Peers' Robes

From the very first days of business in 1689, Ede & Ravenscroft has provided robe makers with the skills and craftsmanship to produce peers' dress.

About Peers' Robes

The ranks of the peerage are: Baron, Viscount, Earl, Marquess and Duke. Each rank has its own ceremonial dress. Full regalia is worn at the coronation of a Sovereign and at the State Opening of Parliament.

From the very first days of business, Ede & Ravenscroft has provided peers' dress for ceremonial occasions.

Peers wear two kinds of ceremonial outfits: their coronation robes and parliamentary robes. Both designs date back at least 400 years. Robes are handed down the generations. This calls for Ede & Ravenscroft to care for their appearance so that each new generation feels and looks as comfortable and dignified as the previous generation.

In 1614 a barrister called John Selden published ‘Titles of Honour’. In it he described the peers’ robes in detail. His descriptions virtually match to the last detail the robes worn by today’s peers.

Peers in their robes


The Earl of Lichfield with his Coronation Robe and Coronet

Peeress' Coronation Robes

Instead of a loose cape as worn by peers, a peeress’s robe is close fitting, open down the front and with short fitted sleeves.

A small cape is worn across the shoulders.

In addition to rows of  spots on the cape, the peeress’s two other symbols of rank are designed into the dress: the width of the edging and length of train.

The ranks are:
Duchess - 2 yard train and 5-inch edging
Marchioness - 13/4 yard train and 4-inch edging
Countess - 1½ yard train and 3-inch edging
Viscountess - ¼ yard train and 2-inch edging
Baroness - 1 yard train and 2-inch edging

Coronets

Peers' Coronation Dress

Peers' Coronation Robes

In the last 300 years Peers’ coronation robes have only been used twelve times.

Made of crimson silk velvet, the rows extend around the full width of the Cape, with half rows reaching from the right front edge to the centre back. These rows of spots reveal a Peer’s rank.

Duke - 4 rows
Marquess - 3½ rows
Earl - 3 rows
Viscount - 2½ rows
Baron - 2 rows

The Duchess of Buccleuch, Mistress of the Robes at the coronation of His Majesty King Edward VII, with her page

Coronets

The pivotal moment during a coronation is when the Archbishop of Canterbury places St. Edward’s Crown on the head of the new Sovereign. From this point, and for the rest of the service, peers wear their coronets. Every coronet has a crimson silk velvet lining with a gold tassel in its centre, trimmed with a band of ermine around the base.

Each coronet is styled according to the peer’s rank:
Duke - A gold circlet with 8 strawberry leaves
Marquess - A silver-gilt circlet with 4 strawberry leaves alternating with 4 silver balls slightly raised on points
Earl - A silver-gilt circlet with 8 strawberry leaves alternating with 8 silver balls raised on points
Viscount - A silver-gilt circlet with 16 silver balls set on the rim
Baron - A silver-gilt circlet with 6 silver balls set on the rim

Peeress’ coronets have identical designs but are smaller and rest on the top of the head.


Peers' Parliamentary Dress

Peers' Parliamentary Robes

Seated together in the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament, the robed peers form a sea of scarlet, gold and white. 

Meticulously maintained, refurbished and altered, ceremonial robes rarely need replacing. Made from scarlet superfine faced cloth, a durable tightly woven wool fabric, they were finely trimmed with three-inch wide bars, and two-inch wide gold oak leaf lace.

The number of bars and gold reveals the wearer’s rank:
Duke - 4 rows 
Marquess - 3½ rows
Earl - 3 rows
Viscount - 2½ rows
Baron - 2 rows

 

 

The peers assembled in the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament

The Ceremony of Introduction and Prorogation

When a peer takes his or her own seat in the House of Lords for the first time they are introduced to the House by sponsors – two peers of his or her own rank. In this, the ceremony of introduction, all three peers wear parliamentary robes and carry black cocked hats.

The Garter Kings of Arms and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod join them. The Reading Clerk reads the Letters Patent. Then the new peer swears the oath of allegiance or solemn affirmation and signs the Test Roll. 

The ceremony of prorogation brings the session of Parliament to a close.

It is extremely rare for parliamentary robes to be worn outside the Palace of Westminster. It only occurred twice during the 20th century. Both occasions were the investiture of a new Prince of Wales, in 1911 and 1969.

Peers' Parliamentary Robes

Once a year all the key elements of the British constitution are gathered under one roof. Present in the chamber of the House of Lords are the Sovereign, the executive, both houses of the legislature and members of the judiciary. The Lord’s Bishops represent the established church.

Ede & Ravenscroft crafted the Sovereign's present robe in 1952 in preparation for the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

His Royal Highness Prince Andrew with the Duke of Kent