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August 19, 2023

Queen Maud the Sportswoman

Many people probably associate Queen Maud with elegant evening gowns, made by the most extravagant materials. But the iconic queen also had a sporty side and, not least, stylish clothes for every sport occasion.

On October 28, 1895, a royal engagement was announced in London: that of Princess Maud of Wales and Prince Carl of Denmark (later King Haakon VII of Norway). The bride’s new wardrobe was finished during the spring and summer of 1896, and was extensively discussed in the British press. The Queen magazine commented that it was a stylish wardrobe that included more casual wear than party dresses, which perhaps was unexpected for a British princess. The wardrobe included several walking suits for daily use, travels and sports.

Maybe you still associate Queen Maud with glamorous evening gowns with beading and lace, complemented by glittering tiaras, jewelry and court trains? This is how she often appears in official photographs and paintings. Her more athletic side, with a love for cycling, skiing, skating and horseback riding, is thus an interesting contrast. When you look at the Queen’s preserved wardrobe as a whole, it reflects what The Queen magazine reported in 1896: casual wear is well represented.

At Appleton and the neighboring estate Sandringham, which belonged to Queen Maud’s parents, it was possible to skate on the local pond when weather allowed it. In the 1890s, a series of skating photos were shot, photos that today are a part of Queen Maud’s private albums in the Royal Collections:

Queen Maud was also a well versed equestrian from early youth. Like the other women of the family, she rode a side saddle. This meant that both knees were on one side of the saddle, placed around two pommels. The skirt was usually constructed accordingly, tailored around the knees, longer in the front than the back, and draped into place. Especially designed trousers was sometimes worn underneath in case the skirt shifted. Several of Queen Maud’s riding outfits have been preserved. A brown suit made by John Busvine & Co around 1920 shows signs of wear and tear, as well as alternations.

After some time in England, the newlyweds moved to Denmark. They were installed in an apartment in Bredgade, in the city centre of Copenhagen. Her husband spent a lot of time in the Navy, and Princess Maud expressed a sense of unhappiness. She felt lonely, and the city’s narrow cobblestones streets didn’t quite allow the cycling, horseback riding, skating and general active life she was used to.

With this in mind, it is easier to understand why Queen Maud seemed ready to embrace Norway, as the couple accepted Norway’s throne in 1905. The new royal couple arrived in Oslo on November 25, 1905. The very next day, November 26, the Queen celebrated her 36th birthday in a dinner hosted by prime minister Christian Michelsen, in his home.

Shortly after it was time to start exploring everything Norwegian. The royal family was introduced to skiing by polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen and his wife Eva. Eva Nansen was herself a pioneer of women’s skiing, and in 1890 she had accompanied her husband across Norefjell, which was far from commonplace for any urban woman at that time. In 1905 and 1906, the royal couple and Nansen did several ski trips in Oslo and surrounding areas. Some of the trips were documented by photographer Anders Beer Wilse. They also tobogganed at the hills of Holmenkollen.

In 1910, the royal couple was gifted Kongsseteren, the Royal Lodge, from the Norwegian people, and from would spent much of the winters there in the years to come. According to Kjellberg, the queen skied once or even twice a day whenever the weather and schedule permitted.

The main look of Queen Maud’s ski outfit from this time followed the same tendencies as her general wardrobe. Between 1905 and 1915, she is photographed in long skirts and tight-fitting jackets or knitted sweaters. But these were often made of thicker, warmer materials than the general wardrobe, and she topped it all off with a sports cap, knitted gloves or mittens, and gaiters.


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