*** boys clothing: British royalty

European Royalty: Britain

Prince of Wales Albert Victor
Figure 1.--Albert Victor was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, and grandson of Victoria. This photograph was taken in 1868 and shows the Victorian habit of dressing boys in dresses and pantalettes.

Britain has one of the longest monarchial lines in Europe. The current British crown comines the Scottish and English monarchies and includes Wales and Ulster by Conquest, the United Kingdom. The British crown has ruled in a steady line broken only by the Norman conquest, Cromwell's Commonwealth, and the Glorious Revolution. A complete list of ruling monarch streaches more than a millenium.

British Royal families have always influenced fashion, but primarily adult fashion. Until the late 18th century there were no special styles for children, thus there were no fashions to influence. After differentiated styles for children developed, the fashions for the royal children were of considerable interest to the public. Queen Victoria and her children and grand children were closely followed by the British public. The young Queen children were dressed in a variety of styles, but the two most common were sailor suits and kilts. (I'm not sure who was responsible here. Was it all the young Queen's doing? Did her staff make important suggestions? Did Albert play a role? Certainly the wearing of kilts made an important political starement.) These styles contuinued through the reign of Queen Elizabeth II who often dressed Prince Charles in kilts. Notably Diana does not seem to have chosen kilts for Prince William and Harry, although they did wear them on a few formal occasions as younger boys. Prince William also wore a clasic sailor suit and hat for his uncle's wdding.

British Royals

The following is an alphabetical presentation of British monarchs along with several princes. WE discuss both the econinic and political aspects of their reigns as well as fashion trends. Some HBC readers may prefer to just view the actual monarchs in a chronogical format.

Albert (1819-61): Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel Saxe-Coburg was born at Rosenau (near Coburg), Bavaria, Germany. His parents were Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. He mairred Queen Victoria in 1840 which proved to be the great love story of the age. The two were only 20 and 21 years old. The way Victoria and Albert's children were dressed had an enormous impact on children's fashions for generations. I'm not sure who decided on these fashions. Perhaps it was Victoria. But the use of the kilt made good political sence for the monarch, just the astute step that Albert was likely to have suggested to Victoria. Albert died in 1861 at the age of 42, devestating Victoria.

Albert Victor (1864-92): Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, known to the familly as Eddy was the eldest son of Edward VII and grandson of Queen Victoria. Eddy was atired in dresses until about 5 or 6 years at which time he was dressed in the sailor suits and kilts that the Victorians are most widely know for. There are pictures of Prince Albert Victor in dresses and lacy panteletts and long about 6-7 years of age. He was in line to inherit the crown until he died of influnza at the age of 28. Eddy seems to have been a relatively harmless chap, not academically clever, but very affectionate which made his grandmother dote on him. He was a hopeless naval cadet. The British royal establishment must have breathed a sigh of relief as the true story of his private life would have made the goings on of the current royals look very tame indeed.

Figure 2.--.
Andrew (1960- ): Prince Andrew, Duke of York is the second son of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Andrew was dressed much like his brother as a small boy. He also attended private schools, ending the private schooling of royal children. As fashions were changing in the late 1960s, Andrew began wearing long pants at a earlier age than his older brother. As with his brothers and father, Andrew attended Gordonstoun school in Scotland.

Anne: (1665-1714): Anne, the first British monarch as a result of the Act of Union with Scotland, is an unappreciated, basically because of books written by her one time friend, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlbourgh. Her poor health and increasing obesity was anoyther problem. She had an incredible 17 pregnancies she died without an heir, but paved the way for the stable secession of the Protestant bHouse of Hanover. She supported Marlbourgh who gained the great viuctoiry at Blenheim stopoing the military advances of French King Louis XIV. And then turned away from perpetual war with the Treaty Of Ithrech, one of the grerat peace traeties of European history.

Charles I (1625-49): Charles I was born in 1600. He was the second of James I, the first Stewart king. His mother was Anne of Denmark, one of many marriages between the English and Danish royal family. He was a weak, sickly child, but became a competent horseman. His weak constitution hid a strong, if inflexible character. His father had a difficult time finding a bride for Charles. Finally a marriage was arranged with Henrietta Maria, the 15-year old daughter of Henry IV of France. Te narriage was not an initual success, but the two gradually became close. They were to produce four sons and five daughters, four of whom were to inherit the crown he lost: Charles II, James II, Mary II, and Anne I. Charles became king at the youthful age of 25. Unlike the Tudors before them and the Hanovarians who followed them, the Stewarts seem unable to adjust to changing times and remained wed to the idea of divine right monarchy and royal absolutism in a country where Parlament had become an important force. Charles was even less adept than his father in handling Parliament. The resylt was a long, destructive Civil War with Cromwell's Roundheads. Charles even after losing the Civil War , conspired with foreign powers. He was executed for treason in 1649. Not the first king to be deposed, but the only one to be executed (1649).

Charles II (1630-85): Charles was the second, but eldest surviving son of Charles I. His father, Charles I, had been executed by Cromwell, bit he and his younger brother James had been spirited away to France for saftey. The throne was restored to Charles in 1660 after the death of Cromwell. Charles pursued a moderate policy offering amnesty to all but the regecides who had signed the orders for his father's execution.

Prince Charles
Figure 3.--Charles was the first member of the British royal family to attend a preparatory school along with commoners of his own age. Previously the princes and princesses had been tutored at home.
Charles (1948- ): Charles is the current heir to the British throne. He will become King Charles III on either the abdication or the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles was the first heir to the throne of modern times to not be born in the presence of the government's Home Secretary, a custom since abolished. Charles mostly wore shorts as a boy. As a younger boy he often was dressed in mary Jane strap sandals and white socks--usually white ankle socks for dressy occasions. He did not commonly wear sailor suits like his father and grandfather. He did, however often wear kilts. Charles in many respects had a pioneering royal childhood. While his mother like other royal children was educated within the confines of the Palace and Windsor Castle, Charles went to a private pre-preparatory school in London's Knightsbridge (Hill House). This was a precedent-making decission made to keep pace with changing times. His male predecesors had been schooled at home and then thrown into some rather tough military schools, where they encountered all sorts of difficulties adjusting. After his preparatory school (Cheam). He wore short pants school uniforms pre-prep at Hill House and at prep school Cheam. Charles continued to often appear in kilts as a boy and teenager. In fact he still wears them on occassion, unlike his sons. Charles went to Gordonstoun in the rugged north of Scotland. Gordonstoun is one of Britain's elite private secondary (Public) schools and is famed for its rugged character-building routine of work and physical discipline. Sent mainly on the wishes of his father, Charles did not feel entirely at home here, a fact decribed by many commentators and news reports. The Gordonstoun uniform inckuded shorts as a everyday school uniform. The boys also wore kilts for church and other formal events. Charles has two sons, William, second in line to the throne, and Henry who now face their own problems in dealing with the press.

Edward VII (1841-1910): Victoria's eldest son like his brothers were dressed conventionally in dresses and wore curls. They wore dresses until about 5 years of age. Even after breeching he continued wearing curls for several years. The images of the sweet little boy in curls belies all the develment that the future Prince of Wales got up to as an adult. He was then in the first generation of English royals to be done up in kilts, presumably in deference to her great interest in Scotland. This led to the great popularity of kilt outfits for boys, at least popular with mothers, during the later half of the 19th Century. Edward was also outfitted in a sailor suit at the age of 5 years--which helped to popularize that style. Edward mairred in 1863. He was 21 when he married Alexandra Oldenburg, age 18. He was crowned in 1902 at Victoria's death. While his reign was short, he played an important role in maintaining the peace of Europe. Notably within a few years of his death the catoclism of World War I had begun.

Edward VIII and George V
Figure 4.--This photgraph taken about 1899 shows the popularity of sailor suits with royal family. The future George VI still is young enough to wear a sailor dress, but his older brother, the future Edward VIII had graduated to knee pants. Notice the white socks and strap shoes.
Edward VIII: The eldest son of George V and greatgrandson of Victoria as a small boy still wore dresses as that custom persisted until the world War. The subsequent Duke of Windsor and his younger brother (George VI) wore lacy dresses, although not at such advanced ages as there father. One picture shows George the VI in a carriage wearing a long lacy dress at 2 years of age. An older boy (Edward VIII), also in a lacy dress, is standing beside him. By age 5 he was in very smart short panted sailor suits with ankle socks. There are a lot of pictures of Edward VIII and his brother in matching sailor suits and broad-brimmed hats, often with their sister Mary wearing a sailor suit (with skirt) or a smock. He and his brother were done up in kilts a great deal. Sometimes in Scottish kilts, but also when they were younger in white kilts worn with their middy blouses. They were very closely supervised at first by nannies and then governesses. Edward complained that he had a miserable childhood. Edward VIII and his brother were educated at the Royal Naval School at ????, the first school they attended. They were not used to dealing with other children and had quite a hard time of it. They were reportedly hazed a good deal by the other cadets. Once they put Edward VIII in a window seal and pretended to guillotine him by closing the window. The letters between the boys and their parents have been saved. They are notable for the complete absence of affection. Their parents letters sounded more like an account of state functions that would seem more suitable for the Times. Their father reportedly berated them both because of their poor academic performance. Edward complained that their tutors had never taught him anything. He hated the constant belittlement by his father and did not grieve when he died. At his investiture as Prince of Wales, he was horrified at the costume he had to wear, knee britches with long white stockings. He complained of what the other cadets would say if they saw him dressed like that. After wearing very traditional sailor suits and kilts as a boy, as a young man he became a real clothes horse, perhaps in reaction to those traditional clothes boyhood clothes. Edward was born and bred to be the King of England. He served in France with the army during World War I (1914-18). The courtly Prince of Wales was in the 1930s the world's most eligible bachelor, attracting adoring females wherever he ventured. But when the princed destined to be crowned Edward VIII came to a decision, it was a great urprise to the British people and rocked the kingdom. It choice of twice-divorced American named Wallis Simpson shocked his sunjects. It was too much for the Government. Edward on December 11, 1936, in a radio broadcast that reached millions, the newly proclaimed King announced his abdication.

Edward Windsor (1964- ): Prince Edward is the youngest of the Queen's children. His education followed in the now family tradition of a preparatory school and Public school (Gordonstoun) in Scotland. Edward threw himself into the outdoor and physical life of Gordonstoun, he enjoyed skiing and had learned to fly before he left school. Edward won a Royal Marine cadetship and went to study at Jesus College, Cambridge. On leaving Cambridge, Edward joined the Marines to train as an officer, an effort to meet the very traditional expectations of his rathervstraight-laced father. This proved to be a mistake. The Royal Marines are one of the most demanding military units in the world. The Royal Marines turned out to be more than Edward could handle and he soon left the Marines to follow an alternative and less traditional career of his own choosing. Prince Edward is now in a London theatre company working as a producer/director and with a good degree of success.

Elizabeth II (1926- ): The Princess Elizabeth was born in 1926. She was the elest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the secon son of King George V. Everyone at the time assumed that the Duke's personable, outgoing elder brother would be king and that the Duke would lead a relatively quiet life out of the spotlight to which royalty was subjected. The Princess was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. The first few years of her life were uneventful, until in 1936 her Uncle Edward VIII, the uncrowned king abdicated in favor of his younger brother. Elizabeth's father was shocked. He ws not prepared to be king, he was shy and spoke with a stammer. Suddenly the little princess was next inline to inherit the British crown. The British people admired the plucky teenage princess who drove an ambulance and maintained the engine. After the War, Elizabeth began participating in official functions, especially after her father's health began to fail.

George III (1738-1820): I do not yet have details on George III's boyhood, but it is likely he wore dresses. At the times the dresses worn by little girls and boys were virtually identical, although there might have been differences such as blur colored sahes for boys. At the time, there wwas no specialized children's clothing. Boys graduating from dresse would simply be outfitted with small editions of their father's clothes. George III ruled from 1760-1820, presiding over the loss of Britain's American colonies. George's aim was to rule as well as reign, and he was a skillful and astute politician; by 1763 he had managed to regain many of the powers that the Whig ministers had appropriated during the reigns of the first two Georges. His problem was that he lacked the self-confidence and the mature statesmanship to form and achieve any long-term policy. His Prime Minister, Lord North, executed the royal policies that provoked the American Revolution. The unsuccessful conclusion of that long conflict forced North to resign, and during the government crisis that followed, the king himself was almost induced to abdicate. He then took a political gamble by placing the government in the hands of the 24-year-old William Pitt, thereby restoring stability for the rest of the century. George's mind deteriorated in his later years.

George IV (1752-1830): George Augustus Frederick was created Prince of Wales in 1762. As a little boy he wore identical dresses to his sisters. As was the the custom at mid-19th century, once he was old enough to graduate from dresses, he wore small editions of the clothes worn by his father. Prior to his oficial mairrage, George secretly married 28 year-old widow Maria FitzHerbert when, as a virtuous Catholic, she refused to be his mistress. Her religion prevented an open marriage as the 1701 Act of Settlement prohibited the succession of a Catholic to the throne. He married Princess Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) in 1795. He ascended to the thrones of Great Britain and Hanover, as King George IV, on January 29, 1820, and was crowned on July 19, 1821. He had spent the previous 9 years as Prince Regent for his blind and deranged father, George III. Although his reign was notable for the granting of political rights to Catholics, George IV is best remembered for his years as Prince of Wales. During that time he was a great patron of arts, but led an immoral life. His marriage to Caroline of Brunswick proved troubled, and the couple parted amid accusations of infidelity. When George refused to allow Caroline to attend his coronation, he lost much of his popularity. The couple had one child: Charlotte, born January 7, 1796. Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg on May 2, 1816. She died in childbirth of a stillborn son on November 6, 1817. George IV ruled from 1820-30. He was know as "Prinny".

George V (1865-1936) Victoria's grandsons were dressed in dresses and kilt skirts that would be thought of as sissy by modern children. Pictures show his older brother, Prince Albert Victoria known to the family as Eddy, in little girl dresses and lacy panteletts and long girlish hair at about 6 years of age. Presumably George the V was dressed the same. By about 7 or 8 years he was wearing sailor suits, with below the knee pants, and a straw boater rather then a proper sailor hat. George mairred Mary of Teck in 1893. He was crowned in 1911, only 3 years before the First World War began. Their children included George Windsor (1st Duke of Kent); Henry Windsor (1st Duke of Gloucester); John Windsor; King Edward VIII; King George VI; and Mary Windsor (Princess Royal).

George VI (1895-1952): Albert was never intended to be king. A biographer calls him, the reluctant king. It was his older brother who was to be king. But Albert rose to the occassion and it was his qualities, rather than those of his popular but undiscplined older brother, that reflected the needs of the British people in perhaps their darkest hour. George was born at York Cottage, Sandringham, Norfolk, the son of George V and Mary of Teck (Queen Mary). George VI and his older brother (Edward VIII) wore lacy dresses, although not at such advanced ages as there father. One picture shows George the VI in a carriage wearing a long lacy dress at 2 years of age. An older boy (probably his brother Edward VIII, also in a lacy dress, is standing beside him. A bit older, I'd say 4 or 5, he was in a very smart white sailor suit, but at first wore a kilt instead of the shorts his older brother wore. By about age 5 or 6 he was also wearing shorts with his sailor suit with ankle socks and often Mary Jane strap shoes. There are a lot of pictures of George VI and his brother in matching sailor suits and broad-brimmed hats, often with their sister Mary wearing a sailor suit (with skirt) or a smock. The boys were also done up in kilts a great deal. George VI like his brother was educated at the Royal Naval School and like his brother had a rough time of it. George married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) in 1923 at Westminster.

Prince Harry
Figure 8.--Prince Harry in his traditional English schoolboy uniorm including cap, tie, blazer, shorts, and kneesocks with the school colors at the top.
Henry (1984- ): Henry, commonly known as Harry, is the younger son of Charles as Diana and grandson of Elizabeth II. Harry wore shorts as a younger boy, often being dressed just like his older brother. On occasions the boys would appear in nice outfits including white knee socks and blue Mary Jane sandals. More commonly they appeared in play shorts. He wore a short pants school uniform with ankle socks at his pre-prep school, but longs at his prepschool. Henry is third in line to the throne. This effectively ensures that the House of Windsor (possibly to be re-named Mountbatten-Windsor), will continue a long way into the 21st century.

Henry William Frederick Albert: The third son of George V. He was the Duke of Gloucester. He was dressed much like his brothers. He wore dresses ar first, but then graduated to sailor suits and kilts. Some of skirted outdits were made to match his older brothers who had graduated to knee pants.

James II (1633-1701): James II was the second surviving son of Charles I. His father, Charles I, had been executed by Cromwell, bit he and his elder brother Charles had been spirited away to France for saftey. James inherited the throne from his elder brother, Charles II, in 1685. His brother had maintained a careful policy aimed at passifying Parliament. James ignored his brother's advise and his militant Catholcism cost him the throne.

Leopold (1853-84): Leopold was the youngest son of Victoria and Albert. The young Prince was the first of Victoria's sons to suffer hemeopphilia and also suffered from epilepsey. The Queen at first found him annoying and clumsey and as they got older the two had a stormy relationship.

Philip (1921- ): Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and baron Greenwich, was born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu on June 10, 1921. He was resuced by the British Royal Navy from a Greek military coup at the age of 1 yesr. The engagement of the dashing Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten to Princess Elizabeth was announced in July 1947 and the marriage took place in Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947, a rare ray of light in a country still emerging from World War II. Shortly before the wedding, King George VI knighted the young bridegroom who was created Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen and Prince Philip had two children before (Prince Charles, Princess Anne) and two after (Prince Andrew, Prince Edward) Queen Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne.

William III (1689-1702): William of Orange was born in ???? during 1650. His father was William, Prince of Orange. His mother was Mary Stuart (daughter of Charles I). He married Mary Stuart who was the daughter of James II, a first cousin. Both Wiliam and Mary were grandchildren of King Charles I who was executed by Cromwell. William played a major role in the sucess of the Dutch in asserting their ndependence and in supporting Protestant states against the two major powers of the age--Spain and France. William died in 1702 as a result of from complications falling a fall from a horse.

William IV (1765-1837): William was the eldest surviving brother of George IV. I have no information yet on his boyhhod. He married Adelaide, daughter of the Grand Duke of Saxe-Meininghen. They had two children, whom both died as infants. William spent many years at sea, commanding ships and later became the Admiral of the Fleet. Before succeeding to the throne, he had a mistress in Dorothea Jordan, or otherwise known as Dorothy Bland, who was a popular actress of the day. They settled down together and had 10 children. When William's allowance was low, which was frequent as it was a meagre one, Dorothy would put on her grease-paint and take to the stage, once again, to raise cash. After 20 years, William realised that he was no longer in love with her and paid Mrs. Jordan a pension in order to release himself for a marriage of wealth. The seeking of this marriage took 7 years and Mrs. Jordan died of a broken heart in those years. William eventually found Princess Adelaide, she brought no dowry, only a promise that she would look after his illegitimate children. Princess Adelaide was a good hearted and kind woman. At this stage William was only third in line to the throne, but with the death of Frederick Duke of York, he became heir. He was 65 years old when he was crowned King. William IV ruled from 1830-37. Nobody expected much of him and he was referred to him as "silly Billy". Britons hoped that he would be easier to respect than his hated brother. He did some good for British politics by creating enough Whig Peers to force the Great Reform Bill through the Tory House of Lords. He died at the age of 71.

Figure 9.--Dianne sometimes dressed Princes and William and Harry in traditional outfits until they started prep school.
William (1982- ): Prince William, as first son of the hier, is the current second in line to the throne. One day he will become King William V, a great and heavy responsibility. Since 1985 it has been royal policy that William should not fly in the same aeroplane as his father, Charles, since one fatal crash would mean the loss of England's next two kings. William's mother, Diana, set royal precedents in the amount of personal attention she gave to her children and the public affection she has showed to both William and Henry (or "Harry") is well recorded. William, the oldest son of Charles and Grandson of Elizabeth II, wore shorts as a younger boy, often being dressed just like his younger brother. On occasions the boys would appear in nice outfits including white knee socks and blue Mary Jane sandals. More commonly they appeared in play shorts. He wore a short pants school uniform with ankle socks at his pre-prep school, but longs at his prepschool. Unkike his father, I have never seen him in a kilt but he did wear an emaculate white sailor suit for his uncle's wedding. William attended preparatory school in London and then on to board at a prepartaory school (???). By this time his preparatory school had a long pants school uniform. His parents managed to keep William away from the interests of the press apart from on one notable occasion when he was hit on the head with a golf club during a school games lesson. Thenewspapers and especially the television news service were falling over themselves to give minute by minute coverage of what was a worrying but really quite minor incident. He is currently at Eton, England's most famous private secondary (Public) school where he wears the traditional Eton suit. Eton is a far cry from the remote Scottish school attended by his father. Both William and his younger brother have been given a pioneering childhood considering their status. They have been kept close to their parents on most occasions. They were not raised entirely by nannies, although considering the official demands on the royals, nannies did still play an important role. Neither parent was shy of showing their affection for their children in public, previously not a common trait of high-profile royals. Edward VIII, for example, compained bitterly of his father's stand-offish approach to his son. This all marked a significant change in the approach of a monarchy adapting to new social conditions and expectations.

Victoria (1819-1901): Queen Victoria is one of Britain's most important monarchs. Many did not think such a young, inexperienced girl was up to the job. They had not reckoned on either her character or her marvelous good fortune in choosing her husband. German-born Prince Albert was not much older, but his intelect and judgement helped Victoria to learn to be a great queen. It was during her reign that Britain passed into the modern worls. Victoria is generally referred to as the Grandmother of Europe. She had nine children, four boys and five girls. All but one of these children mairred and had children, by the four generation, hundreds of decendents had mairred into virtually every royal house in Europe. Click here for information on Victoria, her children's clothes, and family life. The Queen followed many of the fashions of the day, dresses for younger boys and tunics after a boy was breeched. She also popularized two enduring fashions for boys, kilts and sailor suits.

English Royalty

British hitory begins with Queen Anne. The list above deals with the British rioyals, Anne and the subsequent monarchs, Here you can find the several centuries of English kings and queens that preceeded the British monarchs.

The Royal Almonry

The Royal Almonry is a small poorly known office within the Royal Household of the British monarchy. It is overseen by the Lord High Almoner, an office created in 1103. The Lord High Almoner has the clerical rank of a diocesan bishop of the Church of England. There is also an hereditary Grand Almoner, an office created in 1685 and permanently vested in the person of the Marquess of Exeter. The Grand Almoner, however, should not be confused with the Royal Almonry because despite the seeming similarity s actually not an officer of the Royal Almonry. The Royal Almonry is actually administered by Sub-Almoner, who is also has the position of Sub-dean of the Chapel Royal, Deputy Clerk of the Closet of the Ecclesiastical Household, and Domestic Chaplain at Buckingham Palace. The Almonry chief responsibility appears to be Keeper of the Privy Purse for the annual Maundy Easter service.


You may have noted that on some state occasions, such as royal weddings, youths are dressed in red coats, jabots, kneepants, and white stockings. The boys are British aristocrats especially closen for the occasion. These peers of the realm are reportedly sometimes not to happy about their fancy costumes. Some information on these boys is avaiable here.

The Media

A study of how the media has portrayed the British monarchy is an interesting one. The relationship between the media and the Brirtish monarchy is a tpic that needs to be addressed in greater detail. We are especially interested in how Victoria and Albert changed the image, virtually redefining the image of the monarchy in the 19th century which as an unintended result had a huge impact on boys' fashions. We note an interesting conference on the media and the monarchy held in London during the May 2002. No doubt they will focus on the modern royals, but hopefully they will also discuss the 19th century in some detail.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 1:47 PM 4/7/2021