A stylish and splendid success

Judging by its well-attended press opening and steady stream of visitors V&A;'s newly opened Style and Splendour is definitely a resounding success. The lavish opening party was attended by a number of Norwegian and British royals including HM Queen Sonja and The Princess Royal, as well as a large press gathering

18/02/2005 :: Style and Splendour: Queen Maud of Norway's Wardrobe 1896 - 1938 is an exhibition which shows the incredible changes in women's lifestyles and fashions from Edwardian bustles to informal sportswear. The exhibition runs through 8 January 2006.

Lavish opening party
At the opening party no less than 80 journalists and photographers (including five TV teams) watched as HM Queen Sonja, HRH Crown Prince Haakon and HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit entered V&A's Raphael Room to the idiosyncratic tones of the Harding fiddle played by Knut Buen.

The Norwegian royals were soon followed by HRH The Earl of Wessex, HRH The Countess of Wessex, HRH The Princess Royal, Rear Admiral Timothy Lawrence, HRH The Duke of Gloucester and HRH The Duchess of Gloucester.

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), the BBC and CNN were present at the opening party, as were The Independent, the Evening Standard and Hello Magazine. HM Queen Sonja generously took time to give elaborate interviews to both NRK and CNN (for Design 360°).

Fashion-conscious Queen
Queen Maud of Norway was one of the best-dressed women of her age. Granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she was born a princess and became Queen of Norway in 1905. Her wardrobe includes a range of stunning creations dating from her wedding trousseau of 1896 to the latest Worth designs of the 1930s.

The collection on display, which is on loan from the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, features 52 ensembles and 60 accessories from the wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway, spanning the years from her marriage in 1896 to her death in 1938.

The 800 hundred guests listened attentively to the three speeches, the first of which was given by the Chairman of the V&A Trustees Ms Paula Ridley, followed by Mr Sune Nordgren, Director of the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. Lastly, HM Queen Sonja spoke.

Click below to read the speeches.


Paula Ridley's speech

Sune Nordgren's speech

HM Queen Sonja's Speech


Paula Ridley’s Speech: 

Your Royal Highnesses, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My name is Paula Ridley, I’m Chairman of the V&A Trustees and I’m absolutely delighted to welcome you here this evening to this glittering opening party.

I’m very proud that the V&A is hosting this splendid display – Style and Spelndour:  Queen Maud of Norway’s Wardrobe 1896 – 1938 and that we will be showing it for a whole year.

You will see tonight the spectacular wardrobe of Queen Maud, the British Princess who became Queen Consort of Norway.  This exhibition includes over fifty superb outfits ranging from her wedding trousseau of 1896 to the latest Worth designs of 1938.   She was certainly a Queen of style and splendour.

We are also delighted to be hosting this exhibition to coincide with the centennial anniversary of Norway’s emergence as an newly independent nation in 1905.

I give sincere thanks to the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Norway for lending us these fabulous outfits, and I especially want to thank Ambassador Tarald Brautaset and the Norwegian Embassy for their invaluable help in organising this exhibition.

And of course this show would not have been possible with out the generous support of our sponsors.  There are many that have contributed to this exhibition but I would especially like to thank Statoil, John and Inger Fredriksen and Peter and Esther Smedvig for their generous contributions.  Thank you all for your help.

Again thank you all so much for coming this evening,. We are delighted you are here.  In a few moments Her Royal Highness Queen Sonja will say a few words, but first I would like to hand over to Sune Nordgren, Director of Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design.


Sune Nordgren's speech: 

Your Royal Highnesses, excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

This spectacular exhibition “Style & Splendour” would never been possible to realise without the commitment and foresight of the Norwegian Royal Family. The impressive collection in our museum in Oslo is the result of a continuous engagement – from the first donation in 1961 when King Olav gave generously from his mother’s wardrobe. New items have been added continuously and extended to also other members of the Royal Family. Her Majesty Queen Sonja has shown a particular interest in our collection and on several occasions donated from her personal designers’ wardrobe. It is an honour and a comforting fact that the continuation is now secured with the interest from the next generation, manifested by the presence of the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess here today.

The exhibition from Queen Maud’s wardrobe not only displays the ceremonial and official dresses – it is reflecting all aspects of Queen Maud’s daily life – evening dresses, daywear, sportswear and accessories - giving a broad view of a loved Queen and a fascinating woman of her time, engaged in the changes in society – and it was a turbulent time – in fashion as well as mentality and moral. Queens Maud’s wardrobe is fashion history and a vital source of inspiration for creative designers today.  

The collaboration between The National Museum in Oslo and Victoria & Albert Museum has not only been months of adventure and hard work for everyone involved. It has been a journey of pleasure and excitement as well, leading up to the most extensive presentation abroad of this our rich and unique collection. And it has been a fantastic opportunity for several professionals in our museum to work with their colleagues here at the V & A.

It is my hope that this experience has been beneficial for both museums and that we can look forward to other opportunities to collaborate.  To share knowledge, research, working experiences and establishing mutual exchange from our collections. This is tremendously important, and especially in the situation we are in, creating a new National Museum for Norway; where craft and design is a most important part, based on our vast and wide collections - but also crucial for our future programming as well as our ambitious educational and public work.

The reward is now evident before our eyes. I would like to express our deepest gratitude to our benefactors, sponsors and collaborators.

First of all to Victoria and Albert museum, its board of trustees and its director Mark Jones.
To the chair and board of our museum in Oslo, supporting this idea from the start.
To the Norwegian Embassy here in London for all their restless efforts.
A special thank you to the curators of the exhibition, Anne Kjellberg and Susan North and to their skilful teams, working as one, to make this a both beautiful and most informative exhibition.

To her majesty, Queen Sonja for her whole-hearted support to this adventurous project and for opening the exhibition here at the V&A, the mother of all Design Museums. 


HM Queen Sonja's speech: 

It is a pleasure to be here today in the magnificent Victoria & Albert Museum to open the exhibition ‘Style and Splendour’. Here you will see a remarkable display of dresses, gowns and accessories from the wardrobe of Queen Maud, born a British princess and the first Queen of Norway in modern times.

In 1905, following the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, King Haakon was chosen as the first king of independent Norway. On 25 November, he and his wife, Maud, arrived in Oslo with their little son Crown Prince Olav, just 2 years old.

Photographs of the arrival show her petite, elegant form muffled up in furs to protect her from the snow and cold. But no black-and-white photograph can prepare us for the lively colours of Queen Maud’s wardrobe. Through the clothes we will see today, she steps out of a frozen moment and comes to life. Queen Maud was my husband’s grandmother. Although I never had the chance to meet her in person, she has inspired me a great deal. As a child, I often heard that she used to ride and walk with her many dogs, close to my home. She was known to be shy, fond of children and very fond of dancing.

I was told by my father-in-law before he passed away that he wanted me to look after his mother’s wardrobe and to decide how it could best be taken care of.

As we started to open up cupboards and unpack the carefully-kept garments, we were enchanted to discover so many beautiful dresses and suits, elegant coats and chic hats, matching shoes and gloves, fans and umbrellas. Queen Maud was quite short, so she chose styles emphasising vertical lines that made her look taller. She was also very slender and proud of her tiny waist, which measured only 18 inches.

Her wardrobe contained a huge number of clothes; there were morning dresses, mid-morning dresses, house dresses, walking dresses, racing dresses, visiting dresses, evening dresses, gala dresses and outfits for many different sports.

As a little girl, Princess Maud was very fond of sports and was nicknamed ‘Harry’. She was a keen rider, played tennis, bicycled, used ice and roller skates, and enjoyed tobogganing.

Norway is regarded as the birthplace of modern skiing, so when the King and Queen wanted to become Norwegians, their friend Fridtjof Nansen told them they simply had to learn this sport. Fortunately, both the King and the Queen enjoyed cross-country skiing; she is right at the front in perfect style with some of her ladies-in-waiting lagging behind, totally exhausted. Quite an amusing picture!

Clothes carry memories. Queen Maud kept many of her garments in remembrance of important occasions. “To be kept always”, she wrote on the paper wrapped around a blouse from the mid-1890s, probably the one she wore on her engagement day. Today, her clothes help us to reconstruct her life and personality.

Queen Maud created a beautiful English garden at Bygdø, the royal summer residence. This garden is about to be restored and I have been travelling throughout England trying to understand her way of thinking. Stepping into her atmosphere, I realise how gifted she must have been. Looking at her beautiful watercolours and photographs, her artistic personality comes even more to life.

The exhibition features outfits worn by Queen Maud from the day of her wedding in 1896 until she died in 1938. The coronation gown is the highlight of the exhibition, and shows the Queen as a symbol of the new, independent Norwegian kingdom. With its long, slender lines, the gown is the embodiment of Queen Maud’s fine sense of style.

The coronation gown was a joint creation by a British and a Norwegian fashion house. It involved close collaboration between seamstresses from the Queen’s country of birth and her new homeland. Queen Maud spent several months in England every year and purchased most of here clothes here, from British court dressmakers, ladies’ tailors and fashion houses, or from the London branches of French fashion houses. During her lifetime, Queen Maud followed changes in fashion, but without been too avant-garde.

Looking at Queen Maud’s large wardrobe makes one wonder: Did she keep it all because she senses that some day it would be of public interest? She knew very well that ceremonial dresses attracted attention. Her parents, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, had their coronation robes displayed at the London Museum as part of a large exhibition of historical royal clothing. This was a great success. I am delighted to see Queen Maud’s wardrobe back in Britain.

The exhibition can be seen here at the Victoria and Albert Museum for a whole year. I hope that her clothes will bring some of her spirit back, back to the country where she was born and that she referred to as home throughout her life.

Thank you.  

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Paula Ridley, Chairman of the V&A Trustees and HM Queen SonjaPhoto: Peter Kelleher © V&A Images

HRH The Earl of Wessex, HRH The Princess Royal and HM Queen SonjaPhoto: Peter Kelleher © V&A Images

HRH The Crown Princess Mette-Marit, HRH The Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and HRH The Earl of WessexPhoto: Peter Kelleher © V&A Images

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