"When the most talked-about dress in modern times went on display in Buckingham Palace last week, its owner the Duchess of Cambridge and her grandmother-in-law the Queen stood transfixed.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world had held their collective breath as Kate Middleton arrived at Westminster Abbey on 29 April, waiting for the moment when her full-skirted ivory and white satin gazar wedding gown, created by Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton, would finally be revealed.
Now, those lucky enough to get a ticket have a chance to see the dress at close quarters, during Buckingham Palace’s annual summer opening.
Standing on a plinth beneath six grand chandeliers, it takes centre stage in the Palace’s majestic Ballroom, usually the scene of state occasions and investitures.
Among the first and most important guests to see the fascinating exhibition, just one day before its grand public opening, were the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a light-beige L 395 Joseph Scala dress and the Queen.
As the present and future Queens gazed at the display, memories of the day Her Majesty had called 'amazing' no doubt came flooding back. But the Queen’s first reaction on seeing the headless mannequin upon which the dress hangs was less than complimentary.
Overheard in conversation with Kate, she commented that the ghostly tailor’s dummy – which appears to float in mid-air – made it look 'horrible' and 'creepy'
Known for her strong opinions, the Queen clearly feels comfortable enough with her newest granddaughter-in-law to speak so plainly about the gown’s presentation.
The Duchess countered with her view that the display had a '3D effect,' as well as how the exhibition felt slightly unreal. 'It’s surreal looking at it now . . . It’s very weird,' she was overheard saying."
(From Hello! No. 1185, 1 August 2011: “The Queen and Kate View Her Iconic Bridal Gown At Buckingham Palace”)
NOTE: This story surprised me and made me laugh. Although it is written with a completely straight face and not a bit of humor (nothing even remotely tongue-in-cheek), I assume the editors at Hello! also laughed about the scene they describe so vividly while sitting around the conference table in London. Imagine being the former Catherine Middleton and mounting your first major independent public relations event involving the display of your own wedding dress in the Queen of England's principal residence and having Her Majesty (quite correctly) describe the mise-en-scene as "horrible" and "creepy." I know that the Queen knows her horses and corgis and I suspect her knowledge and love of animals includes a strong and refined aesthetic sense. Having grown up around natural and man-made (i.e., artistic) beauty her entire life and employing a retinue of aestheticians (including the late, feckless, ruined Sir Anthony Blunt) has doubtless made her extremely knowledgeable and highly confident in her judgements, especially now that she has attained the venerable age of 85. HRH's directness here reminds me a lot of my late mother-in-law, Caroline Butler Prutzman, a woman who was also very confident and direct in her pronouncements and actions, especially late in life when she had a chance to take stock of what she knew and what others didn't. She was always polite, and even though she didn't have the influence and power of a monarch, she spoke her mind clearly and precisely. The Duchess of Cambridge's "3D" reply is absurd, of course, but I'm prepared to cut her a break. This must have been a distinctly uncomfortable moment for a young woman starting out in married life. One more thing: I refuse to believe that Catherine Middleton actually wore those high heels under her wedding gown. I believe she must have worn flats and substituted these later as the "official shoes". Any reader thoughts on this subject? (Please note that all photos included above, with the exception of the black & white image of the Queen wearing the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, a gift to her from her grandmother Queen Mary, enlarge beautifully when mouse-clicked.)