George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 started the trend for the traditional Scottish pattern –after the repeal of the Dress Act which banned the wearing of tartan in Scotland – when he arrived wearing a kilt.
Like her ancestors, Queen Elizabeth II is a huge fan and has worn almost every colour of tartan imaginable during her six-plus decades as Britain’s longest-reigining monarch.
An exhibition marking the royal passion for plaid opens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, this month.
It is one of three special exhibitions to showcase the Queen’s clothes and accessories to mark the monarch’s 90th birthday.
One of the most iconic images of Her Majesty was at the official opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. She wore a purple coat made of a silk-wool blend with a green silk-crepe and lace dress, and a shawl of purple and green Isle of Skye tartan, woven on the Isle of Lewis and inspired by the Scottish landscape. The full Sandra Murray-designed outfit – teamed with a matching hat by milliner Philip Somerville – will be on show.
The evening dress the Queen wore to the Gillies Ball at Balmoral Castle in 1971 will also be exhibited. The annual event is given for neighbours and estate staff at Balmoral.
Norman Hartnell, the British couturier who is a favourite of the royals, created the cream dress of embroidered duchesse satin which The Queen famously wore with strikingsash of Royal Stewart tartan.
The exhibition will tell the story of Balmoral tartan, designed by Prince Albert in the 1850s, which remains the private property of the Royal Family and can only be worn with The Queen’s permission.
The exhibit also reveals how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert championed the wearing of tartan, both in their own clothes and in the clothing of their children. A woven silk-velvet dress worn by Queen Victoria between 1835 and 1937 will feature.
Younger royals have also taken on tartan, with Prince William and wife Kate often seen in Strathearn tartan when in Scotland, where they have the titles Earl and Countess of Strathearn.
The event, which opens on 21 April, will also show the outfit worn by the Queen for the wedding of her sister Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in May 1960. The turquoise-blue dress with a matching bolero jacket was also designed by Hartnell, who created Princess Margaret’s wedding dress.
In total, about 150 outfits worn by the Queen will go on display in Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe, to be held acrossthree venues.
The Holyroodhouse display will be followed by shows at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.