The Queen goes fur-free: in praise of Her Majesty making a very woke fashion decision at 93

The Queen wearing an ermine-trimmed cape at the State Opening of Parliament 
The Queen wearing an ermine-trimmed cape at the State Opening of Parliament  Credit: Tim Graham/ Getty

The release of Angela Kelly’s book, The Other Side of the Coin, last week revealed some fascinating nuggets about how the Queen dresses and her relationship with Kelly, her faithful dresser. We learn that Kelly wears in Her Majesty’s shoes on her behalf, that she has 30 different colours of umbrella at her disposal and that the sovereign’s clothes are packed into suitcases from House of Fraser when she travels. 

And while Her Majesty undoubtedly has a signature look, Kelly maintains that "she is always on-trend, trendsetting, in fact never puts a foot wrong when it comes to choosing the outfits she wears.” 

But fashion of late has become less about choosing the right colour or silhouette and more about projecting your values via what you choose to wear. Kelly’s revelation that the Queen has switched to a faux fur policy is evidence that, even with this nuanced update on what it means to be fashionable, she remains on-trend. 

“If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onwards fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm,” Kelly says, in a chapter explaining the Queen’s year in fashion. 

The Queen wearing another of her famous fur looks Credit: PA

It’s a detail which had passed the world by until The Humane Society welcomed the news in a statement released on Tuesday. ‘We are thrilled that Her Majesty has officially gone fur-free. Queen Elizabeth’s decision to “go faux” is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur, and want nothing to do with it. Our Head of State going fur-free sends a powerful message that fur is firmly out of fashion and does not belong with Brand Britain,” says Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK. 

"PETA staff are raising a glass of gin and Dubonnet to the Queen's compassionate decision to go fur-free," adds PETA Director of International Programmes Mimi Bekhechi. "This new policy is a sign of the times, as 95% of the British public also refuses to wear real fur." She goes on to urge the Queen to replace the bearskin furs used on the hats worn by the Queen's guard. 

She may be 93-years-old, but this news is proof of just how woke the Queen is. She may have grown up in an environment where an extensive fourrure collection was de rigeur - there are hundreds of past examples of her wearing the ermine stoles and mink-trimmed coats which would once have been considered the height of elegance - but she is now following the lead of major fashion houses like Gucci, Burberry and Prada in opting to eliminate real fur from her public wardrobe. 

The Queen wearing a fur coat in 1969 Credit: Hulton Royals

Who knows if she might still cosy up in an old mink to ward off the chill while at Sandringham or Balmoral in the depths of winter? And who could blame her if she did. She is famously thrifty with a waste-not, want-not attitude which means she often makes her outfits last for 25 years, or ensures the fabric is repurposed.

It would be a shame, in a way, for her old favourite furs not to be continue to be put to good use, even if they do seem very much out of step with modern fashion thinking and it's unlikely that the Royal family's Boxing Day shoot traditional will end any time soon. Buckingham Palace has said that for state occasions, like the opening of Parliament, the Queen will continue to wear the furs which have been a mainstay for years. 

This is a prime example of the Queen as a public persona with influence to yield carefully adapting her own behaviour and attitudes to remain in-touch, despite being a nonagenarian. Many of her class and age would plough on with wearing the furs that have been a staple all their lives. 

But while this might be a symbolic and meaningful decision, it’s almost unsurprising that Her Majesty has gone fur-free - after all, she chose to wear neon green for her 90th birthday celebrations and last year made her annual departure for Christmas at Sandringham wearing an of-the-moment Burberry silk headscarf. Both were examples of the Queen weaving contemporary fashion references into her globally recognisable look. 

Could Her Majesty’s decision tempt a new swathe of labels to eschew fur? There is still a healthy market for pelts in certain countries and many big names still use fur in their designs. The fact that their competitors stopped using fur will have been little deterrence, but a message from the Queen herself? It will certainly offer a pause for thought for fashion houses and clients alike.