The long and heavy veils worn by royal mourners at the last state funeral of monarch King George VI in 1952 were a sign of the past at Monday’s funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The choice of veils by the Princess of Wales and Queen Consort did not entirely cover faces or heads, but instead were delicate symbols of sorrow, with lace and netting attached to the front of their hats.
Royal protocol suggests dressing in all-black at funerals, which is why they seldom wear black at formal events.
These delicate veils are a far cry from Victorian customs, when Queen Victoria publicly wore a mourning vale for the rest of her life – a total of forty years – after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1961.
Society bible Debrett’s says of state funeral dress codes: “Ladies wear black knee-length dresses, or coats, black hats, and may also wear face-covering veils.” As for the men, working members of the royal family traditionally wear military uniforms, while non-working men wear back morning coats.
Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces told The Telegraph: ‘Mourning dress has been part of European royal culture for centuries, but it reached its peak in the 19th century with the influence of Queen Victoria, who set a standard for the rest of society to follow.’
‘When her beloved husband died in 1861 she abandoned the colourful clothes of her married life and, with the rest of the royal court, adopted black clothing as an outward sign of grief.
‘Her subjects duly followed suit, causing a rush on suppliers of mourning fabric up and down the country.’
Royal protocol has strict wardrobe rules, which also requires members to carry a black outfit at all times while travelling, in case of a sudden funeral.