Victoria and Albert: Children's Garments

Figure 2.--This rare photograph was taken at Osborne (the family's Isle of Wright holiday home), in 1857. It shows Victoria and Albert with all nine children. Left to right, Alice, Arthur, Albert, Edward, Leopold, Louise, the Queen holding Beatrice, Alfred, Vicky, and Helena. Note the range of the boys' outfits. Leopold (age 4) appears to be wearing a dress, Arthur (age 7) wears a kilt, and the two older boys Alfred (age 11) and Edward (age 16) wear suits with stiff collars.

The children, both boys and girls, wore dresses. The younger boys also wore tunics. The young princes are most noted for beginning the tradition of wearing sailor suits and kilts, although they did not wear them as much as future generations. The fact that photography was only developed and still primitive in the early 1840s means that the photo graphic record of the royal family is very limited in the 1840s, but becomes much more extensive in the 1850s. Still there are still relativerly few images of the younger children.


We have no information on Albert's role with the children's dresses. This was normally left to the mother, so he may well not have been involved. He almost certainly was involved in the decission on when and how to breech the boys. HBC does not, however, have any details on this and how it was handled in the royal family. The boys appeared o have been breeched at about age 5. I do not know if such matters were handled differently in Germany than England.


The famous painting by Winterhalter in 1846 shows Bertie wearing a tunic at about age 5. I am not sure just to what extent the princes wore such tunics. Presumably he was breeched at this time.


Bertie was outfitted in a kilt and created a fasgion sensation. I am not yet sure whose idea this was. Cerainly the Queen was enamoured by Scotland. Prince Albert on occasion wore the kilt himself. This of course it was no seen as a child's costume. The convention enoloyed bt te royal family concerning kilts, however, is not clear at this time. Available images suggest that the princes, and not the princesses, mostly wore the kilt as younger children. HBRC has no images taken at Osbore or other locations showing all the princes wearing kilts at the same time. Tis was the case for future generations, but not for Victoria and Albert's cgildren. An exception may be Balmoral. One might tink that they all wore kilts at Balmoral. We do not have any photographs from Balmoral yet. Drawings of Bertie and Affie, show the boys wearing matching kilts. We do not, however, have any images of all the boys wearing kilts together.

Sailor suits

Bertie created another fashion sensation when he was dressed in a white sailor suit--notably that of an ordinary sailor. Again we do not yet know whose idea this was, but Albert must have played a prominent role. There is another famous Winterhalter portrait which Albert had done for the Queen if Bertie in that famous sailor suit. The princes do not appear, however, to have commonly worn sailor suits. We have not yet been able to find a photograph.

Figure 3.--We all recognize Pribce Albert and Bertie in this April 1857 photograph. The other gentlemen are (from the left), Colonel Phillips, Mr Gibbs (Bertie's tutor), Baron Stockmar (Victoria's adviser), Dr. Decker, and Baron Ernest Stockmar. Notice Bertie;s short dark jacket worn open, a open necked short without a stock, and contrasting colored long trousers. Notice how long the men's jackets are. Bertie would have been about 15 years old.


The princes by about age 10 or 11 appear to be wearing longpants suits. Bertie and his younger brother Alfred were often dressed in identical suits. The suits were commonly in the Eton style--short jackets and contrasting colored trousers. They also had suits with matching trousers. The trousers were always long. I have not noed them wearing kneepants or knickers. Presumably they did on occasion wear knee breeches for court ceremonies as did Prince Albert. Their jackets were often not buttoned. Adults almost always buttoned their suits. Collars varied, but in the 1850s many photofraphs show them wearing rather comfortable open collars.


Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).


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Created: May 19, 2001
Last updated: May 19, 2001