THE Queen's wedding dress is to go on public show for the first time in 30 years as a highlight of the golden jubilee celebrations.
Last shown in 1972, the pearl-encrusted dress, restored to its original state, will form the centrepiece of an exhibition of five royal wedding gowns at Kensington Palace.
It was designed by the late Norman Hartnell for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947, the first great state occasion after the second world war. It did much to lighten the atmosphere of post-war austerity.
Sir Hardy Amies, who is the Queen's dressmaker, said: "I remember the dress made a tremendous impact. It was perfect for the occasion. Hartnell was a wonderful designer and this was just superb."
The other wedding dresses at the exhibition will be those of the Queen Mother, Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra (Edward VII's wife) and Queen Mary, consort of George V.
The year-long exhibition will open a month before the main jubilee celebrations begin in June. It is being organised by Historic Royal Palaces, the charitable trust that manages some of the royal residences. All the dresses are being prepared by the textile conservation studios at Hampton Court Palace, which have established a worldwide reputation.
The Queen's dress, made of ivory duchess satin, appeared in a private charity exhibition in 1972 at Badminton House and later at Kensington Palace. It was taken on a tour of Britain after the wedding.
Hartnell, who was then the royal dress designer, was asked to submit designs soon after the engagement was announced and was given less than three months to make the gown and the train. He is thought to have been inspired by the trailing garlands of flowers that he saw in Botticelli's painting Primavera, based on Flora, goddess of flowers. Hartnell saw the painting as signifying new beginnings after the drabness of the post-war era and sent his manager to America to buy 10,000 pearls for the dress.
This weekend the Duchess of Grafton, the Queen's mistress of the robes and her most senior attendant, recalled the wedding at Westminster Abbey. "The dress made a fantastic impression on the congregation," she said. "As well as the impact of the dress, it was the first time for members of the congregation to appear at a big event in the new look."
The exhibition will be an illustrated history of how dress has become less formal. The grandeur of the dress worn by Victoria for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 contrasts with the stylish simplicity of the Queen Mother's outfit, which she wore for her wedding in Westminster Abbey in 1923.
That dress, also said to be in excellent condition, is made of ivory-coloured chiffon moire embroidered with silver thread and pearls with sleeves especially woven in Nottingham lace and a train lent by Queen Mary.
Visitors to the Kensington Palace exhibition may be disappointed to discover that neither the dress of the late Diana, Princess of Wales - who lived at the palace - nor that of the Duchess of York will be on show.
Diana's dress is housed at her childhood home of Althorp and is exhibited for two months every year, while that of the divorced duchess is believed to be kept in storage.
St Andrews on terror alert over William
Lucy Adams and Jenny Shields
PRINCE William's much anticipated arrival at St Andrews University is to be delayed because of safety fears following last week's terrorist attack on America. Sources at Buckingham Palace say the prince's plans are now uncertain.
He was due to arrive on Tuesday - the start of "freshers' week" for new students. But this plan has now been postponed and it is possible he may miss much of the event.
Palace officials held an emergency meeting with the university last Wednesday to discuss safety concerns following the outrages. They declined to reveal the prince's new itinerary. An exclusive palace-organised party for William and 30 of his old school friends from Eton has also been postponed. The lavish cocktail party will now be held in mid-October.
Every other educational milestone, including his first day at nursery school, has always been marked by the palace. But after the events of last week, royal officials fear that undue attention on the prince would be insensitive.
A palace insider said: "The events of last Tuesday mean we have to reconsider our plans. It is unlikely that he will take part in the full freshers' week. Because of the security implications we want to keep his arrival as low-key as possible. A planned photocall may be abandoned."
William will be accompanied by officers from the royal protection squad in an operation that will cost up to £1m a year. It is expected that he will be given a £2,276-a-year room in St Salvator's, a hall of residence nicknamed Sally's by the students. Two of his police bodyguards will occupy the rooms on either side.
Last week locks were being changed at the hall as MI5 prepared to vet the other students moving into Sally's.
When palace officials met next to St Salvator's two weeks ago, university staff spotted a policeman seated in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle with a sub-machinegun slung across his chest. "It was really quite alarming to see it poking out of his car window like that," said one academic.
Stephen Magee, the director of admissions at St Andrews, said safety was an increasing concern and that it would be upgraded.
It has also emerged that Fife police are investigating allegations that confidential student records had been given to a tabloid newspaper in breach of the Data Protection Act. A former mature student who studied art history has complained that details of her academic record were leaked by the university.
The police are considering whether to ask the procurator fiscal's office for a warrant to search the university's computer files. Any future breach of confidentiality involving student records would have severe consequences in the light of William's enrolment.
The police investigation has been triggered by Elaine McGonigle, 37, who used her own 2:1 degree in art history from St Andrews to obtain a job as the university's £20,000-a-year events and sponsorship officer.
The palace has tried to distance itself from the incident. "It is a matter for the police and the university," said a spokeswoman.
A spokesman for St Andrews said: "We will of course co-operate with any inquiry. We have nothing to hide."
The police inquiry - and a separate complaint to the Data Protection Commission - are an unwelcome irritation to the university and its principal, Dr Brian Lang, when they are about to welcome their most famous student.
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