Over the past few months, our Collections & Engagement teams have been working on something very special, to bring a little piece of Harewood’s Royal history to life.
HRH Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She lived at Harewood House from 1930 – 1965, following her marriage into the Lascelles family in 1922. Princess Mary sparks much interest with our visitors; commonly known as the ‘Yorkshire Princess’, she was a much loved royal figure both locally and nationally.
Today, Harewood House Trust cares for her archive, which includes a lifetime’s worth of letters, diaries and personal papers, as well as some of her outfits, including her beautiful wedding dress. Whilst the dress is now too fragile to be put out on display, the Harewood team has been working over the last few months to find a new way for the dress to be seen.
Princess Mary’s Wedding Dress: An Introduction
Princess Mary’s wedding dress was made by the English fashion house, Reville of London. It consisted of an underdress woven with silver thread that was covered by a sheer silk marquisette embellished with a rose-trellis design in crystal beads and seed pearls. The long silk train was woven using white and silver thread at Braintree silk mills, Essex. It was embroidered with a pattern of emblematic flowers of the British Empire, including the English rose, the Welsh daffodil, the Canadian maple and the New Zealand fern, enhanced by Indian lotus flowers embroidered in silver and gold metal thread.
The train was originally edged with Honiton lace, a gift from Queen Mary that was later removed for use by other royal brides.
Due to the fragile condition of the fabric, it is sadly now no longer possible to keep the wedding dress on display. So instead, we have brought the dress back to life, through the art of costume design, working with TV and film costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, who has worked on productions such as Victoria and Downton Abbey.
A re-imagined dress
Approaching the project in much the same way that she would produce period costume for TV or film, Rosalind began the process of creating her interpretation of Mary’s dress with research. Working alongside the Collections Team, Rosalind looked in great detail at its original design, inspecting both the real dress as well as reviewing photographs and historic descriptions; it was important to determine the original cut, size and the types of fabrics used, in addition to their original colours.
Rosalind then worked with dressmaker Amanda Brennan to finalise a design that incorporated her research, as well as source appropriate fabric and embellishments. Once found, the dress was then assembled, with Amanda working straight onto a mannequin.
The finished gown captures the elegant design and visual splendour of the historic original, offering a glimpse into what Mary’s dress might have looked like in 1922.
You will be able to see this beautiful recreation in the Servant’s Hall, Below Stairs at Harewood, just as soon as we are re-opened to the public.
With special thanks to:
Rosalind Ebbutt, Costume Designer
Amanda Brennan, Dressmaker
James Hare, for the provision of the satin to create the train for this dress