The Royal Christening gown 9

Are you bored with The Royal Wedding Dress yet? I know I am not. Let’s talk about a different royal dress instead today – one that has been worn by the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Princess Beatrice and several other royals as well. In fact, over seventy members of the Royal Family have had a moment in the spotlight in this rather fetching ensemble, which is rather amazing isn’t it?

The royal christening gown was originally commissioned by the newly pregnant Queen Victoria back in 1840, just a few months after her wedding to the dashing Prince Albert. The royal couple appear to have wasted no time starting their family as their first child, a charming daughter Princess Victoria, was born in November 1840,  just over nine months after their wedding.

Details of the actual design of the christening gown are sketchy but it is believed to have been made from the same Spitalfields silk as the Queen’s wedding gown and trimmed with Honiton lace made by the same lacemakers who made the lace. It would certainly be very much in keeping with the sentimental nature of Albert and Victoria for them to want a christening gown that echoed her wedding gown as much as possible. Victoria herself said in her journal that her daughter ‘looked very dear in a white Honiton point lace robe and mantle, over white satin.’

The gown itself is made from silk with a ruffled lace overlay and is high waisted with a long trailing skirt, short sleeves and a wide silk sash. This is clearly an imposing gown for a very special occasion indeed but despite all of the lace and silk, there is something so adorable about seeing a baby dressed up in such a garment.

The gown went on to be worn by each of Queen Victoria’s nine children and then by many of her grandchildren and on and on throughout the years. Despite it only being worn as a one off, all those babies and christenings took their toll on the fragile lace and silk, which over time have mellowed from the pure white chosen by Queen Victoria to a soft shade of ivory magnolia. To try and preserve it for future generations, it was kept in an air tight container at Buckingham Palace and handwashed in sanitised water in between each use before being lovingly put away again for the next royal christening.

It’s not really a surprise that after 167 years of use, the Queen finally decided that it was time to retire the original Victorian gown and commission a replica, which was first worn in April 2008 by James, Viscount Severn, the infant son of the Duke and Duchess of Wessex. It’s sad that the original gown won’t be seen again but on the other hand it’s better that it doesn’t end up disintegrating completely and now at least many many more generations of royal babies will get to look special (and also a bit weird) on their christening day…

Oh, let’s have one last picture of Princess Diana and Prince William shall we? I love this photograph – it’s so tender yet elegant.

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