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Dress like a queen (Victoria) at Brunel's ss Great Britain

Family dressing up

Every day from 10am to 5.30pm, free with admission

When Queen Victoria visited Brunel’s ss Great Britain in 1845 she called the ship ‘magnificent’. Now visitors can become Queen for part of a day as they pose for a photo wearing a costume based on one of Victoria’s lavish gowns.

It is part of the multi award-winning attraction’s celebrations for Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee. There will also be storytelling, inspired by Queen Victoria, on Tuesday June 5 and Wednesday June 6.

Created in rich gold and white fabric, and topped with a faux fur-trimmed red robe the costume instantly makes its wearer feel like royalty. And then it’s cameras focussed to capture the experience for a holiday snap – or Facebook image – with a difference. 

The dress and robe have been created by Bristol-based costume maker Amanda Hambleton and her team. Amanda’s recent TV work includes “Downton Abbey”, “Lark Rise to Candleford” and “Merlin”. The costume is based on a famous portrait by Franz Xavier Winterhalter and shows Queen Victoria at her most majestic. 

The ss Great Britain Trust’s Director of Conservation and Education, Rhian Tritton, herself a keen fashionista, commented: “The portrait of Queen Victoria shows us a costume that sums up everything that the era represented. It is impressive, imposing and makes a powerful statement. It is ‘magnificent’, the very same words Victoria used to describe the ss Great Britain. We are delighted to have a replica costume that is true to the original, with the exception of faux instead of real fur, and we look forward to seeing how our visitors look, and feel, in Amanda’s stunning creation.”    

Like today’s royal family the young Queen Victoria was a fashion leader:

  • Prince Albert presented her with an engagement ring in the shape of a snake, instantly making snake and serpent jewellery fashion must-haves
  • Her white wedding dress, a symbol of youth and purity, started a trend that continues today. And the orange blossom used in her wedding bouquet sparked a fashion which continued well into the 20th century
  • She popularised the wearing of tartan-patterned fabric, as a result of her enthusiasm for Scottish national dress, and the regularity with which she was pictured and photographed wearing it at Balmoral
  • She dressed her sons and daughters in sailor suits, popularising the children’s fashion for many years to come

Victoria was the longest reigning monarch, clocking up a grand total of 63 years and seven months – just over three and a half years longer than our current monarch.

The ss Great Britain, in Bristol, has strong links to the royal family:

  • Prince Albert attended the ship’s launch in 1843
  • Queen Victoria made an official visit to the ship in 1845, writing about it in her personal diary
  • Prince Philip was on board ship when she returned to her dry dock in 1970
  • The Duke of York is the ss Great Britain Trust’s current Patron

The man behind the ss Great Britain will also be returning to his ship over the holiday. Mr Brunel visits to mingle with visitors from Saturday (June 2) to Sunday June 10 inclusive (except June 6 and 7).

‘Flash, Bang, Wallop!’ and ‘We are amused: Riotous Royal Tales’ storytelling are included in admission, which allows for free unlimited return visits for a year. Riotous Royal Tales will take place on Wednesday 6 June at 12pm and 2pm on board the ship.  ‘Sea Hear’, free storytelling for the under fives, takes place on the first Tuesday of every month at 11am. This month’s story will have a royal theme.