Boys Historical Clothing Essays: Political Connotations--Royalty

Figure 1.--The future Edward VIII and Gorge VI are seen here in the sailor suits they almost always wore. Such outfits help to assocaite the monarchy with the Royal Navy, the most popular institution in Britain. By the turn of the century, however, it is difficult to tell if this was the purpose or simply a reflection of the popularity of the style their grandfather, Edward VII, had started. Probably both factors were at play.

The institution of royalty in the 19th century was still dominate, but anti-royalist forces had begun to gather strength. The ideals of the French Revolution had stimulated debate over royalty and stimulated republican forces. The revolutions of 1848 succeded in bringing down some monarchies and even when supressed, monarchs across the continent began to fear for their thrones. One result, was an increasing attention to public opinion. One result was an effort to wrap the monarchy in national symbols. One aspect of this was increasing attention to how royal princes and princesses were dressed. The best example is the dressing of Queen Victoria's children in kilts and sailor suits, two outfits with very significant polititical connotations. Attention was given in other monarchies on how the princes and princess were dressed. The impact was not only political, but the royal clothing was copied by mothers of all social classes for their children

Individual Boys

Here list a list of boys whose clothing had definite political conotations. Some of these boys, especially the future Edward VII, had a majorvimpact on boys' clothing in additin to the political impact.

The Czarevitch

The Russian Czarevitch Alexis almost always wore sailor suits as a boy. The image was a classic suit styled like the uniforms of an enlisted sailor. The idea that a Czarevitc would dress in a standard boys outfit and that of an enlisted seaman certainly helped give the monarchy a human face. HBC does not know, however, if this was a calcuated step, or that the Czarina just thought boys should wear sailor suits. A definitely calculated step was ehen, after World War I began, Alexis began wearing army uniforms to demonstrate the royal familys's total commitment to the Russian war effort.

The Dauphin (Louis XVII)

The Bourbons by the late 18th century had become extremely unpopular. The monarchy lived in unimaginable oppulance while the heavily taxed French peole struggkle to survive. I'm not sure whose idea it was, perhaps the Queen Marie Atonitte, but the Dauphin--the future Louis XVII was dressesd in an early long pants skelton suit. The skeleton suit had a very democratic look to it as increasingly the knee breeches worn by well to do men were assiciated with the airistocracy. The mobs that were to seize power in Paris and eventually the working class in general were to be called the sans cullotes (the peopke without knee breeches).

Edward VII

The English monarchy brutally subjegated the Hughland clans after the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The resulting brutal occupation made the monarchy very unpopular in Scotalnd. English monarchs in the 19th century began a charm campaign to gain the affecrtion of the Scotts. George IV traveled to Edinburg and appeared in a kilt. It was Vicoria and Albert that raused this effortvto a fine art. Albert bought Victoria a Scottish estate--Balmoral. Victoria, who was truly enamored with Scotland, loved it. They decided to begin dressing the princes in kilts--a decission that was to have a major impact on boys' clothes. Bertie, the future Edward VII, was the first to be dressed in a kilt. HBC at this time does not have details on just how carefully considered this was. Many princes were similarly attired. Edward's son, Goerge V stated thatvkilts and sailor suits were the only garments suitable for boys. Times have changed. The currebntvprinces, William and Harry dislikeckilts and never wear them.

Edward VII

Interestingly Edward VII helped establish an even more important boys' fashion--the sailor suit. The idea behind the sailor suit was to wrap the royal famikly in the single most respected institution in Britain--the Royal Navy. The choice of an inlisted uniform was to give the monarchy a democratic image in the 19th century as British constitutional monary was taking its modern shape. Again, HBC does not have historical details behind this decission.

German Princes

Chancellor Bismark and the Kaiser Wilhelm I used the navy as the uniting military organization for the German Empire. Every German state had its own army. Of course the Prussian Army was the largest, but states like Bavaria had no iunconsequential armies. After unification, many Germans viewed the Prussians which dominated the new Imperial Army with mixed emotions. The new Imperial Navy, the Kriegsmarina was an institution of the new united Germany. As such, the sailor suit was viewed as a sign of German Nationality and pride. The German princes were commonly dressed in sailor suits. HBC is not sure if this was a conscious political decission or just reflected the Kaiser's pride in his new navy and a reflection of popular fashion. Of course Wilhelm II's mother was an English princess, daughter of Queen Elizabeth. However I believe that Wilhelm II as aboy did not wear sailor sits as much as his children and grand children. One HBC reader believes that these trends help expalin why rthe sailor suit was so common in Germany.

Royal Pages

Be sure to have a look at the HBC royal pages for detailed information on how the royal princescin different countries were dressed.

Other Boys

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. If you know of any additional boys which should be added to the list, please let HBC know. The ones that most prominently come to mind are the ways that royal youngsters were dressed. Their parents commonly used the children, especially the boys, to help improve the image of the ruling houses. There may be some non-royals as well, but none occur to HBC at this time.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: February 13, 2001
Last updated: July 22, 2001