A History of Royal Fashion

Explore how British kings and queens have influenced fashion over 500 years. In partnership with Historic Royal Palaces.

  • Duration 5 weeks
  • Weekly study 4 hours

Learn how royalty used fashion to entertain, control and impress

A History of Royal Fashion takes you into the wardrobes of British kings and queens across five royal dynasties from the Tudors, Stuarts and Georgians to the Victorians and Windsors.

With exclusive access to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, experts at the University of Glasgow and Historic Royal Palaces will introduce you to the different sources we can use to study fashion history.

Go behind the scenes at the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace and the Banqueting House to explore the styles of monarchs and their families and the impact of their clothing on society.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 secondsDR SALLY TUCKETT: Our clothes say a lot about us, but they say even more about the society in which we live in. We dress to suit the environment or for the weather. We choose outfits for special occasions like weddings. Some of us are made to wear certain types of clothing like school uniform, and most of us like to think that our clothing expresses our individuality and personal style.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 secondsThe clothing of British Royalty is no different. Historic royal fashion could be practical and functional. It can also be decorative, and frivolous, and anything in between. And by studying their clothes, we can learn a lot about the monarchs of the past and about their subjects.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 secondI'm Dr. Sally Tuckett, lecturer in dress and textile histories at the University of Glasgow. And along with colleagues at Glasgow and curators at Historic Royal Palaces, this free online course is going to take you behind the scenes of the royal wardrobes of the kings and queens of Britain.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsHistory of Royal Fashion has a range of activities and materials that are designed to give you the chance to engage with other learners and to encourage you to think about the links between princely costumes of the past and our own clothing choices today. We're not as different as you might think. We will look at the fashion successes, eccentricities, and failures of a different royal dynasty each week. From a sumptuous court of the tudors at Hampton Court Palace to the sleek and elegant Windsors at Kensington, join us to explore how royals use fashion and clothing to control, to entertain, and to impress.


  • Week 1

    The Tudors (1509-1603)

    • Introduction

      Welcome to the course and to our first royal dynasty of fashion: the Tudors. Take a look at the timeline for some key Tudor dates, introduce yourself and tell us what comes to mind when you think about Tudor fashion.

    • Tudor style

      This section will introduce you to the key events and styles of the Tudor era, looking at how style was controlled by law and custom. There’s also a handy guide for creating your own ruff.

    • Power and propaganda

      We're all familiar with the notion of power dressing, but did you know that the Tudors were masters at it? This section explores how clothing in portraits and fashionable gifts maintained the Tudor image.

  • Week 2

    The Stuarts (1603-1714)

    • Introduction

      From the sumptuous Tudors at Hampton Court Palace, we now turn to the stylish Stuarts. In this section there is a timeline with key days for the Stuart era, and you will also learn about some of the main fashion changes.

    • Performance and style

      Step into Banqueting House to enter the world of the Stuart masques and discover how masque costumes and fancy dress were more than just entertainment.

    • Keeping up appearances

      From Charles I’s kingly portraits to the make-up rituals of the later Stuarts, this section examines how fashion and clothing was used to promote personal majesty and dynastic power.

  • Week 3

    The Georgians (1714-1837)

    • Introduction

      The Georgian era begins in 1714 with the accession of George I to the throne. Over the next century there were four King Georges and one King William. The timeline and the article explain how the Georges came to the throne.

    • Courtly fashions

      The 18th century was an era of politeness and refinement, and dressing the part was key to accessing courtly life. This section introduces you to the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of courtly fashion in the Georgian era.

    • Public and private fashions

      Not all monarchs were happy being the centre of attention, while others worked at being the focal point of their court. This section looks at these two approaches through the wardrobes of George III and George IV.

  • Week 4

    The Victorians (1837-1901)

    • Introduction

      Queen Victoria is one of Britain’s longest reigning monarchs, this section tells you about how she came to the throne and the timeline will be a useful reference tool throughout the week.

    • Fashion and technology

      Technology and fashion often go hand in hand and in the 19th century it reached unprecedented levels of exchange between function and style. This section looks at some of the key developments and the impact it had on fashion.

    • Fashion, family and customs

      Many traditions that we associate with birth, marriage and death have their roots in the Victorian era. This section looks more closely at Victoria’s and her family’s style.

  • Week 5

    The Windsors

    • Introduction

      This final week of the course explores the relationship between fashion and the Windsors. As we enter the modern age, and the age of celebrity, who else influences our fashions?

    • Continuity and change

      This section reflects on aspects of royal fashion that have continued from previous eras, and on aspects which have evolved and developed to fit the modern era.

    • Fashioning royalty

      In this final section we will look at the relationship between royalty and fashion design, think about how historic royal fashion is conserved for future generations, and look back on the course as a whole.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Assess the significance of fashion and clothing to individual and collective British royals
  • Identify key fashion developments from the sixteenth century to the present day
  • Reflect on how and why fashions have changed
  • Explore the significance of different primary sources for understanding fashion history
  • Develop an understanding of the history of British monarchs, their family and their reigns

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for those who have an interest in fashion and history. No prior knowledge is required; all learners are welcome.

Who will you learn with?

Sally Tuckett

Sally Tuckett

I am lecturer in dress and textile histories at the University of Glasgow. I’m a social historian who uses the study of dress and textiles as a way to access the past.

Eleri  Lynn

Eleri Lynn

I am Curator of the Dress Collection at Historic Royal Palaces, where I look after 10,000 items of royal, court and ceremonial dress in the magical surroundings of Hampton Court Palace

Matthew Storey

Matthew Storey

I'm a collections curator at Historic Royal Palaces. I work with everything from paintings to royal dress. I'm interested in what the collections can tell us about who made and used them.

Victoria Price

Victoria Price

I am a senior lecturer in early modern theatre and drama at the University of Glasgow. I'm a theatre historian who examines plays and masques to learn about early modern performance practices.

Claudia Acott Williams

Claudia Acott Williams

I am a Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. I take care of Kensington Palace and its collections, tell stories about the people who lived here and help look after the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection.

Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.