Drawings and legal documents that belonged to the Queen’s former fashion designer Sir Norman Hartnell have revealed details of a row that rocked the Windsor house and its own illustrious fashion house 60 years ago.
A rediscovered bundle of private papers and albums, which will be auctioned off next month, also includes never-before-seen designs by Hartnell created for Princess Anne. “The colors are amazing and very reminiscent of the times,” said vintage fashion specialist Susan Orringe.
Hartnell, who died in 1979, hit the headlines in 1960 when news broke of an alleged decision by the company to purchase annulment insurance for the upcoming marriage of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, to Antony Armstrong-Jones. True or false, it was a damaging allegation and private legal letters were stolen. Hartnell had designed the wedding dress, as he had the Queen’s wedding dress in 1947 and her coronation dress in 1953. Margaret’s wedding dress was his last order for a state occasion, although when the Princess Beatrice got married last summer, wearing a modified Hartnell dress on loan from her grandmother.
A week before the royal wedding in early May 1960, the Daily Express published an article claiming Hartnell’s company had taken out a £ 10,000 insurance policy against marriage annulment. The story caused a scandal and endangered Hartnell’s coveted royal mandate.
Among the papers that will be sold next month by the Ewbank auction house are Hartnell’s personal denial and an explanation of his previous relationship with the relevant journalist, Peter Baker, in February 1960. “That would have been a mistake. extremely shocking statement at the time, ”said auctioneer Andrew Ewbank.
“To make such a claim about a royal wedding would have caused enormous distress and embarrassment, but after the scandal and fallout from the Townsend affair which had made the headlines of Princess Margaret for much of the beginning by the mid-1950s this would have been seen as a particularly vicious attack and one which would undoubtedly have put Hartnell’s affairs and the royal mandates in considerable danger. “
Another document from George Mitchison, the CEO of the Hartnell Company, claims that Baker had “tracked down” him in his office and made several threatening phone calls regarding the claim.
In fact, the letters of evidence submitted in evidence by Mitchison reveal that the company had indeed requested a quote for the insurance. However, this was argued to be “in accordance with the usual practice in force on such occasions”, rather than because of doubts about the princess.
The drawings and papers have been in private hands since a later owner of the company gave them as a gift. Most of the 35 watercolors are classic designs from the 60s and 70s made for Princess Anne. One of the two original 1970s artwork labeled “HRH Princess Anne” is an evening dress embellished in turquoise and white, while the other is a lemon A-line dress with a matching coat. Other Hartnell creations are currently on display at Kensington Palace as part of the exhibition Royal style in the making. It was this show that prompted the owners to consider putting the lot up for sale.
Other styles include day wear and smart suits for race meetings and formal parties. “These are the inspiring designs of one of the great figures of fashion design at the time and it’s easy to see why they captured the imaginations of women in society,” said Orringe. “Seeing them as fresh today as they would have been 50 years ago is a pleasure, and I expect them to make a splash.”
Hartnell, whose parents owned a pub in London, came into fashion after making costumes for the Cambridge Footlights performances as a student. He first received a royal mandate as a dressmaker from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1940 and became the Queen’s dressmaker in 1957.
The sale set, which includes two albums of international newspaper clippings, also includes a sketchbook folder filled with complete and incomplete 1960s watercolor painted drawings, as well as fabric samples and several pages of handwritten notes. .