The Royal Christening gown


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.


9 thoughts on “The Royal Christening gown

  • Rebecca Brown

    I love family christening gowns. Mine was my great-great grandfather’s, and I used it last summer for my baby girl. Not quite as fancy as the royal one but well-loved and similarly coloured with age. It’s packed away now for my grandchildren and hopefully generations to come.

  • Muddling Along

    We have a family christening gown – not quite as old as that one but one in which 5 generations of my family have been christened in

    Its beautiful (and yet a bit nerve wracking as you wonder if it’ll be your child that destroys the thing!) – three layers of petticoats and dress, all beautifully embroidered and pin tucked

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      That sounds gorgeous and has reawakened memories of an old christening robe in our family, which I haven’t seen for decades! I wonder where it is?!

  • Dana Huff

    I had no idea that gown had such a history! Perfect! I love the photographs. What a fitting post—your American readers will celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow.

  • Kathryn McGavin

    One of the stories passed down in our family is that one of my ancestors made the gown. There was some connection with the court and with Devon. I’d love to know more!

  • Linda Patrick

    Hi there

    I believe that I have the best job in the world as I renovate antique christening gowns. I have a gown in for repair at the moment that although not quite as glamorous as the Royal Gown, comes from a stately home and is grand. You can see the progress on my website, http://www.littledoves.co.uk

    take care
    Linda

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