Our journey through the dazzling decades of the Queen’s reign arrives in the 1970s today. This time, the spotlight shines on a glittering ensemble worn for a state banquet in Versailles during her 1972 state visit to France.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made a state visit to France in May 1972. They arrived in Paris on May 15. That evening, they were the guests of honor at a state banquet at the Grand Trianon in Versailles. The Grand Trianon is a separate chateau from the grand Palace of Versailles. It was built during the reign of King Louis XIV as a retreat from court life (where he could also spend time with the Marquise de Montespan). The building had been restored in 1963, and the Queen and the Duke stayed there during the visit as well.
The banquet was held at the end of a whirlwind first day in France. Peter Stephens, correspondent for the Daily Mirror, wrote, “The Queen changed outfits four times in seven hours yesterday, providing Paris with a spectacular display of royal fashion. She dazzled the fashion-conscious French from the moment she stepped out of the royal aircraft at Orly Airport. And long before the end of the day, regular followers of royal tours were agreed: Never has she looked so stunning, so chic, and so elegant.”
For the state banquet, which was hosted by President Georges Pompidou and his wife, Claude, the Queen wore a gown created by Hardy Amies. Though the gown looks white or cream in some of these images, it was actually described in press reports from the time as “orchid mauve.” The gown featured a crystal-encrusted bodice with pearl swags at the waist and on the edges of the sleeves. The dress apparently also had a matching coat.
This color photo from the dinner probably shows the actual “orchid mauve” color of the gown most successfully.
The Queen echoed the rhinestones and pearls on the gowns with diamond and pearl accessories. She wore the original pearl setting of the Vladimir Tiara with pieces she has frequently paired with the diadem: the Gloucester Pendant Earrings and Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Necklace.
She secured the sash of the Legion d’Honneur with another pearl and diamond jewel: Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Brooch. She also wore a diamond bracelet on her right wrist and an evening watch on her left.
The look was finished off with two more decorations: the Royal Family Orders of King George V (her grandfather, on the white ribbon) and King George VI (her father, on the pink ribbon). You’ll also note in this photo that, by this time, the Duke of Edinburgh had also been awarded the Legion d’Honneur. He received the decoration during the couple’s last state visit to France, which took place in 1957. He’s also wearing the Order of Merit around his neck, plus his large array of medals.
The banquet was also attended by several other prominent guests, including the painter Marc Chagall. At the dinner, the Queen delivered her toast in French. Part of her remarks poked fun at one of the differences between the two nations. “We may drive on different sides of the road,” she said, “but we are going the same way.”
The visit was jam-packed with events, including visits to the cities of Arles, Nimes, and Rouen, and a trip to the racecourse at Longchamps. But the trip is most remembered for a quick stop that wasn’t part of the official program. On the evening of Thursday, May 18, 1972, she traveled to the home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to visit with her ailing uncle. It would be their final meeting. The Duke died on May 28, 1972, just ten days after the Queen’s visit.