Members of the royal family are often seen wearing tartan when they are in Scotland. It is a tradition that dates back more than a century – notably at The Gillies Ball, as depicted in Crown Season 5. However, they don’t always wear the same plaid pattern. Which tartan does the royal family wear? It’s kind of complicated…
The most famous royal family tartan is the Royal Stewart
The most recognizable royal family tartan is the red Royal Stewart tartan, which dates back to at least the 1800s. Its origins are unknown, but the pattern certainly has a royal lineage. King George IV wore tartan during his tour of Scotland in 1822 – the first monarch to visit in two centuries. His niece, Queen Victoria, later officially adopted it as the royal family tartan.
According to City Country, King George V – Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather – attempted to make it illegal to wear tartan without the monarch’s permission. However, plaid was so popular and there were so many variations that it was impossible to enforce a rule. It was still the official tartan of the royal family during Elizabeth’s reign, but with no restrictions on who wore it.
“Just as clansmen wear their chief’s tartan, it is fitting for all the Queen’s subjects to wear the Royal Stewart tartan,” explains Scottish Register of Tartans,
The origin of the Balmoral tartan is unknown
However, King George V did manage to set aside the Balmoral tartan for the royal family. As a result, it is one of the most restricted tartans, and anyone who wears that pattern must first have the sovereign’s permission.
Legend has it that the Balmoral tartan pattern was created in 1853 by Prince Albert after purchasing the Balmoral estate in Scotland. However, the exact origin of tartan is unknown. Scottish Register of Tartans claims that there is evidence of tartan as early as 1850, so the story of Albert’s origin is likely to be a myth.
Despite its unknown origins, the granite-coloured Balmoral tartan was a favorite of Queen Victoria and she wore the pattern whenever she was in Scotland. It has been worn by every emperor since then. And today, it’s a favorite of King Charles. She has been spotted several times wearing the pattern during family holidays to the Balmoral estate.
Another plaid favorite of the royal family is from the Stewart clan
In addition to the Stewart Royal, the Stewart Hunting tartan is also a favorite of the royal family. This variation does not have much history behind it, but was designed with a camouflage color pattern featuring a strong base of green. Queen Elizabeth reportedly called it “off duty” tartan.
In 1977, Alistair Buchan designed the Holyrood plaid to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee – an adaptation of the Royal Stewart tartan with a navy blue base. It was commemorated for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee, and currently has a purple base with white stripes of gold, silver and diamonds.
Black Watch plaid is known as universal or government tartan, and it’s been a part of Kate Middleton’s wardrobe since 2012 via her Alexander McQueen coat. As Countess of Strathearn – the Scottish title Kate received when she married Prince William – she wore the Strathearn Modern tartan during her first public appearance in Scotland.
To celebrate Kate and William’s engagement, the Royal Pride plaid was designed with a prominent blue stripe, which Kate wore during the announcement.
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