Our Mighty Monarch
Those of you who are lucky enough to have lived to see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II take the crown in the summer of ‘53, how I envy you. Imagine the excitement, the celebrations, the preparations involved in crowning a new monarch, must be something quite special. The coronation was watched by 20 million people across the nation, pulled off smoothly by the BBC who no doubt felt the pressure of recording such a landmark event. Westminster Abbey was packed with 8000+ guests, mostly heads of state, taking their front row seats. And just like that, we had a Queen. Seventy years on, it’s remarkable to look at the life her majesty has led, leading with dignity, strength and above all, grace. A truly astonishing woman.
Only the best of the best
Elizabeths’ coronation flowers were white in colour, comprising of lilies-of-the-valley which notably were from England, orchids from Wales, Stephanotis from Scotland and carnations from Northern Island and the Isle of Man. A touching tribute I think to her soon to be subjects. Her bouquet was crafted by Longman’s Florist, overseen by Martin Longman. Years later Martin’s son used photographs and film to make a replica bouquet, which was presented to Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee. How sweet!
Floral history in the making
At the time of the royal coronation in 1953, an up-and-coming florist Constance Spry was changing the face of floristry. She adapted the way flowers were used, moving away from traditional bouquets displayed in a vase, and explored using other objects to create unique table pieces, and wall hanging to display her modern designs. She encouraged others to use bicycle baskets and baking trays to hold water for the stems and explained how inanimate objects could be repurposed to hold bold collections of flowers. A baking tray and weaved metal wire on top was used to create a table piece, the wire acting as a mesh to help support stems, providing freedom to do bigger and better displays. Ahead of her time, this is now something of the ordinary for florists, and left florists stunned wanting to catch up with her modern ideas.
Ode to the orchid
Another huge moment for the nation of course, was Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Philip. Again, under the microscope of the public eye, every detail was planned out to perfection for a then princess bride, air to the throne. Princess Elizabeth requested white orchids for her wedding bouquet, and her request was met. Three varieties of orchid were grown to be included in her posy: white cattleya, cypripedium and odontoglossum orchids all grown in the UK. The freeform bouquet symbolised love, beauty and luxury fit for a Queen to be.
If you’re like me, you may have missed this next bit. As we know, the wedding posy was beautiful, luxurious and adored by Princess Elizabeth. As with all Royal events, photographs are taken to formally mark the occasion and make their solid stamp in history. If you take a look at the photo above, is there something missing? Perhaps the brides wedding posy?! Apparently, the bouquet went missing before the return to Buckingham Palace. Who knows what happened to it, but my goodness did it cause a stir. As a result, the bouquet was then missing from the formal portraits, and a replica was made by the same florist, Martin Longman. The Royal couple took portraits with the replica, causing a now Royal rule that a backup bouquet must always be available.
Hats, and lots of them. It has become a staple item in the Queen’s wardrobe, and it’s no wonder why. Milliner Raechel Trevor-Morgan has produced the most sublime hats to be sported by the Queen, the most gorgeous (in my opinion), her floral inspired designs. Throughout her seventy-year reign, floral hats have stood the test of time. From single huge roses to clusters of daisies, the most spectacular hats were those covered in flowers. Overtime, the hats have become taller and bigger, but every look is unique and wonderful. Below is a personal favourite, designed by Trevor-Morgan.
No ordinary flowers
In addition to her floral attire, no Royal outfit is complete without an addition of exquisite jewels. Over her reign, the Queen has acquired some extraordinary pieces to add to the vast Royal collection, no doubt already vast owing to centuries of inheritance from predecessors. On princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday, she was gifted a brooch from the children of Zimbabwe; the Flame-Lily Brooch. Beautiful, decadent, the stones were styled to display the national flower of Zimbabwe, curated by Sidersky & Son. Rather significantly, the same broach was worn on return home from Kenya after the death of her father in 1952. It made another appearance in Christmas of 2011, for her majesty’s television broadcast. A stunning piece of jewellery is that of a Canadian Maple-Leaf Brooch, inherited from her mother in 2002. It was gifted to the Queen’s mother, by King George VI, marking their first visit to Canada. Unsurprisingly, it has continued to be worn for numerous state visits.
Daring designs that dazzle
The Royal Family have always visited the Chelsea Flower Show, and this year will be no exception. Earlier this year, Jubilee projects were laid out to include some mesmerising designs to celebrate the Queen’s 70th year of reign. Perhaps the most anticipated design is that of Simon Lycett who will create a silhouette of the Queen, in purple of course, her jubilee colour this year. The purple will then enclose an array of colours to reflect that of the countryside at Balmoral. It will include Lily of the Valley, her favourite flower, and feature terracotta pots planed with varieties of British-grown tree branches. Another stunning design by Veevers Carter, will use dried flowers to depict a large-scale image of the Queen from pressed petals, against a backdrop of soundscape and wildlife projections. A staple in the Royal calendar year, all eyes will be peeled for the big reveal this month.