Royal christening gown holds threads of Bay family history

By Roger Moroney

For 81-year-old Tom Boyens of Greenmeadows, the imminent christening of the latest royal arrival, Prince George of Cambridge, will have more than just a passing interest.

The grand event will feature a link between his family and the royals which stretches back 172 years.

''I suppose you could say I have a link to royalty but it doesn't pay me anything,'' he said with a laugh.

It goes back to Mr Boyens' great grandmother, Anne Lucy Bullock.

She was a young English women about 20 years old and a braider - a creator of intricate and ornamental trims and borders on gowns.



''By all accounts, she was brilliant at it,'' Mr Boyens said.

And so it came to pass that her unique craftswomanship was noticed by those who were taken on to provide very special royal garments for very special royal occasions.

It was in 1841 that Queen Victoria commissioned the creation of a Honiton white satin and lace gown to be used for her eldest daughter's christening.

Anne Lucy Bullock's skills were put to use to create the braiding.

The gown's appearance was far from a one-off, however, and it continued to be used for christenings down several generations. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William were all christened in the gown.

''I only found out about it a few years ago after my cousin, John, sent me a copy of the family tree and history- it was all in there.''

It transpired that the royal family tradition of using the gown commissioned by Queen Victoria and featuring his great grandmother's handiwork went as far as Prince Harry and Prince William, both wearing it on their christening days - the latter the father of newly arrived Prince George.

That may have been it though, as in 2004 it was reported as having become too fragile to continue to use, and after more than 30 blue-blood occasions it is understood a faithful replica may be used for Prince George's christening.

''I don't know about that - I think it will be the original item because they wouldn't have to bring it out very often so it shouldn't be too worn,'' Mr Boyens said.

Whatever transpires, he is delighted his family is part of a colourful and historical story.

"Nice to have a link to the royals."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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