Historic (the Queens)

Margaret’s third project was the creation of a set of notable Queens from history. These dolls were probably created no earlier than 1973. For these costumes, Margaret turned to portraits of the actual Queens for her inspiration. She dressed the three British Queens in outfits clearly adapted from existing portraits. Marie Antoinette is harder to identify, and the closest that could be found was an engraving. However, she is wearing a robe à la française, possibly Margaret used a contemporary dress found in a costume museum, book or from another painting that interested her. If you recognise this gown please do let us know.
Every detail of these four historic costumes was meticulously researched and replicated in minature with some artistic licence.
Eliz.th of York, Elizabeth of York, Oil painting
By Richard Burchett
© Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA 3187

Elizabeth of York (1466-1503)

Elizabeth of York was considered to be a great beauty in her time. Her mother was Elizabeth Woodville, once described as “the most beautiful woman in the Island of Britain”. Lovely inside and out, she was also known for her great kindness and generosity. She was tall for her generation standing at 5 feet and 6 inches. By all accounts this gentle, talented woman was well loved by her rather cold and calculating husband Henry VII. Her marriage united the Houses of Lancaster and York ultimately leading to the creation of the Tudor dynasty. She did not involve herself in politics, but she was the daughter of one king (Edward IV), the sister of a second (Edward V), the niece of a third (Richard III), the wife of a fourth (Henry VII), and the mother of a fifth (Henry VIII). She was the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I and great grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots. Queen Elizabeth II is a direct descendent. She died due to complications giving birth to her seventh child aged just 37. Henry never remarried.

In English folklore, the Queen in the parlour in the children’s nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” was Elizabeth of York whilst her tight fisted husband Henry VII was in the counting-house. In the UK she is believed to be the Queen of Hearts in a deck of playing cards. Her White Rose of York was the heraldic badge of the Royal House of York and in modern times it’s still used as a symbol of Yorkshire.

Despite Henry VII’s parsimony, the stories that Elizabeth of York had to wear threadbare, mended clothes appear to be just gossip. Palace billing accounts reveal otherwise. As a Queen she was expected to dress well and sumptuously. The King issued an instruction that Elizabeth should have clothes fitting to her station, recognizing that what she wore reflected on him and his power. She had many fine garments and owned gowns in a number of different colours, although she favoured black which was particularly expensive to produce due to the dyeing process. Despite Henry’s generosity she was still obliged to pay for the transport of her own wardrobe when travelling between royal residences.

Elizabeth wears a deep gold velvet, long-sleeved outer gown with a square neckline and an ermine trim on the on the neck, bodice, cuffs, and hem of her gown. Velvet was a luxury fabric at the time and couldn’t be washed normally. Around her waist she wears a gold and blue cord girdle. Beneath this she wears a blue satin kirtle (under-gown) which showed at the top of her bodice.

The hem of the kirtle was trimmed with a wide hand-embroidered ribbon in complimentary blues. Beneath the kirtle was a second under-petticoat made of figured peach satin. Underneath was a plain white linen petticoat. Linen shifts were worn to protect costly outer garments from sweat and body odour and were often the only garments to be washed. Although Tudor women did not wear panties, this Sindy wears a pair of fine white lawn knee-length drawers. For her feet she wore a pair of handmade black velvet slippers.

For her head she wore a black velvet Steeple Hood (which was the earliest version of English or Gable Hood). It was lined with gold silk with a stiff gold covered wire to frame the face. The lappets (the decorated side panels) were made of a black and gold thread chequered trim sewn along the edges with tiny pearlized beads. There are two black velvet streamers at the back of the hood.

The Sindy is a brunette Pretty Pose. Her uncut hair is styled into two plaits (braids) tied with black thread at the back of her head, in keeping with a tradition that married Tudor women swept back their long hair and covered it with their headdress.

Elizabeth I (1538-1603)

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boylen, and granddaughter of Elizabeth of York. She was an intelligent and well-educated woman, who by the age of 14, could speak fluent French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Welsh, and some Greek. In her youth she was very attractive; she was tall, with a pale complexion and light reddish gold hair.

She ascended the throne aged 25 and ruled for almost 45 years. Her reign is considered a golden age and she was called ‘Gloriana’ from the Latin gloria meaning ‘glory’. It was a time of great exploration and a revival in the arts and architecture.

She was a more moderate ruler than her father and brother and sister, and she shrewdly created a Privy Council of learned and able men irrespective of their religion to help revive a country riven by religious fighting, a debased coinage and empty treasury, and with predatory overseas powers who had England in their sights. She re-established the protestant Church of England, but it retained many features of Catholicism, and she was tolerant of Catholics who practiced their faith privately. Although her attitude hardened towards conspirators when in 1570, the Pope released her subjects from obedience to her, and there were several plots and uprisings threatening her life. She was cautious in foreign affairs adeptly side-stepping overtures of marriage and attempted takeovers by both France and Spain. When war with Spain could not be avoided, her navy famously defeated the Spanish Armada. Her long reign brought stability; helped by her numerous laws on commerce, agriculture and industry, reform of the currency, and poor relief enabling the country to emerge as a world leader instilling a national sense of pride. She never married; she was portrayed as the “Virgin Queen” asserting she was wedded to her country.

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Queen Elizabth I

by Unknown English artist
oil on panel, circa 1588
NPG 541

She understood both leadership and the art of theatre, dressing in costly clothes and jewellery emphasising her regal power and sovereignty both at court and on her regional tours (known as ‘progresses’). Her elaborate clothes were made from rich fabrics with real attention given to the surface detail, and she looked imposing, communicating her status and wealth. Dress was considered a form of social hierarchy and Elizabeth passed the Statutes of Apparel and eight Royal Proclamations on the subject of “excesse of apparel”. These rules were ostensibly to stop people running up debt on extravagant wardrobes, but it was really about ‘dressing above your station’. The 1574 Proclamation for example restricted the use of fabrics such as damask, fur, gold cloth, silks and velvets to the only the upper nobility. It was all about ‘pecking order’, the Queen’s subjects should know their place and dress accordingly, with the Queen the most gorgeously dressed of them all.

Elizabeth wears a crimson heavy silk gown with a split skirt, decorated with pearls and scarlet ribbon bows and it is edged with a black and gold chevron braid trim. The skirt is lined with a deep orange taffeta. Her under gown, or kirtle, is made of cream and gold brocade edged with lace at the cuffs, and the skirt decorated with rubies. Her bodice is shaped like an elongated, inverted triangle, emphasising wide shoulders and a narrow waist. It is edged with black and gold chevron braiding. Attached to the bodice are elaborate over-sleeves, these are slashed to reveal the same orange taffeta lining as the skirt. These sleeves were decorated with the pearls and scarlet ribbon bows, and black and gold chevron braid trim. She has a white lace neck ruff.  For her shoulders she wears a black velvet mantle lined with black satin and attached around her neck by a black cord attached to mantle with cord bows. She wears four rows of long pearls, and carries a pearl and plume decorated fan, made from cream satin covered with netting and lace matching the lace of her under gown cuffs. It is trimmed with a large pink pearl, maribou feather and ribbon.

Under the finery of her elaborate two-layer dress she wears two petticoats. The first is made of a heavy cream satin decorated with two layers of heavy cream lace. Underneath is a petticoat made of cream net with two layers of cream needlepoint lace at the hem. Although Elizabethan women also did not wear panties, this Sindy wears a pair of fine white lawn knee-length drawers trimmed around each leg with white lace. For her feet she wore a pair of Sindy’s white kitten heel court shoes, each decorated with a gold braid bow and two pearls.

Elizabeth wears a headdress made from black scroll gimp braid, decorated with gold braid and cord, and adorned with three rubies and three hanging pearls.

This Sindy is an auburn Top Pop. Her hair is styled to resemble Queen Elizabeth’s curled coiffure.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary, Queen of Scots

after Nicholas Hilliard
oil on panel, inscribed 1578
NPG 429

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587)

Mary I of Scotland was Queen of Scotland from 1542 to 1567. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland, and the Great Granddaughter of Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth I was her first cousin – once removed. She was tall, almost 6ft and by all accounts she was considered very beautiful.

She was raised as a Roman Catholic. Mary was betrothed to the Dauphin of France when she was five years old, and she married him when she was 16. Unfortunately, the Dauphin died two years later, and a widowed Mary returned to Scotland in August 1561. In 1565, she married her half cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and together they had a son, James. In 1567 Darnley’s home was destroyed by an explosion and he was found murdered. James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell was widely believed to have been involved in Darnely’s death, although he was acquitted of the murder in April 1567. Mary married him a month later. This caused a huge scandal and following an uprising led by the Scottish nobility, Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, and she was imprisoned. She tried to retake her throne unsuccessfully and fled south to her cousin Elizabeth for protection.

Mary put Elizabeth in a difficult position as she had once tried to claim Elizabeth’s throne as a legitimate heir. Thus, Elizabeth saw Mary as a threat, and she was confined in various locations in England for the next 18½ years. Mary’s presence in England was very destabilising as she became a figurehead for the Catholic cause, and also amongst those who were not happy with an ‘illegitimate’ Queen on the throne. A number of plots and conspiracies against Elizabeth and her authority were discovered.

Mary constantly wrote to France and Spain begging to be rescued and placed on the thrones of England and Scotland. In 1570, Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth as the “pretended Queen of England, the servant of wickedness”. His decree legitimised renewed attempts to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and there were numerous schemes to depose and kill her. 

Despite all the plots and urging from her own courtiers, Queen Elizabeth was reluctant to execute a member of her own family and a fellow Monarch. Finally, it was a plot in 1586 by Anthony Babington to start a Catholic uprising and to kill Elizabeth that sealed her fate. Mary’s replies were intercepted, and her decoded correspondence proved that she was aware of the plot and that she was actively complicit in it. She was arrested, brought to trial and found guilty. Elizabeth prevaricated for four months before signing Mary’s death warrant and she was executed in February 1587. After the execution Elizabeth asserted that she had been tricked and that the death warrant was not supposed have been handed over. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots’ son became both King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England.
Mary is often portrayed wearing the black of mourning including a white deuil blanc veil. This was a white pleated cambric veil and it was customary for Queens of France to wear white in mourning. It is uncertain as to when she started to wear this type of outfit in its entirety. A portrait around the time of her first widowhood shows her wearing this veil, but many depictions of Mary in mouring were painted after her death. What inventories remain of her wardrobe whilst in Scotland list garments other than black. Some accounts suggest that she further reinvented herself on imprisonment in England as the pious Catholic widow. She certainly complained that the clothes sent to her from Scotland were inadequate on fleeing to England, and Elizabeth rather than sending her clothes from her own wardrobe sent instead yards of black velvet, silk and taffeta. This gift has been interpreted by some as suggesting that Mary ought to still be in the mourning clothes. After all she had been widowed twice and deserted by a third husband. Despite these later strictures on her wardrobe, she still managed to dress very stylishly, albeit sombrely. Like her cousin, perhaps she too understood the art of theatre.

Mary wears a black, heavy silk gown with a silver diaper pattern (a geometric pattern which repeats in both diagonal directions). The gown has a wide square neckline edged with silver cord. It has long sleeves trimmed with a white lace. Her bodice is sewn with white pearl beads. Beneath her bodice she wears a white gauze partlet overstitched with white lacey fabric (a partlet was a 16th century sleeveless chemisette with a collar used to fill in a low neckline). The collar is trimmed with a flourish of white lace. Around her waist she wears a girdle made of gold cord, with a silver pomander decorated with beads and a jet bead rosary attached at her waist. Around her neck she wears a crucifix made from gold cord on a black silk ribbon necklet.

Mary wears beneath her dress a heavy satin scarlet underskirt decorated at the hem with black and gold and a red cord trimming. She is documented as wearing a crimson petticoat at her execution. Red petticoats were not uncommon at this time and were considered to be beneficial to the health, although later writers have suggested that Mary wore red as the colour is associated with martyrs and martyrdom. Under her scarlet underskirt she has two petticoats. The first is a cream woven taffeta petticoat lined with netting and edged at the hem with white lace. Beneath this she wears a white silk petticoat trimmed with four layers of white lace. She also wears a pair of fine white lawn knee-length drawers trimmed around each leg with white lace. For her feet she has a pair of Sindy’s purple kitten heel court shoes, each decorated with a small black sunray button adorned with a silver bead.

Her deuil blanc headdress consists of a gauze cap trimmed with lace and a patterned veil trimmed with the same lace.

This Sindy is a blonde Top Pop. Her hair is tucked under her veil.

Marie Antoinette of France (1755-1793)

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France and was born an archduchess of Austria. A political marriage was arranged with the Dauphin, and she was married by proxy to Louis-Auguste, heir to the French throne aged 14 in April 1770 without even meeting him. Abbe de Vermond who had been sent to educate her found her to be poorly educated and it’s the case that many believed she was quite deficient in sense. She couldn’t write very well, including in any of the court languages such as French or Italian, although she could speak Italian. Even her knowledge of Austrian history was rudimentary. He found her harder to teach than expected, although he found she was actually quite intelligent. This was because he asserted, she was lazy and frivolous. In time however she did become a good musician and learned to sight read; she could play the harp, the harpsichord and the flute. She also had a beautiful voice and she excelled at dancing. It was considered that she had exquisite poise and that her character and heart were excellent. Interestingly, she loved dolls. 

She travelled to Versailles where a ceremonial marriage took place in the May 1770. Reactions to her marriage were mixed, on one hand the Dauphine was beautiful and personable and seemed to be liked by commoners. On the other hand, there were those who did not want an alliance with Austria who had been longstanding enemies for three centuries, or who didn’t like her for their own personal reasons.

In 1774 she became Queen. She spent heavily on her wardrobe, on luxuries (particularly flowers and chocolate) and gambling. At this time, France was facing economic ruin and the general population were suffering. Many began to blame her for squandering money which could have been used to pay off the country’s debts. It didn’t help, that her marriage to Louis was not consummated for seven years. Louis was 15 when they married, and he was a diffident, timid man. The failure to produce a child caused much ridicule, causing some to question how a king who could not control a bedroom, could possibly control a country? Eventually they produced four children. However, Louis’ solitary nature with his interests of lock making, carpentry and hunting often left the Queen alone. She surrounded herself with a coterie of friends and admirers, not all of whom were safe political choices.

Louis was determined to be a good king, but he was innately conservative, and he was indecisive. Although as King he had absolute power he lacked personal authority, and he was unable to adapt and address the problems facing his kingdom. Accounts differ as to how much influence Marie Antoinette had over the King; some say in later years she became more involved in the affairs of state. It is likely that if this is the case she was perhaps as clueless as her husband, and possibly ill-advised by her companions. There are many detailed accounts of the French revolution so it probably sufficient to say here that after enormous turmoil and chaos in the French realm, in September 1792 the National Assembly declared France to be republic and abolished the monarchy. In January 1793, Louis XVI was executed by guillotine aged 38. Marie Antoinette was tried in October 1793 and found guilty of depletion of the national treasury, conspiracy against the internal and external security of the State, and high treason because of her intelligence activities in the interest of the enemy. She was sent to the scaffold on 16th October 1793, she was 37.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Marie Antoinette of France

by Unknown artist
line engraving, circa 1775-1785
NPG D15379

Marie Antoinette was a keen follower of fashion, and she was the foremost French fashion icon of her time; she had an annual allowance equivalent to the spending power of USD $3.6 million for her wardrobe and she still frequently overspent. It is said that she acquired between 200 to 300 new dresses a year. Her legendary gravity-defying hairstyles called a pouf, were nearly 4 feet high and were adorned with feathers, jewels and trinkets and on one occasion even a model of a French warship. She followed the trends and had dresses à la Chinoise and à la Turque for example. Prior to the age of 30, she is known to have favoured the colour pink. Her adoption in the 1780s of the peasant dress trends was somewhat tone-deaf, given the hardships experienced by the common people. The importation of cottons, gauzes, linens and muslins to create these pastoral chemise gowns also seriously damaged the traditional French silk and wool industries, giving the French people another reason to dislike her. Marie Antoinette’s dressmaker was Marie Jeanne Bertin, known as Rose. Under the Queen’s patronage, she had a substantial influence on court fashions and was a precursor of French haute couture.

Marie Antionette is wearing a rococo fashion, typified by embellishment, elegance, and extravagance. She is dressed in a robe à la française which was popular between 1720 and 1780. These garments were worn over a bodice and the skirt often parted at the waist to show off an underskirt. This was a sack-back gown with a row of two double box pleats sewn at the centre of the neckline. The fabric fell from the shoulders to the floor and was cut a little longer to give a slight train. Marie Antionette’s robe is an orchid pink brocade gown with an apple-green satin bodice and underskirt. The elbow length sleeves are trimmed with two rows of white lace ruffles and the front border of the gown is decorated with apple-green pleated ruching. The low square necked bodice is edged in white lace and decorated with a vertical row of cream taffeta ruching. The underskirt is shorter than the outer robe, placing this costume after about 1770. It is decorated all the way round with cream taffeta ruching and pink ribbon bows.

Marie Antionette wears two petticoats. The top petticoat is made of stiffened cream brocade decorated with a cream strand gimp braid trim. It is shaped and stitched at the sides to create paniers to support the wide shape of the gown. Her under petticoat is made of a fine cream muslin decorated with two rows of wide cream lace. She wears a pair of fine cream muslin knee-length drawers trimmed around each leg with cream lace. For her feet she wore a pair of handmade cream doeskin slippers decorated with a pink ribbon rosette.

Marie Antoinette’s pouf is elaborately arranged on the top of her head and it is decorated with small mother-of-pearl flowers and leaves. Around her neck she wears a black velvet choker.

This is a second edition honey blonde Tressy, obviously chosen to create Marie Antoinette’s elaborate hairstyle.