The Flowers of the Fields of France

Norman Hartnell (1901-1979) was given the Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957, however he had been working with the royal family since 1940. He created some of the young Queen’s most famous dresses and was renowned for his elaborate embroidery and beadwork.

The Flowers of the Fields of France Dress


Queen Elizabeth II made her first official state visit to Paris accompanied by her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in April 1957. While the couple had made an official visit not long after their marriage, this was the Queen’s first visit as a reigning monarch.

Aware the eyes of the fashion conscious would be on her, Norman Hartnell created a spectacular evening gown that would not only draw attention to the Queen but also pay a compliment to the French nation.

The Queen wore the dress to the state dinner hosted by President René Coty at the Elysée Palace which was followed by a visit to the Opéra to see a ballet by Lifar from The Diaries of Cynthia Jebb.

The Flowers of the Fields of France Dress


The Flowers of the Fields of France dress was made from duchesse satin and was lavishly embroidered with motifs of miniature bees, grasses, wheat and wild flowers associated with France.

The motifs were embellished with faceted glass, gold beads, brilliants, mother-of-pearl and gold petal. The bees were a nod to the emblem of Napoleon, while the dress also featured a large bow on the back.

The dress was given to the V&A Museum but is not currently on display.

Accessories


Queen Elizabeth wore the emerald version of the Vladimir Tiara along with pieces from the Delhi Durbar Parure. The tiara once belonged to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a German princess, who married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. The tiara was inherited by her daughter, Elena, who sold it to Queen Mary.

The parure was made for the Indian coronation of George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The necklace consists of eight emeralds alternating with diamonds and two pendants. The longer pendant features an emerald drop while the other is and 8.8 diamond known as the Cullinan VII.

You can see the tiara, necklace and earrings better in this photo which shows the Queen at a state dinner.