The Outfits That Say ‘The Queen’

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THOUGH it is something the Red Queen might have said, it was actually uttered by Elizabeth II. “I have to be seen to be believed,” the queen of England remarked, according to her most recent biographer, Sally Bedell Smith. Far from being a goofball tautology, that declaration is a shrewd assessment of monarchy management in an era when image rules supreme.

It was in the 1953 Order of Coronation that England’s newly crowned ruler was referred to as “Queen Elizabeth, Your Undoubted Queen.” Over the decades that followed — and that culminate this week in her Diamond Jubilee celebrations — that undoubted queen diligently fulfilled a role she considered fateful. She simultaneously forged the definitive image of a monarch at a time when most monarchies were reduced to ceremonial nothingness or else had gone kaput.

Not the least of the accomplishments of Elizabeth II, in other words, is that she is the queen but is also the defining image of one.

And how, after all, is a queen supposed to look?...

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