While most discussions of last week's Royal Wedding focus on the bride's dress and the guests' hats, I wanted to add an appreciation for the attire of two of the youngest people in wedding party: the pages. Here's a photo and another, from the British Monarchy flickr stream (and how wonderfully incongruous does that sound?)
The two boys wore uniforms designed in the Royal Household and created by Kashket & Partners, who also fitted Prince William's uniform. Doubtless there was some input from Catherine Middleton as well. While the uniforms were inspired by those of the Irish Guards (Prince William is their Colonel) and carried many of the same insignia, they more closely followed the style of Regency-era uniforms worn by officers in the Foot Guards, including the ivory breeches, white stockings, and buckled shoes. The glittering gold embroidery on the cuffs and collars was created by the Royal School of Needlework, also responsible for the exquisite handwork on the bride's gown. The boy's heavy tasseled sashes (what threats were made, I wonder, to keep those boys from whipping them around?) are still worn by officers in the Irish Guards when in the presence of a Member of the Royal Family.
But there's more history behind the miniature uniforms, too. In the 18th-19th c., the color red was much more associated with English boys than blue. It was considered a properly masculine color, and one with strong military overtones as well as the color for hunting. As soon as a boy was breeched – dressed in male adult-style clothing instead of the unisex white gowns of babies – bright red usually made an appearance in his wardrobe. Later in the 19th c., when color first was used in infant clothing, pink, as the lesser version of red, was the color for boys, while girls were dressed in pale blue. (For more about gender-dressing by color, see this article from Smithsonian.)
The young gentleman in the Portrait of the Vernon Children, above, is shown dressed in red, and if that's not sufficiently martial, he's also carrying a toy rifle and wearing a helmet/hat – and there's no question about the gender roles predetermined for his sister, either. Mr. Willet, lower left, adopts a swaggering male stance in his red suit, standing guard over his siblings. But even for boys of a less martial bent, red was the color of choice. Dreamy Master Charles William Lambton, right, looks more destined to make love, not war, but his red velvet suit still proclaims him as all-male.
I can't say for certain that the Royal Wedding pages were dressed in red in honor of historical color-precedent, but in a wedding with so much other carefully chosen symbolism, it has to be a possibility. Symbolic or not, red and gold was the perfect, glorious foil to the bridal white. Ahh, spectacle!
Above: Portrait of the Vernon Children by George Romney, 1780s Right: Master Charles William Lambton by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1825 Lower left: The Willet Children by George Romney, 1789
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.