Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A right Royal carriage


Last weekend, I went to see the Queen again! Unfortunately, not only was she out for the day, but she had taken some of the things I had gone to look at. But being the Queen, she can do as she darn well pleases, of course. After writing only recently about King Edward VII's famous love of horseless carriages, I thought it was time to look at something a little less newfangled. Come with me on a stroll through the Royal Mews and look at some fancy-pants coaches... the kind that come WITH horses!

It's fair to say that the Royal Family like a good carriage. King Edward VII was a huge fan of carriages, horseless carriages AND a good undercarriage... sorry, maybe that's a bit crude. On any given state occasion, the whole family will get to ride in one of the many snazzy carriages at their disposal. The most famous and definitely the jazziest of all is the Gold State Coach.

Yes, that's real gold leaf. It's a four-ton beast that was ordered by the 24 year old King George III in 1760. His precise order was for a 'very superb' State coach for his wedding. They missed their deadline by rather a lot, and George rode in it to the State Opening of Parliament in 1762. The people loved its glittering opulence, its cherubs, crowns, palm trees, lions' heads, faces, tritons and dolphins. And what opulence? It cost an astonishing £8,000 which amounts to nearly 16 million quid in today's money.

Luckily, it's proved to be fairly good value, as it's been used at the coronations of every British monarch since. Here's Queenie in it in 1953, the first time it had ever been seen on TV!

And here's our hero in it at his own coronation, over 150 years earlier, in 1902. 

Not all the Kings and Queens who've had the honour of riding in the Gold State Coach have had nice things to say about it. William IV compared it to being aboard a ship in rough seas and Queen Victoria apparently refused to ride in it, due to its 'distressing oscillations'! Only our present queen has benefited from the wheel upgrade it was given after WWII... some air cushioning is now present!

Side note - it's so bright, it throws everything into shadow!

Anyway, back to the Mews. There are over 100 coaches and carriages belonging to the Royal Family around the place, but only a selection of them are on display. Many date from the Victorian era, up to 1988, when the last adddition, the Australian Coach was presented to her Maj. The one I had really come to see though, was the 1902 State Landau, ordered by and built for King Edward VII himself, for his coronation in 1902.

Of course, this was the carriage being used by the Queen on the day I visited, along with all the horses! Darn it.

The 1902 State Landau is the one that was used at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, three years ago this month. But when it was ordered, the Hooper coachbuilding company took into account the king’s large girth when it was constructed, making sure he would be able to get in and out easily and sit in comfort with Queen Alexandra by his side.

It starred in a 1902 edition of the Black and White, but I think artistic licence was used in lieu of an actual visit to draw it... since as we can clearly see above, the landau doesn't have a roof!

Pulled by four horses, with two postilions, or riders, on the front pair, it also took Charles and Diana to Buckingham Palace after their wedding, as well as Wills and Kate.

Unfortunately, since Bertie was the one who had it made, and every time its pictured they mention that, it's hard to find a photo of him riding in it! There are lots of the Queen, Queen Mother, Camilla, Charles & Diana and Wills and Kate plus many more. I found this photo of Edward VII's son, George V in an open coach, but I think it is a different one, with a much less snazzy paint job.

This postcard from 1908 shows King Edward on a Royal Procession to Ascot, for the races. The photo was actually taken the previous year as he rode to Ascot 1907 in what looks like the same carriage as his son in the photo above. History detective, I am.

But then... hurrah!

On Wednesday 23rd June 1909, the King visited Gloucester (the first monarch to do so since the Mad King George III) and he apparently went in his 1902 State Landau! I found this fabulous photo, taken by a visiting Government photographer from Queensland, and some info about it here (side note, we didn't get a day off in my school when the Queen Mum came to visit, no fair).

The other relevant carriage in the Royal Mews is the one known as Queen Alexandra's State Coach.

Patriotic Fleur dress was the only option, really.

This is a coach that was a plain old thing, built during Victoria's reign, but reconditioned, glazed and jazzed up for the then Princess of Wales, soon to be Queen Alexandra in the 1890s.

From Wikipedia

Its main duty these days is to carry the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown and the Queen's parliamentary regalia from Westminster to the State Opening of Parliament. It's nowhere near as ostentatious as the Gold Coach, nor the Irish State Coach (which was destroyed by a fire shortly after King Edward's death... here it is just for interest) OR Queen's latest addition, the Australian Coach, which is so modern, it actually has electric windows!

The Irish one... Gold on the roof! 

But... the Aussie one has electric windows you guys! 

A most poignant note to end this blog upon has to do with King Edward VII's final journey. I did a piece last year on his final train journey on the Necropolis Railway, but his very last procession through London was by carriage. 

For his State Funeral in 1910, the King himself was carried upon a gun carriage, which seems pretty appropriate to me.

And the Queen, now the Queen Mother, followed behind in her State Coach.

He may have been an advocate of the horseless carriage, but in the end, it was in supreme tradition that the King's reign ended.

I'll drink to that!

Talking of drink, The Twinger is my King's Ginger cocktail of the month, a fittingly golden colour to match the Gold State Coach, and refreshing in this changeable weather we're having!

If you want to try it, have a look out in Waitrose, loads of amazing bars or any of the places listed here and let me know if you do!

Fleur xx

Thursday, 24 April 2014

#tbt - to Fleurs gone by

It's been a whopping FOUR years this month since I started collaborating with lovely Shona Heyday on our vintage reproduction wrap dresses that she kindly decided to name the Fleur dress. (This isn't intended to be a salesy piece, but if you do want to check them out, go here) As an addict of vintage cotton wrap dresses, I was over the moon when Shona asked me if I wanted to partner with her to recreate one. The rest is history!

I posted the below picture on Instagram today and immediately wanted to do a little retrospective of the dresses we have released over the last four years, both proper runs, limited editions and one-offs... and there seem to be rather more than I actually thought!! I am so proud of Shona and of our little project. Here goes!

The first ever Fleur dress, from April or May 2010, beautiful roses on white!

The second ones - black with tiny white daisies and roses on black were released the following year, and the entire original Vintage Mafia wore them in France.

 The next batch in late summer had three fabric ways, navy with tiny sprigs of flowers, a two tone gingham stripe, another two-tone limited edition one with real vintage 1960s fabric on the bottom!

Shona kindly made me my first one-off dress that summer too - red oriental fans. Here we are together! 

We did two more super limited editions, one with vintage rayon covered in pink and turquoise roses on the skirt and an autumnal fruits one, which is a contender for my favourite, along with the fans! 

This was another one-off, from ages back... 

Conveniently around the time of the Royal Wedding, we did a patriotic blue, white and red one, which is in polycotton and BY FAR the easiest to iron. I think we should do more in poly, stuff the authenticity! ;) 

The Mafia commissioned some plain Fleurs in coloured cotton, which we had embroidered with our initials. Here's the current lineup in ours.

For my 30th birthday, Shona made me up a very special one, with kittens and balls of wool on the skirt! This one doesn't get worn nearly enough! 

Then at some point, we had the pink and blue gingham stripe editions!

I am not sure what came next, chronologically, but this lilac rose limited one was pretty special.

This light tan with floral sprigs is one of the latest fabrics and the most understated ... 

While the green fan print is a bit more party-tastic and again, one of my all-time faves. 

Last but not least, the Christmas edition sold out like hot mince pies at the end of last year.

Phew! I think that's all of them! If you do want to see the ones that are currently available, then check out Heyday.

We also now do the PinaFleur, but I'll save that for another day. 

Which has been your favourite of them all? 

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bella Venezia - part 1

Greetings from Venice! Well, not actually from Venice, I came back two weeks ago. Feels like longer though - post-holiday blues is well in effect! Thought I'd show off some of my holiday snaps... not boring ones, hopefully... outfitty ones.

It wasn't really that warm in Italy, where we were, about an hour outside Venice. It was warm enough for a pasty, sun-deprived Englishperson to go all out on the summer gear, while the native Italians were all bundled up in scarves, long sleeves and those puffa coats that seem to be all the rage over there. I certainly didn't let it stop me from unleashing the skirts and gyspy tops all over the shop, at least in Venice proper. Behold one of said outfits!


Serious holiday face! 

Spot the Boyfriend! 

Journey over on the vaporetto



Here I am in beautiful Burano, one of Venice's islands (the one where they make the lace... or used to. I didn't see any lace-making happening. Sad face)

It's absolutely beautiful there, with every house painted a different rainbow colour.

Leaning tower!

None of these photos are edited, since I have a new computer, currently without editing capabilities. It was really that colourful and the sky was really that blue.

Outfit details: I'm wearing a gypsy/peasant top from Vivien of Holloway
a vintage 40s skirt and some old gold sandals!

I'll write more about the trip in my next instalment... At the risk of sounding like a hairdresser... going anywhere for your holidays?

Fleur xx

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