There was not a hair out of place, nor an unpolished shoe. Not a speck of fluff on a jacket was to be seen. For the grandest and most magnificent occasions, the dress code was resplendent solemnity, pearls and pillbox hats, high heels and sharp tailoring.
For the Royal Family, it was, as the Archbishop of Canterbury noted, a portrait of pain in the brightest spotlight. The Queen Consort, Princess of Wales and Duchess of Sussex found some privacy under wide-brimmed hats, or veils, or both. And while Britain was watching the Royal Family, the rest of the world was watching Britain.
The ruffled white collars of the clergy and the rich scarlet and gold military uniforms contrasted with the simplicity of the mourners dressed in black, a reminder that the death of the Queen put not only the current Windsors, but the whole notion of Britishness under the spotlights. .
It has been a busy 10 days for milliner Stephen Jones, who, after the Queen’s death, transformed his central London store by selling black hats only in anticipation of funeral orders.
“Everyone wanted to be dressed appropriately, not fashionably,” Jones said. “The hats were a symbol of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, as she herself always wore them.” The most popular styles have been understated black hats, in neutral textures.
The murky rules that decreed that as an out-of-work Prince Royal Harry could not wear military uniform, despite seeing more active service than most family members, are the sort of thing which makes the monarchy look petty and absurd in the eyes of its critics.
But Harry defused the tension, issuing an advance statement that he would wear an ordinary costume, and on the day it was Princess Anne, topped with her elegant white hat and starched gloves, who looked the most dapper military badges.
At Britain’s last state funeral, that of Winston Churchill in 1965, mourners wore top hats and mink coats, while Lady Churchill was dramatically submerged under yards of black lace.
Modernity has done away with the full veil, with a “birdcage” length that covers the upper half of the face favored this time by Kate and Camilla. Other modern touches include Carrie Johnson’s nod to sustainability in a rented Karen Millen coat dress.
Kate and Meghan were dressed in almost mirrored harmony, a silent – or at least, uncommentary – response to the salacious interest in the rift between the Sussexes and the New Waleses. Both women wore saucer-shaped hats – Kate’s softened with a small veil, Meghan’s with a wave at the brim.
The two chose clean, unassuming clothes from British designers, with Meghan in Stella McCartney and Kate again wearing a favorite Alexander McQueen coat dress. Only Kate’s four-row pearl choker and matching bracelet from the late Queen’s collection, which instead dwarfed Meghan’s simple pearl earrings, hinted at the gap between their positions.
Outside of the circle of grieving loved ones, there were touches of individual glamour. Jacinda Ardern wore a kākahu, a traditional Maori coat made of feathers, which is a symbol of ritual and prestige in New Zealand.
Princess Charlotte’s old-fashioned black hat recalled the boater hat worn by Madeline Fogg, the 1940s schoolgirl protaganist of Ludwig Bemelmans’ children’s books, while the diamond horseshoe brooch on her coat made a sweet reference to the love of horses that she shared with her grandmother.