Dressed To Rule

Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II
Mansel, Philip
Date published: 
April 2005

Throughout history rulers have used clothes as a form of legitimisation and propaganda. While palaces, pictures and jewels might reflect the choice of a monarch’s predecessors or advisers, clothes reflected the preferences of the monarch himself. Being both personal and visible, the right costume at the right time could transform and define a monarch’s reputation. Many royal leaders have known this, from Louis XIV to Catherine the Great, and Napoleon I to Princess Diana.

This intriguing book explores how rulers have sought to control their image through their appearance. Mansel shows how individual styles of dress throw light on the personalities of particular monarchs, on their court system, and on their ambitions. It looks also at the economics of the costume industry, at patronage, at the etiquette involved in mourning dress, and at the act of dressing itself. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of European monarchs and contemporary potentates reveal the intimate connection between power and the way it is packaged.

Philip Mansel was educated at Oxford and is the author several highly praised works of history including Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924 (1995). He is a frequent reviewer and writer for newspapers and magazines, and is editor of the journal The Court Historian.