There was a meeting of royal style icons as some of the world’s most famous women gathered in Windsor, England to celebrate the Order of the Garter service.
In one of the British royal family’s proudest displays of pomp and pageantry, including plumed hats and velvet robes, foreign monarchs were honoured by Queen Elizabeth in a procession through the grounds of Windsor Castle and a service at St George’s Chapel.
Newly invested members of the order, King Felipe VI of Spain and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands – now supernumerary, or stranger knights – proudly walked with the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex.
But it was – as always – the female royals who stole the show, courting even more favourable press by happily posing together for pictures that ignited renewed interest and debate among royal watchers the world over.
Kate Middleton led the charge in a black and white coat dress by Catherine Walker, her go-to designer for major occasions, debuting a new black fascinator by Lock & Co, a pair of black patent Prada pumps and a Stuart Weitzman clutch.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, chose a blush pink coat dress by Anne Valentine, accessorising in the form of an oversized hat by Irish designer Philip Treacy, carrying a snakeskin clutch and complementary gloves.
Dutch Queen Máxima, fresh from her first state visit to Ireland last week, followed the dress code in a Claes Iversen cape dress and hat by Fabienne Delvigne, both top of the list of her favourite designers.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex chose a dress by British designer Suzannah and a matching feathered hat by Jane Taylor. Spain’s Queen Letizia complemented Kate’s monochrome look with her Cherubina dress, and unlike her last visit to the UK, during which her desire to adhere to protocol resulted in poorly received ensembles; she added some necessary drama with a circular fascinator and netting over her face.
The photos prompted a number of pieces, including consulting with a number of ‘experts’ who specialise in body language, royal etiquette and fashion.
Queen Elizabeth, who arrived by state limousine, is sovereign of the order and appoints new Knights of the Garter without consulting government ministers.
Recipients are chosen because they have held public office, contributed to national life or served the sovereign personally.
The foreign monarchs were invested with the insignia of the order by the Queen in the castle’s garter throne room and during the service were installed, or formally seated, in the chapel’s quire.
Felipe was appointed to the Order of the Garter by the Queen during his July 2017 state visit while Willem-Alexander received the honour during his state visit in October last year.
During the service two new members of the order were installed – a Lady Companion, Lady Mary Peters, and a Knight Companion, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury.
The crowds were treated to the spectacle of the senior royals travelling back to the castle in a carriage procession with the Queen joined in her coach by Charles and Camilla.
They were followed by William and Kate with the King and Queen of Spain, and the Dutch monarch and his wife rode with Andrew past cheering well-wishers.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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