ENGLISH HERITAGE, APSLEY HOUSE
1ST DUKE OF WELLINGTON 1821 CORONATION ROBES
In April 2023, to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, the elaborate robes that were made for the 1st Duke of Wellington and his two sons for the coronation of King George IV, were placed on display at Apsley House, London.
The resplendent robes, designed in the style of early Stuart dress, reflected the extravagant taste of the new monarch. The costumes are created from ermine-trimmed crimson velvet, and contrasting cream and pale blue silk, all of which are richly adorned with gold-coloured braids and metal-thread lace.
Despite their creation as long ago as 1821, the garments are in remarkably good condition.
The three sets of costume were removed from long-term storage and prepared for display: in addition to surface cleaning and minor repairs, re-shaping of the doublets and breeches, (including the excess of metal-thread lace), was undertaken prior to fitting to specially commissioned mannequins.
The coronation robe belonging to the 1st Duke required further conservation, as the condition of areas of ermine were too weak to display without treatment. Formed from a multitude of narrow strips of fur, splits had formed close to a number of the tightly-stitched seams. The pelt is also drying as a result of naturally occurring ageing processes, causing strands of white hair to be released when the robe is handled.
Due to its fragile condition, the ermine could not be consolidated using stitched-support; an adhesive repair was carried out using Japanese kozo paper and prepared wheat-starch paste.
Conservation of the footwear was also implemented as the crimson rosettes on the Duke’s boots were missing or damaged beyond repair. Miraculously, the satin ribbon was matched in terms of colour and width; the new rosettes were attached using existing stitch-holes in the leather. Antique gold lace was sourced to produce similar rosettes for the two pairs of pages’ shoes, as documentary evidence indicated that rosettes would also have been worn on the boys costume.
(Photograph © English Heritage)
A display case was commissioned for the robes that enhances their opulence and imparts a sense of occasion for a coronation that took place two hundred years ago.
The 1st Duke of Wellington are on display at Apsley House until April 2024.