“He left all the pageantry and splendour to his son, the Prince of Wales, the future George II, who ran a sort of rival court at Leicester House,” says Reynolds. Always richly dressed he was nicknamed “dapper George,” by one courtier.
In addition to fashion, he was “also almost obsessionally interested in uniforms, insignia and protocols of rank. He always wore the Order of the Garter for example,” says Reynolds. The last monarch to lead his troops into battle, and proud of his image as a soldier king, George II was also responsible for introducing uniforms for the army and navy.
He wears it well
The pendulum swung back once again with George III who, it was said, dressed so unassumingly he could mingle in the crowd without being noticed. Although Reynolds thinks that might be something of an exaggeration, she does think the stories are a part of this characterisation of him as a very down-to-earth king who in the prints of the time was depicted as Farmer George.
George III was “very frugal,” says Reynolds, and “not really interested in his appearance at all.” Although she notes that he did “understand the need to dress for the role whenever necessary, so he wears the Coronation robes with great swagger in Ramsay’s portrait.”
“He was always most at ease in uniforms of office,” she says. So much so that he devised his own Windsor Uniform, influenced by the European trend for civilian uniforms which had been introduced by Louis XIV as a means of indicating a close connection with the monarch. Consisting of a dark blue coat with red collar and cuffs and pale breeches, “it was his favourite style of dress for the last 30 years of his life,” says Reynolds.
Initially only worn by members of the Royal Family, it was gradually adopted by senior attendants in the royal household, and by the aristocracy. “It became a demonstration of a close relationship with the king but also a public demonstration of support for him during his difficult periods, including when he was ill. At a thanksgiving service to celebrate his return to health many were wearing the uniform,” says Reynolds.
A version is still worn by members of the Royal Family for events at Windsor, and it has influenced the uniforms of visitor services staff at Windsor and in London.