Windsor uniform

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Full-dress Windsor Uniform, as worn by King George III
Undress Windsor Uniform, as worn by the Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (a son of George III).
Ray Lawson, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1946 to 1952, wearing Court uniform (also known as Windsor uniform).

The term Windsor uniform is used in two distinct ways, to refer to two different forms of courtly dress. In the UK, it is the name of a type of dress worn by male members of the Royal Family (and very senior courtiers) at Windsor Castle. In other parts of the Commonwealth (especially Canada), it is the name given to the uniform previously (and to some extent currently) worn by viceregal and other State dignitaries (which in the UK is usually termed 'Court uniform').

Windsor Uniform (Royal Family)[edit]

The uniform was introduced by George III in 1779. The full dress, which had a good deal of gold braid about it, did not survive beyond 1936, but the undress form is still worn today: a dark blue jacket with red at the collar and cuffs. It is now worn only at Windsor Castle, and since the reign of King Edward VII has generally been worn only as evening dress (though the present Prince of Wales has worn a version of it as a riding coat).

The uniform takes the form of an evening tail coat of dark blue cloth, lapelled, with scarlet collar and cuffs. There are three buttons on each front two at the back of the waist, and two at the end of each tail, and also two on each cuff and one above. The gilt buttons bear a design of a Garter star within a garter, surmounted by the imperial crown. It is worn with a white single-breasted waistcoat with three small gilt buttons of the same pattern, and with plain black evening-dress trousers. When the court is in mourning a black waistcoat and black armband are worn. As well as the tail coat version, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales also wear a dinner jacket version of the coat.

Windsor Uniform (Canada and elsewhere)[edit]

See also Court uniform and dress in the United Kingdom

In 1820 King George IV introduced a court uniform based on the Windsor uniform, modified by the dress of the French marshals. It had a blue tail coat (or "coatee"), lined with black silk, faced and laced scarlet, gilt buttons, waistcoat, breeches or trousers. Soon only the Royal Household wore scarlet cloth facings, and all others had black velvet facings, collar and cuffs. Later the facings, collar and cuffs became blue velvet.

Full dress was worn at courts, evening state parties, drawing rooms, state balls, state concerts, etc. Full dress coat was worn with trousers at special occasions. Levée dress was worn at levées, and other ceremonies where full dress was not worn. Neither were worn after retirement, without special permission. Officers in possession of superior military, naval or air force uniform may wear this as an alternative.

Full dress[edit]

  • Coatee: (Privy counsellor, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd classes) dark blue cloth, single-breasted, stand collar. The collar and gauntlet are of scarlet cloth for members of the Royal Household, blue for others. Nine buttons up the front, showing between the two embroidered edges (which are made to hook), two at the waist behind, and two at the bottom of the back skirts. White silk linings. A white stiff starched detachable 'patrol' collar may be worn inside the collar of the coat, affixed using the five studs installed inside the coat's collar.
    • Gold oakleaf embroidery on the fronts as follows: privy counsellors not more than 5 inches (13 cm) wide at the base of each front; 1st class, not more than 4 12 inches (11 cm); 2nd class, not more than 4 inches (10 cm); and 3rd class, not more than 3 inches (7.6 cm), but to spread across the chest according to figure.
    • The collar, pocket flaps, back, skirts, back skirts, and side edges are also embroidered.
    • The embroidery on the cuffs should not exceed the following widths: privy counsellors 5 inches (13 cm); 1st class, 4 12 inches (11 cm); 2nd class, 4 inches (10 cm); 3rd class, 3 inches (7.6 cm). Privy counsellors have purl edging, 1st class wavy edging worked with rough purls, 2nd and 3rd class saw edging.

Full dress coatee is optional. Levée coat may be substituted for it, at the choice of the wearer.

  • Buttons: gilt, mounted, the Royal Arms with supporters.
  • Coatee for 4th, 5th classes as levée.
  • Breeches: white kerseymere, with three covered buttons at the knee.
  • Hose: white silk.
  • Shoes: black patent leather.
  • Hat: privy counsellors – black beaver cocked hat, black silk cockade, treble gold bullion loop and tassels, with hangers (these by 1912 no longer hang, and now take the form of ornaments fixed on the top of the tassels, which do not hang). White ostrich feather border. 1st class: as above, but without hangers to the tassels. 2nd class: as above, with double gold bullion loop, gold tassels without hangers. 3rd, 4th and 5th classes: as above, with plaited gold bullion loop, and black ostrich feather border. No tassels.
  • Sword: of regulation pattern with black scabbard and gilt mountings.
  • Sword knot: gold lace strap with bullion tassel.
  • Sword belt: white web, with white cloth frog. Blue cloth frog in levée dress.
  • Buckles (knee and shoe): gilt, rose, shamrock, thistle pattern (by 1912).
  • Gloves are not worn.

Levée dress[edit]

  • Coatee: dark blue cloth, single-breasted, stand collar. The collar and gauntlet are of scarlet cloth for members of the Royal Household, blue for others. Nine buttons up the front (which button), two at the waist behind, and two at the bottom of the back skirts. Black silk linings. A white collar may be worn inside the collar of the coat.
    • Privy counsellors, 1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class, gold oakleaf embroidery on the collar, cuffs, pocket flaps, and between the buttons at the waist behind, the same as the full dress coat.
    • The 4th and 5th classes have embroidery on the collar, cuffs, back and pocket flaps. The embroidery for both classes is the same on cuffs and pocket flaps, 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide, within a saw edge. The back embroidery is also identical in both classes. The collar of the 4th class have saw edge and front embroidery 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, and that of the 5th class a saw edge only.
  • Buttons: gilt, mounted, the Royal Arms (without supporters) surmounted by the imperial crown.
  • Trousers: dark blue cloth, with stripes of gold oakleaf lace on the side seams. The width of lace as follows: privy counsellor, 1st class, 2nd class 2 12 inches (6.4 cm) wide. The 3rd class 2 inches (5.1 cm) wide. The 4th and 5th classes 1 34 inches (4.4 cm) wide.
  • Boots: plain military, patent leather.
  • Hat, sword, sword knot as full dress.
  • Sword belt: white web, with blue cloth frog.
  • Gloves are not worn.
  • Great coat or cloak: dark blue cloth of any substance.

Evening dress[edit]

From 1898 a Household evening dress coat was described. This comprised dark blue cloth evening dress coat (tails), black velvet collar and lapels, three flat gilt buttons engraved with the royal cypher and crown, on each side, two at back, two at bottom of tails, three on cuffs. In 1908 this was worn with a double-breasted white marcella waistcoat (changed to single-breasted 1912), with same buttons but smaller in size, without long pointed fronts, plain black evening dress trousers or black evening dress or stockinet breeches. With breeches court shoes with bows and black silk stockings, and with trousers boots or plain court shoes with bows. White necktie, winged collar, gloves 1908 only, completed the suit. No crepe band when in mourning. Members of the Households of the Queen and the royal dukes have special buttons. Gentlemen of the Lord Chamberlain's Office and the Master of the Household's Department wear similar suits.

Past and present use in Canada[edit]


Roland Michener wearing his Governor General's uniform
Steven Point, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, in 2007.

Viceroys and some colonial postings continued to use the uniform into the 20th century. The practice has gradually phased out and most office holders have opted to wear business suits instead. However, this uniform is still used by some Canadian viceroys and others could choose to wear it again at any point.

Prime ministers[edit]

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada

A few Canadian prime ministers have worn the Windsor uniform for portraits or attending a function at Buckingham Palace:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Civil Uniform", (the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Province of Alberta) 

External links[edit]