Jangpangi
Posted on: September 9, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II, by Cecil Beaton. ©V&A Museum, London
When a young 21-year-old Elizabeth made her historic, moving vow from Cape Town, who knows all the turbulent thoughts going on in her mind? And when her father passed away in 1952, she was far from home, immediately burdened with a responsibility so humungous that it was nerve-wrecking, when she was really only a young adult in today’s terms.
But when she declared her oath, she meant it. You can see the poise in her eyes while giving the speech from Cape Town, you can witness her nervousness in her coronation – the first ever to be televised, thanks to Prince Philip – but since then, we have only seen confidence, a steely resolve, an out-of-the-box thinking, and later in life, a genuine happiness for a job well done.
Queen Elizabeth II had a unique destiny to become the longest serving monarch of United Kingdom. When you see her 70 years of career as her royal highness, she has witnessed much. She appointed 15 prime ministers, she became the first royal woman with an official position in the army, she has seen the world move from telegram to emails, and she has gracefully steered the monarchy in modern times by adapting to it. She was a true avant-gardist, breaking barriers and creating her own voice in a fairly male dominated world, where everyone expected her to be a mere puppet to the throne.
Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding to Prince Philip
Even then, her role as the queen was her profession only. In private, she was very much her own person. She defended her privacy with hard determination, dealt with the trials faced by her children with silent strength, and braved the countless controversies with such grace that it is impossible for mere commoners like us.
The 96 year old queen was a true purveyor of luxury. Apart from her political legacy, she was known for her sartorial style, which she used to her advantage to communicate power, diplomacy and magnificence. She was a fashion icon with her distinct artisanal hats which often expressed her mood, and flamboyantly colored suits that created new trends.
Queen Elizabeth II after her coronation
Her wedding dress in 1947 was assembled using duchess satin bought with ration vouchers. Though the 13-foot gown was designed by Norman Hartnell, she effortlessly communicated her recognition of the hardship that the entire country was facing in the wake of World War II by purchasing her fabric like this.
She used her brooches to convey good wishes as well. For Prince Williams & Kate’s 2011 wedding, chose to wear The True Lover’s Knot, a sweet bow-like brooch that showed her pride and love for her grandchildren.
She made Barbour and Hunter jackets the “It” casual. One could easily identify her in a royal procession with her monochromatic classic look, embracing beautiful colors with signature pieces like three stranded pearl pieces or her black Launer bag. She used fashion as a mode of communication with her staff as well! The legend goes that if she moved the handbag from the left to the right arm while interacting with someone, that often meant she wants to wrap the conversation.
L to R: Queen Elizabeth II with Indira Gandhi during a visit to India in 1983; The Queen presenting the Order of Merit to Mother Teresa during her visit to Delhi, India, in 1983. ©Getty Images
She was very close to Mary Angela Kelly, a famous British designer dressmaker and milliner, personal assistant, advisor and curator to the Queen. Their journey can be traced back to as early as 1994. In 2019, she announced that the royal monarch will renounce fur. Stewart Parvin designed several outfits for her royal highness and was granted a Royal Warrant. Last but not the least, how can we forget to mention Rachel Trevor Morgan, the genius behind all the beautiful hats which are emblematic to the queen. She has recognized and honoured countless upcoming and established designers and artists during her 70 year old reign.
Queen Elizabeth II reading her 80th birthday cards in 2006. ©Getty Images
The world is mourning the loss of their beloved 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, a woman who embodied power, tenacity and elegance. A person who truly admired craftmanship and someone who understood the fact that fashion and accessories are beyond trends, in fact they can be used as powerful symbolical tools to communicate with audiences small and large, personal and mass.
At a time when the role of the monarchy is increasingly being questioned, the world is going to miss her, her intellect, her keeness, her joy and her strength.
Queen Elizabeth (1926-2022) passed away on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96, in her home at Balmoral Castle, Scotland.