They called her the Rainbow Queen: For every royal engagement, Her late Majesty would arrive in a bright, vibrant color—a different hue nearly each time—so that, according to the Queen’s daughter-in-law Sophie, then Countess of Wessex (and now Duchess of Edinburgh), she could be seen by members of the crowd assembled, even if they were far away. “I have to be seen to be believed,” she once remarked.
But, in so many different ways, things have changed, and a new color trend has become impossible to ignore among our new Queen: Queen Camilla, whose title became official this past weekend at the Coronation ceremony she shared with her husband, King Charles. Though she wore white to Westminster Abbey, the next day, at the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle, there it was again—blue, the color that can't help but be noticed by those who have been paying attention (and even those that haven’t been trying to—it really is that obvious). Camilla chose not just blue, but royal blue, to wear to the concert, and since she became Queen Consort on September 8, the choice of blue has been no coincidence. As far back as October 15—not long after the royal mourning period and its accompanying black dress code ended—she stepped out to British Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse. Then, when she and the King hosted South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa in November—the first state visit of the new reign—she greeted him in blue. Later that evening, at a state banquet in Buckingham Palace, blue—again.
For the royal family’s traditional Christmas walk at Sandringham—blue. Easter? Blue, and this time, the Princess of Wales and daughter Princess Charlotte followed suit. For the first royal tour of the reign, to Germany? Blue, on multiple days. Commonwealth Day? Blue. Multiple royal engagements—Holocaust Memorial Day, the second anniversary of her beloved Reading Room, World Book Day—do I even have to tell you at this point? Not surprisingly, in the official Coronation portraits, released in the leadup to this past weekend’s big day, there was the color again, front and center.
It's not a coincidence.
Now, Camilla will occasionally veer into a green, or a red, or a white, but it always comes back to the same place, the same concerted effort. Other members of the family dabble in the color, but don’t drink from the firehose like Camilla does. Kate followed the Queen’s lead and wore royal blue at Easter, as well as Commonwealth Day; she wore a shade of the hue just this weekend at a reception the day before the Coronation and at the Coronation Big Lunch the day after and has opted for the color for multiple engagements—but it’s not as obvious as Camilla’s affinity. Zara Tindall, the daughter of Princess Anne, chose the color for the Coronation. The women are on trend, especially the royal blue shade—azure is a color of the moment. But what’s the deeper story?
“I’ve definitely noticed a specific shade of blue—what is known as royal blue,” royal fashion expert Eloise Moran tells Marie Claire. “It’s actually a very traditional color in the U.K., and, when I think of the monarchy, one of the key colors, of course, is royal blue. Blue definitely keeps popping up—there definitely seems to be a correlation.”
Blue, of course, is one-third of the Union Jack, and the royal blue color in particular is, you guessed it, related to royalty (more about that in a moment). Interestingly, Moran’s expertise area is in a woman that, had life turned out differently, might have been Queen today: Princess Diana. (Moran is the author of The Lady Di Look Book and the creator of @ladydirevengelooks—many of those revenge looks inspired by Camilla herself, and, of course, Charles.) Diana, too, favored blue: “She actually adopted strong primary colors—deep royal blue and reds—when she was on royal duty,” Moran says. “That was the color she chose on so many occasions.”
The origins of royal blue, perhaps not shockingly, stem from royalty: The term was first used in the early 1800s and the “royal” in royal blue is derived from the British Royal Family itself, where the color is said to have been created for a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte.
“Royal blue has a long-established relationship with British history and the royal family,” fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell, founder of the platform Fashion is Psychology and author of Big Dress Energy, tells Marie Claire. “The royal associations also extend to darker shades known as queen blue and imperial blue. These historical ties mean that blue is often seen as a quintessentially British color, which can serve to enhance national pride when the color is worn and explains why the royal family in particular may be drawn to blue.”
The reasons we are drawn to any color are complex, says Sarah Seung-McFarland, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist specializing in fashion and design psychology and founder of Trulery, a blog and fashion and design psychology consulting service.
“For the royal family, blue has a lot of advantages,” she says. “Generally speaking, blues are associated with trust, duty, authority, competence, and reflection—traits that would be meaningful to those with royal status. And as a cool color, blues have a calming, tranquil effect, perfect for royals who want to be connected with the public through the feeling of safety and reliability that peace brings. Blue has also been long associated with regalness.”
And the peaceful, calm feeling evoked by blue may be intentional: “It’s worth noting that the royal family has gone through many changes over the past few years,” Seung-McFarland says. “They’ve experienced an onslaught of family drama as well as [the late] Queen’s recent death and King Charles’ Coronation. It’s likely been very overwhelming and may even feel destabilizing for both the royal family and the country. So what better time is it then to pull out the blue garbs to remind people of the authority and sense of commitment and duty the royals are supposed to represent? It’s a way to bring calm and peace in the midst of so many changes.”
Zooming in on Camilla, while Her late Majesty was a queen regnant—the star of the show—Camilla is a queen consort, and her husband is the monarch, not her. As such, the rainbow wardrobe doesn’t necessarily work anymore—while a working royal in her own right, she’s a supporting cast member.
“Think about it,” Moran says. “The role of the King is to stand front and center. He is the figurehead now. Camilla isn’t. She’s his wife, and obviously plays a supporting role and has her own charitable roles, and I don’t think of her as the partner to the King in the kind of traditional standing to the side, let him have his moment—but the thing is, with the [late] Queen, she was kind of this unifier, this figure who brought the colors of her wardrobe to bring a bit of joy. People really enjoyed her outfits and loved to see what she was wearing. Now, with Camilla, it’ll be interesting to see how her outfits play out. She’s always been very dutiful and respectful. Prince Charles is now King, and [as consort] she is meant to stand behind him. She wants him to have his moment, and yeah, it gets one note and boring when you only dress in one color—it does feel very uniform with not much self-expression in there—but it’s funny, it’s almost like no one is trying to distract or take away [from the King], and is trying to give Charles his limelight.”
With a King on the throne now—instead of a Queen with distinct preferences (think, for example, nude and pale pink nails, à la Essie Ballet Slippers, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite nail polish)—there are no fashion and beauty protocols, standards, and precedents to follow from the top down for the women of the royal family. Camilla’s affinity for the color blue could be because of any one of the reasons named, or it could just be as simple as she likes the way it looks on her. Regardless, as we saw with Kate’s bold red nails at the royal family’s Easter church service this year—which would have likely never happened a year ago—when it comes to fashion and beauty in the royal family, like so much else, times are ‘a changing.
“The royal family is modernizing in a lot of ways,” Moran says. “They have to. It’s all based on public opinion, and I do think we will see some things become a lot more modern.”
And, it seems, a lot more blue.
Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.
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