Royal Baby Fashion Through the Ages
The task of providing Henry VIII with a legitimate son was fulfilled by wife number three (of six), Jane Seymour. At age two, Edward VI sat for a portrait by renaissance artist Hans Holbein the Younger costumed in fashionable adult dress of the period, typified by a square neckline and loose-fitting sleeves. In his hand he holds a golden rattle that most definitely puts your baby’s sterling silver Tiffany rattle to shame.
Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VI), ca. 1538 by Hans Holbein the Younger. Housed at The Berger Collection
You may be thinking that baby Louis XIV’s feminine garb is a telling sign of what was to come (the future Sun King would enjoy high heels, flamboyant attire and dancing), however, the practice of dressing young boys in girl’s clothes was common until the age of six when a boy would make the transition from skirt to bifurcated garments. Ca. 1640, the young dauphin was painted in an ermine-lined cloak embroidered with the fleur-de-lis symbol, both indicative of his royal birth.
Louis XIV of France as Dauphin, 1639. ca. Housed at Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon
This royal babe is cute and he seems to know it. François Gérard painted Napoleon II the year he was born in 1811. Son of Napoleon and his second wife Empress Marie Louise, his father dubbed him “The King of Rome,” although he would never rule. Dressed in a delicate white chemise that followed the neoclassic aesthetic of the period, young Napoleon II accessorized with a red sash baring the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour—a decoration reserved for the emperor, princes of the imperial family and grand dignitaries.
Napoléon II Roi de Rome by François Gérard, ca. 1811
The cute little face and tiny hand emerging from this expansive puff-like ensemble belong to a then four-year-old Queen Victoria. Perhaps the Queen-to-be was giving us a taste of the fashions to come under her reign—the Victorian Era would see the introduction of the cage crinoline, an understructure that would allow an even greater width of skirt.
Princess Victoria aged Four by Stephen Poyntz Denning, 1823. Housed at The Dulwich Picture Gallery
Karl isn’t the only fashionable Kaiser. Long before Lagerfeld reigned, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany’s last Emperor (a.k.a. the guy largely blamed for starting WWI), had a famous affinity for uniforms. A postcard from 1861 depicts the then two-year-old Wilhelm II dressed in a sailor ensemble – a costume ubiquitous in children’s daywear for decades to come. In his adulthood, the Kaiser was known to change several times a day, even adopting the foreign uniforms of visiting diplomats.
Kaiser Wilhelm II as a child, 1861
In this photo, Tsarevich Alexei (Anastasia’s little brother for you cartoon musical fans) is outfitted in pint-sized versions of traditional Russian costume including a Papahk-style hat and Kosovorotka-style blouse. The little Tsarevhic’s ensemble may be the result of his father Tsar Nicholas II’s desire to promote traditional Russian dress, previously banned by Peter the Great in his aim to Westernize Russia.
Alexei Romanov ca. 1905. Artist/Location Unknown
Those who’ve watched the film The Last Emperorare familiar with the tale of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and the final ruler of the Qing Dynasty. When most children were beginning preschool, the toddler ascended the Dragon Throne in 1908, ruling until his abdication in 1912. Pictured here, the little Emperor wears a traditional Qing Dynasty winter court hat and what is presumably a silk yellow robe—a color reserved for the imperial family.
Pu Yi the last Emperor of China, as a child, picture published in 1911 (b/w photo), Chinese Photographer, (20th Century), Private Collection / Archives Charmet / The Bridgeman Art Library
Current monarch of Monaco, Prince Albert II was the first son of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco and actress Grace Kelly. Child to a Hollywood star known for her contributions to both film and fashion, the young Prince was unsurprisingly well-dressed. To commemorate his first birthday in 1958, little Albert was photographed sitting among his stuffed animals while dressed in a white cotton onesie, presumably getting a head start on his reading skills.
Prince Albert II of Monaca on his First Birthday, 1959. Photo: AFP
Second in the line of succession behind his father Prince Charles, new dad Prince William was once a royal babe himself. Photographed in 1983 at Kensington Palace, the one-year-old Prince was all giggles dressed in a traditional blue and white onesie as he played with his stuffed bear.
Prince William, 1983. Photographed by Tim Graham/Getty Images.
This dapper young man is the only grandson of the current Emperor of Japan and third in line to the throne—and downright adorable. In March of this year, the little Prince was photographed in his back-to-school gear, parents in tow, embarking on his first day of elementary school. Dressed in what is presumably a school-issued uniform, Prince Hisahito is undoubtedly wearing it better than the rest of his classmates.
Prince Hisahito on March 14, 2013. Photograph by Junji Kurokawa of AFP/Getty
Throughout history, royal births have been announced via Royal court portraits or official photographs, presenting the new heir to the peoples he or she may someday reign over. As the world waits in anticipation of a glimpse of Great Britain's latest addition to the Royal Family, the more sartorially-minded of us are eager for details on the little royal's wardrobe. To tide you over, take a look at the fashions of 10 royal babies throughout history.
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