The secret meaning behind Queen Elizabeth’s coronation dress

This is one dress that’s gone down in the history books.

While Queen Elizabeth II wore countless statement-making styles during her 70-year reign, perhaps the most memorable of all was her sparkling coronation gown.

The British monarch — who died at the age of 96 in 2022 — was crowned on June 2, 1953, and along with the pomp and pageantry of the day, the Norman Hartnell dress she wore stole the show.

Queen Elizabeth II coronation portrait
The details on her dress and stunning Robe of Estate are visible in this official portrait from the coronation.
Royal Collection Trust

Featuring intricate embroidery and beadwork, the new monarch’s white dress sparkled as she took her oath in Westminster Abbey during the world’s first-ever televised coronation ceremony when she was just 27 years old.

With its sweetheart neckline and full skirt, the gown wasn’t just designed to be beautiful — it also featured important details that represented the Queen’s connection to her new role.

Ahead of King Charles III’s coronation on May 6, we’re taking a look back at five fascinating facts about his mother’s coronation dress.

It was made by her wedding dress designer.

Norman Hartnell coronation gown sketch
A sketch depicts Norman Hartnell’s design for the coronation dress.
Getty Images

When then-Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip on November 20, 1947, she wore a gorgeous long-sleeved silk dress from British designer Norman Hartnell.

So it was no surprise when the new queen turned to her favorite designer for the most significant occasion in her royal life, entrusting Hartnell with the task of creating her coronation gown.

According to the Royal Collection TrustElizabeth was presented with nine designs, eventually choosing the eighth version — but with some specific adjustments.

The monarch “suggested the addition of embroideries in various colors rather than all in silver,” giving the dress another interesting element.

Hartnell went on to craft the final piece from white silk along with “gold bugle beads, diamantés and pearls,” per the Royal Collection Trust.

The gown features emblems from the UK and the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II coronation dress
The dress, which has yellowed with age, was put on display in 2022 to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.
Royal Collection Trust

While Hartnell’s original design featured emblems of the United Kingdom, one of the modifications requested by Queen Elizabeth was to include symbols of the Commonwealth nations as well, royal fashion expert Rosie Harte tells Page Six Style.

The designer’s original sketch “included English roses, Scottish thistles, Irish shamrocks, and what he believed to be the flower of Wales — the daffodil,” says Harte, who runs popular TikTok account @theroyalwardrobe.

Queen Elizabeth “asked him to switch the Welsh daffodil for a leek, which is their official flower, and then she asked for all of the Commonwealth nations to be represented in the embroidery,” she continues, adding that the move “speaks to the attentiveness of Elizabeth, and how seriously she took her role as monarch and head of state.”

If you look closely at the gown, you can see Elizabeth’s additions along the hem, with the floral design including Commonwealth emblems such as the Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, Indian lotus and New Zealand fern.

The dress contained a secret good luck charm.

Queen Elizabeth II
The skirt features a special symbolic addition.
Getty Images

Among the intricate beadwork on the dress sits one emblem that many people probably never noticed — including the Queen herself.

Noting that Hartnell “loved a good Easter egg,” Harte says the designer “included a hidden good luck charm” on the skirt in the form of “a lucky four-leaf clover.”

The Irish symbol sits “just at the spot where Elizabeth’s left hand would have covered it,” the royal fashion expert says, explaining that it was created “to bring him and the dress good fortune with the press, and to help guide the Queen through the very long and complicated ceremony.”

Whether or not Queen Elizabeth was aware of the detail is something we’ll probably never know, as Caroline de Gautaut, deputy surveyor of the Queen’s Works of Art, told People.

“I think it’s possible that (the Queen) didn’t know,” she said, continuing that the emblem “was a really lovely, personal thought” in any case.

She added a special robe after the ceremony.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth covered her dress with a special robe as she made an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with Prince Philip.
Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth topped her magnificent gown with a special style after she was officially crowned.

Royal historian Jessica Storoschuk tells Page Six Style that the new monarch “commissioned the Royal School of Needlework to complete the embroidery work on her purple Robe of Estate,” a piece Elizabeth wore after the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

The sumptuous purple velvet robe is “trimmed with Canadian ermine,” per Storoschuk, and its gold detail took more than 3,000 hours to complete.

“Twelve embroiderers worked daily 7 a.m.-to-10 p.m. shifts” for three months, the An Historian About Town blogger says, with the team spending “over 3,500 hours on the gown” before they were honored by Queen Elizabeth with a special coronation medal for their work.

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Queen Elizabeth rewore the dress six times.

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip
The Queen wore her coronation dress to the 1954 state opening of Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand.
Getty Images

Although it was created for the coronation, this spectacular dress wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

Queen Elizabeth brought the gown with her as she traveled around the world on a post-coronation royal tour, and according to Prince Phillip’s royal cousin Lady Pamela Hicks, the piece even had its own room.

“The dress required a cabin unto itself,” the former lady-in-waiting said on daughter India Hicks’ podcast (via Tatler).

“The dress’ cabin was slightly bigger than mine. I was rather jealous.”

Her Majesty rewore the glittering gown on six occasions after the coronation, per the royal family websiteincluding to open Parliament in Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) in 1954 — and, four years later, for the 1957 State Opening of Parliament in Canada.

“By bringing the coronation dress to important and heavily publicized events further afield, Elizabeth was attempting to open up the coronation celebrations to a much wider audience of her subjects,” Harte says.

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