What is clear, custom-made, carried by hand, and almost caused an international incident? The Queen’s umbrella of course!
You must know that Great Britain is rainy. In fact, it rains about 15 days out of every month in London. That weather explains why London is where the modern-day umbrella became popular and why the umbrella is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite fashion accessory.
For England’s Queen, attention to detail is a must. From the hat on her head, to the shoes on her feet, everything about the Queen’s outfit is coordinated. Since the weather in England is often wet, not only does the hat have to match – the umbrella does too. To accomplish this – every umbrella used by the queen is custom-made by a single company.
The Queen’s Umbrella
The Queen prefers the same type of umbrella that her mother liked. It is highly-arched, clear and has a colored border. Though many Londoners call it a brolly, the Fulton Company calls it the “Birdcage” umbrella – but they make the Queen’s umbrellas slightly different from their commercial line. The border’s colors are chosen to match the royal wardrobe and are not included as part of Fulton’s normal offerings. The Queen also likes her border to be a bit narrower than “standard” so that it is easier to see her through the umbrella. The Queen once remarked that, “I have to be seen to be believed.”
The Fulton Company has been making the Queen’s umbrellas for decades. Each season, once her wardrobe is selected, fabric swatches are sent to Fulton who then makes up some samples for the Queen’s approval. Once given the all-clear, multiple umbrellas of each shade are made. This means hundreds of umbrellas every year.
The Queen’s Unintentional Megaphone
The same attention taken with the wardrobe goes beyond the appearance too, according to the Queen. Everyone knows that when the she is about, each step must be carefully taken and every word carefully chosen. It isn’t just others that she expects to behave – she expects the same of herself as well. She would “never” criticize important, international visitors – out loud.
Though it all ended well, her umbrella may have been the reason why a foreign diplomat once actually heard the Queen’s negative assessment of his behavior. Her words, spoken only to herself, were likely reflected and amplified by the plastic canopy which acted as a microphone. It hadn’t happened before and it may not happen again – but it will be remembered.
Overall, the younger royals may be more relaxed than the queen. They don’t require accessory coordination and don’t worry as much about appearances. Though Prince William has been photographed on several occasions holding a Birdcage umbrella for Kate – it hasn’t been the Queen’s custom design or even a custom design of his own.
Instead, it has had a standard-width border in black – or has been one of Fulton’s other styles. They may not need their umbrellas to match their clothing – but they do need to stay dry which demands a well-made umbrella.