Edward VII Boyhood Clothes: Clothing Advise

Figure 1.--Detail of a 1849 photograph showing a still boyish suit with a short jacket worn by Edward. Notice the boyish cap.

The Queen and Prince Albert provided detailed advise to Edward on his dress. His Grandson, the Duke of Winsor (Edward VII), complains in his book Family Albumn of the relative independence his Grandfather had at rather early age. I'm not sure why Victorian was writing to her son at age 10, presumably he was apart from the family for some reason. I'm not sure why.

Queen Victoria

There survives a letter written in 1851 by Queen Victoria to her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, my grandfather-to-be but then a boy of 10 years old. It appears from this letter drafted, J rather suspect, by the Prince Consort, but underlined, in characteristic fashion, by the Queen that my grandfather, at this early age, already enjoyed financial independence, a degree of emancipation which I myself was not to achieve until the more advanced age of fifteen, following his death, my father's Accession to the Throne, and my own succession to the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall. It was then his own responsibility to order his meals 'in accordance with what the physicians say is good for you'. From now onwards he was to order his own clothes as well.

`Dress,' his mother writes to him, 'is a trifling matter which might not be raised to too much importance in our own eyes. But it gives also the one outward sign from which people in general can and often do judge upon the inward state of mind and feeling of a person; for this they all see, while the other they cannot see. On that account it is of some importance particularly in persons of high rank. I must now say that we do not wish to control your own tastes and fancies which, on the contrary, we wish you to indulge and develop, but we do expect that you will never wear anything extravagant or slangy not because we don't like it but because it would prove a want of self-respect and be an offence against decency, leading, as it has often done before in others, to an indifference to what is morally wrong.'

Parental Disaaprival

Apparently Bertie's choice of clothes as a yoiung man did not please his parents. Bertie's outfit when his brother Prince Alfred irritated his mother terribly. She called his clothes "frightfull". Tey were actually simply fashionable. They were perhaps not quite appropriate, but by this time the relationship with Bertie was quite strained. They both would find faut with just aboutt anything. No real attempt was made to accomodate a teenage boy attempting to assert his independence.

Prince Albert

Edward's grandson interpreted this injunction as meaning the clothes make the prince and wondered if this didn't help make his grandfather one of the world's best dressed men.

Prince Albert provided further instructions on clothes in a paper of instruction "for the guidance of gentlemen appointed to attend on the Prince of Wales." It refers to the qualities which distinguish a gentleman in society, with especial regard to his manners and costume:

Figure 3.--The Prince of Whales at the age of 15 about 1856 was wearing quite adult looking.

The appearance, deportment and dress of a gentleman consist perhaps more in the absence of certain offences against good taste, and in careful avoidance of vulgarities and exaggerations of any kind, however generally they may be the fashion of the day, than in the adherence to any rules which can be exactly laid down. A gentleman does not indulge in careless, self-indulgent, lounging ways, such as lolling in armchairs, or on sofas, slouching in his gait, or placing himself in unbecoming attitudes, with his hands in his pockets, or in any position in which he appears to consult more the idle ease of the moment than the maintenance of the decorum which is characteristic of a polished gentleman. In dress, with scrupulous attention to neatness and good taste, he will never give in to the unfortunately loose and slang style which predominates at the present day. He will borrow nothing from the fashions of the groom or the gamekeeper, and whilst avoiding the frivolity and foolish vanity of dandyism, will take care that his clothes are of the best quality, well-made, and suitable to his rank and position. . . .

To all these particulars the Prince of Wales must necessarily pay more attention than anyone else. His deportment will be more watched, his dress more criticized. There are many habits and practices and much in dress which might be quite natural and unobjectionable for these gentlemen at their own homes and in their ordinary life, which would form dangerous examples for the Prince of Wales to copy, and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness would wish them in all their habits to have regard to these consequences, and without any formality or stiffness of manner, to remember both in deportment and in dress that they are in attendance on the eldest son of the Queen.


The Duke of Windsor writes looking back on his grandfather. "Beau Brummell himself, a man otherwise unlikely to have found much in common with my great-grandfather, could hardly have expressed his own philosophy of clothes more aptly—though he might well have expressed it more wittily.

The Duke added, "Was it not he that laid down, for the gentlemen of his time, the principle of simplicity and restraint in costume ? `If John Bull turns to look after you' he remarked, 'you are not well-dressed but either too stiff, too tight or too fashionable.* Sir Max Beerbohm has written of him: "Is it not to his fine scorn of accessories that we may trace the first aim of modern dandyism, the production of the supreme effect through means the least extravagant?' This was a principle in direct contradiction to the more flamboyant male fashions of earlier generations.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: May 15, 2001