When the royals head overseas for official visits, they often pay tribute to their host nations through their dress, something Queen Elizabeth II was famously adept at doing.
Britain and France have held regular state visits for one another’s heads of state over the past century, with the attire of both the royals and the French delegation being closely examined by the fashion press.
In September 2023, three of the royal family’s most senior members will make the journey across the English Channel to undertake engagements in France.
On Saturday, September 9, the Princess of Wales will attend the Rugby World Cup in Marseille to watch the England team (of which she is patron) play Argentina in the group stages.
On Sunday, September 10, the Prince of Wales will attend a Rugby World Cup game between the Welsh national team (of which he is patron) and Fiji in Bordeaux.
This will be closely followed by an official state visit to France being hosted by President Emmanuel Macron for King Charles III and Queen Camilla in Paris and Bordeaux from September 20 to 22.
Here, as the royals prepare to make their style mark in the world’s fashion epicenter, Newsweek looks at their top French fashion moments so far, from Queen Elizabeth II to Kate and Camilla.
Queen Elizabeth II, Palais Garnier, 1957
For Queen Elizabeth II’s first state visit to France in 1957 she paid tribute to her host nation by wearing one of the most ornate dresses she ever commissioned, second only to her coronation gown.
For the state banquet at the Élysée Palace hosted by President René Coty, followed by a visit to the ballet at the Palais Garnier in Paris, the queen wore a gown of white satin, heavily embroidered with floral emblems associated with France.
The dress was designed by Norman Hartnell, the creator of her wedding and coronation gowns, and the finished look was nicknamed the “Flowers of the Fields of France.”
The gown featured grasses, wheat and wild flowers as well as Napoleonic bees. Queen Elizabeth later donated the design to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where it has been displayed in various exhibitions.
Princess Diana, Élysée Palace, 1988
Princess Diana visited Paris numerous times during her married life and the city would be the setting for her tragic death at the age of just 36 in 1997.
For an official visit with Prince Charles (now King Charles III) the princess commissioned a special gown that held such personal meaning to her that she considered removing it from the famous auction of her dresses just months before her death.
The oyster satin pilar cut gown with gold embroidered bodice and matching bolero jacket was widely praised by the fashion press when worn for a banquet at the Élysée Palace.
In his 2003 memoir A Royal Duty, Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, remembered how the princess told him when selecting dresses for her 1997 auction: “Not sure I can part with this. When I wore it I actually felt like a princess.”
It was listed as the last lot in the sale and eventually sold for $90,500.
Princess Diana, Élysée Palace, 1995
Diana’s final official visit to France before her divorce in 1996 was made in September 1995, when she attended the opening of an exhibition of works by Paul Cezanne at the Grand Palais.
During her daytrip, the princess met with the wife of President Jacques Chirac and was photographed at the Élysée Palace wearing a chic black suit from the Fall/Winter 1995 collection of Italian fashion design house, Valentino.
During the visit, Bernadette Chirac presented Diana with a new handbag designed by the team at French fashion house Christian Dior. Diana liked the bag so much she commissioned a custom order made in the color blue to match her eyes.
Following her death, Dior renamed the bag in her honor as the “Lady Dior,” a tribute to her maiden name of Lady Diana Spencer. It has become one of the house’s best-selling accessories.
Princess of Wales, British Embassy in Paris, 2017
Kate, the Princess of Wales, has undertaken only one official visit to Paris since her marriage to Prince William in 2011.
In March 2017, the couple undertook a series of engagements in the city, with Kate beginning the visit wearing a chic all black dress designed by Alexander McQueen for a reception hosted at the British Embassy.
The princess accessorized her look with faux pearl jewelry, her sapphire and diamond engagement ring which had formerly belonged to Princess Diana, and a watch from French fine jewelry house, Cartier.
Princess of Wales, Eiffel Tower, 2017
For the second day of her visits to Paris with Prince William in 2017, Kate pulled out the fashion stops to pay a patriotic tribute to her host nation, wearing a statement look by famed French fashion house, Chanel.
The princess wore a wrap style coat dress with pleated skirt and sleeve details, with a matching belt and purse designed by Chanel’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld.
The design was a couture adaptation from Lagerfeld’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection and she paired it with her Cartier watch and a jewelry suite also from the house in its “trinity” design.
Queen Camilla, Normandy, 2019
Another royal to have paid a fashion tribute to the French people while visiting the country is Queen Camilla, who during a 2019 visit to Normandy with King Charles to mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings on D-Day, wore an elegant coat dress designed by Christian Dior.
The queen has an affinity with Dior, having visited the couture workrooms at the house on a trip to Paris in 2013.
For Royal Ascot in 2023, the new queen wore another white coat dress designed by Dior.