Coronation maid of honour gown and pageboy outfit go on display in Co Fermanagh

The garments were rediscovered from careful storage by the families of Lady Moyra Campbell and Lord Erne in time for the Diamond Jubilee.

29 May 2022

Two original outfits worn at the Queen’s coronation by a maid of honour and a page have been rediscovered from storage.

A gown worn by Lady Moyra Campbell as well as an ensemble worn by Lord Erne at the ceremony in 1953 are set to go on display at Enniskillen Castle.

The Queen is also loaning a dress for the exhibition to mark her Platinum Jubilee.

Lady Moyra was one of six maids of honour at the coronation, while Lord Erne was the First Page of Honour.

Rory Campbell, at his home in Randalstown, Co Antrim, holding a photograph of his late mother Lady Moyra Campbell (left) with the Queen on her Coronation day (Brian Lawless/PA)

While both have since died, their families found their carefully preserved garments from the special day in time for the jubilee.

Lady Moyra’s son Rory Campbell described finding the dress at the family home close to Randalstown, Co Antrim. It had been stored under duvets to protect the delicate colours from sunlight.

The dress was designed by the renowned British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell, who also designed the Queen’s dress for the day.

Lady Moyra’s headdress and long white gloves she wore have also been preserved.

Mr Campbell said the event left an enormous impression on his mother.

She died in 2020 following an illness but shared many memories of that day with her close family.

Mr Campbell said his mother had known the Queen since they were children, and even attended Brownies together, but said he believes she was selected as the Palace wanted women from across the UK represented.

“She was woken up incredibly early on the day and taken into make-up, and then news came through that Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing had just reached the top of Mount Everest and they all burst into tears so the make up had to be done again,” he told the PA news agency.

“Then at some point – and this is hotly debated among the maids of honour – it looked like one of them was going to faint and the Queen noticed and she looked at mum and indicated, mum made her own assessment of the situation, and looked back at the Queen – and so she was thrilled she was the first person to disobey the Queen. That very much summed mum up, she was a rebel.”

After the service they went back to Buckingham Palace and appeared on the balcony behind the Queen.

“That was obviously a thrill, and then they all went their separate ways. Mum went home, put on a cardy and went out to join the crowds to feel part of the buzz.”

Mr Campbell said the experience inspired his mother to give back, and she did so, working with charities such as the NSPCC, NI Cancer Fund for Kids and Early Years.

“If you asked mum, ‘what’s the thing you most remember about the service’, yes all of the glamour, all of the people, but it was the moment the cameras were turned off, and she went through the ceremony of becoming Queen, and agreeing to say ‘I am your servant’ to her people, and mum was really struck by that,” he said.

“Here was a girl, the same age as her who she knew, and was suddenly almost giving up her individual life to step into a role. I think that really inspired in mum a massive and life-long feeling of loyalty to that particular woman. She said she would have jumped under a bus for her on that day.

“Mum wasn’t just a sort of lady who lunches, she went round and bullied people into setting up drop-in centres and into supporting – if you could have seen her on a typical day wearing a leather jacket which she’d nicked from me in the 1980s, getting into a rusty old car with her Irish language cassettes falling out heading off to the Sperrins for meetings.”

Across the region in Co Fermanagh, the current Lord Erne described finding the outfit his father wore as page in the attic of Crom Castle.

The outfit worn by Lord Erne at the Queen’s Coronation. (Selwyn Johnston/PA)

“We always knew they were in a very secure metal box in our attic but we hadn’t discovered them properly until very recently,” he said.

“We had no idea what kind of condition they would be in, so we were relieved when we opened the box they were below lots of tissue paper.”

Lord Erne said his father had been a page for a year in 1953.

“So there were other duties as well such as the state opening of Parliament, but obviously the coronation was the most notable of that year,” he said.

“He was at school at the time, at Eton College, so he would have come up, gone to the Palace to get changed, escorted Her Majesty to Westminster Abbey, then came back and had his appearance on the balcony before all those thronging crowds who had come to wish her well.

“That afternoon he had to go back to school. He changed back into his school uniform and left the Palace, but as he looked back he thought, ‘gosh, I was up there 20 minutes ago’.”

Royal visit to Northern Ireland – Day 1
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at St Macartin’s Cathedral in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh in 2012 (PA)

His father died in 2015, but two years earlier he welcomed the Queen to Crom Castle during her visit as part of her Diamond Jubilee.

“She came to Crom Castle for lunch. My father was retiring that year as Lord Lieutenant for Co Fermanagh, he was at the time the longest serving Lord Lieutenant in the UK, and so I think it was very fitting she wanted to come and say thank you for that, and also come and see her page of honour from the coronation,” he said.

“It was wonderful, a huge honour and privilege. A day I will never forget.

“She was thrilled to visit because we’re right on the border so she was very proud to point out that she had been to the most western point of the kingdom.”

The exhibition at Enniskillen Castle will open on Thursday June 2.

It is just one of a number of events taking place in Northern Ireland to mark the Platinum Jubilee.

Beacons will be lit and a service held at St Macartin’s Cathedral in Enniskillen on Thursday, as well as jubilee lunches taking place across the region.

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