Queen Victoria was 81 when she died–that was extremely old in 1901. At his christening only a few months before she died, Prince Philip’s “Uncle Dickie,” then Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg, knocked the spectacles off the great Queen–his great-grandmother. Self-propagated legend this may be, but it makes a good story.
If not for Victoria, looking back through old photos of the British Royal Family you would assume they were gifted with life-long perfect eyesight. Not true! But back in the day, wearing “spectacles” was seen as a weakness and unbecoming, so people, ladies especially, but gentlemen, too, often groped their way blindly around until the lights went down at the theatre or the cards were dealt at after-dinner bridge or similar times. Prince Philip’s father often sported a monocle!
It was even big news when Queen Elizabeth started wearing glasses and that was in the 1990s. Prince Philip adopted contact lenses as soon as they were available and I suspect a number of other royals may have as well. These days, no one cares if Prince William wears his specs instead of his contacts. Today, I’m looking at some of the glasses, aka “spectacles,” royals have sported over the years.
Wielding a classy lorgnette
The Queen’s Grandmother, Queen Mary, used a very grand dame’s lorgnette–glasses that look like a prop from one of today’s fun photo booths! These handheld specs were more acceptable socially for older ladies to drag out at the theatre or opera.
Pince-Nez, the gentleman’s lorgnette
Monocle–a once-fashionable gentleman’s accessory
Americans recognize pince-nez as those nose-hugging glasses word by President Theodore Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, and President Franklin Roosevelt, who wore them long after they’d fallen out of style. Prince Philip’s father, Prince Andrew (Andrea) of Greece wore pince-nez in his early adulthood. The monocle, beloved as the eyepiece of bad guys in cartoons and movies, was once the fashion. Andrew also wore a monocle.
If you look closely, you’ll spot Edwina’s specs in her hand
Prince Philip’s Aunt, [then] Lady Louis Mountbatten–later Edwina, Countess Mountbatten, hid her spectacles all the time. She also frequently carried a suspiciously glasses-shaped clutch.
Photo is mine taken of a page in India Remembered by Lady Pamela Mountbatten Hicks
The Mountbatten’s younger daughter, Pamela, shared the specs-vanity problem. Here is a rare photo of her wearing them in India when her father was the last Viceroy.
Photo source: Interior Archive
The Duke of Windsor used reading glasses, but being very vain, he left them on his desk.
The Prince Who Has Worn Glasses Since Boyhood
Prince Richard, his mother HRH the Duchess of Gloucester, and his elder brother, Prince William of Gloucester at Eton.
Even today’s Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s paternal first cousin, who has worn glasses since childhood, was occasionally made to take them off for photos. As Prince Richard of Gloucester, he is seen here with his parents and elder brother, Prince William (who died in 1972). Off to the side are his specs–caught for posterity by the photographer.
Photo Credit: Majesty Magazine
His Grandson, Xan, Baron Culloden, wears glasses as well. That’s him to the Queen’s right. He is a Paige of Honour–one of the boys who carry the Queen’s train on ceremonial occasions.
The 1960s and onward–times begin to change
Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, was one of the first royals to give in and wear her specs in public. Seen above at Epsom with her daughter, Princess Alexandra, and son-in-law Angus Ogilvy, and at Wimbledon with her son, Prince Michael, and Princess Anne, Marina was seen at Wimbledon in sunglasses regularly.
Marina’s son, the Duke of Kent
Photo sources: (left) Getty/Canada (right) Damien McFadden
Left photo: Lord Nicholas Windsor and elder brother George, Earl of St. Andrews. They are the sons of the Queen’s paternal first cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Right photo: George’s son, Edward, Baron Downpatrick and an unidentified friend.
Marina’s Grandsons George, Earl of St. Andrew’s and Lord Nicholas Windsor, have worn glasses for years. George’s son, Edward, Baron Downpatrick, has occassionally appeared in specs.
Marina’s grandaughter, Lady Helen Windsor’s husband, Tim Taylor, has long worn glasses as well.
Photo Credits: (Left) GETTY IMAGES / TIM GRAHAM via Town and Country
The Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret, wore very stylish glasses at the end of her life–I especially liked these round ones.
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother
Photo source: https://members2.boardhost.com
The Queen Mother looked very nice in her glasses, but she was of that very vain 1920s generation who didn’t like to be seen in them!
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh
Photo sources: (Left) NY Post (Right) womanandhome.com
The Queen first used glasses in public sometime around 1982. The Duke of Edinburgh has worn glasses most of his adult life. He just wears contacts most times. The Queen recently had cataracts surgery and appeared in public in sunglasses, just like her late Uncle, The Duke of Windsor did after his surgery in 1965.
Photo credit: Getty via Cosmo Magazine
Queen Elizabeth wore sunglasses to avoid canceling engagements after cataract surgery.
The Queen in hideous safety glasses, trailed by Prince Edward and Princess Margaret’s son the then Viscount Linley also wearing the glasses. The Queen has been seen in safety glasses many times.
Photo credit: unknown
I’m fairly sure these were safety glasses required for the visit she was making, but still worth including here.
Photo source: Daily Mail
Her daughter-in-law, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has worn safety glasses as well.
The Rest of the Family
Today all three of the Queen’s sons have been seen in glasses to read or drive. Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is frequently seen sporting her spectacles for reading. Prince William and his cousin, Peter Phillips, are not shy about wearing their glasses when they choose to.
Photo credits: (Right) Daily Mail and (Left) Daily Mail
Left photo: Prince William in his glasses. Right photo: Peter Phillips, the Queen’s eldest grandchild. wearing his glasses.
Prince William in regulation RAF glasses
The Prince of Wales and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall have both been seen wearing reading glasses.
Photo Credit (both photos) Daily Mail
Prince Edward, with son James, Viscount Severn and wife Sophie with their daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
At Wednesday’s (12/18/2019) Royal Family Christmas lunch, both Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, were seen driving to the palace wearing glasses.
The Happy Royal Groom
Photo credit: Daily Mail
Princess Eugenie’s husband made sure to bring his glasses to their wedding so he could put them on at just the right moment to clearly see her come down the aisle–a very sweet scene in that lovely royal wedding.
The Disgraced Royal
Photo credit: Princess Eugenie/Instagram via Hello Magazine
Jack Brooksbank’s disgraced father-in-law, Prince Andrew has given in to middle age as well and donned reading glasses.
Sunglasses are another story–everyone wears them!
Photo Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty via People Magazine
Prince Louis of Cambridge, aka “Boss Baby,” wearing Mum’s shades.
Leaving you with these two fashionable brothers–the future Edward VIII and the future George VI–in shades
And The Best Royal Meme Ever