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Looks From ‘The Favourite’ Go on Display in Queen Anne’s Home

See the elaborate dresses and outfits inspired by the monarch’s 18th-century court at Kensington Palace

(Yorgos Lanthimos—Twentieth Century Fox)
smithsonian.com

Anne Stuart was never set up to rule. The last of the Stuart monarchs received a limited education and suffered from ill health throughout her life. That's why though Queen Anne’s dozen-year reign was chock full of action, notably seeing the formal union of England and Scotland in 1707, in concert with the War of Spanish Succession, her rule is perhaps best characterized by those who sought to manipulate her.

It's the interplay between Anne, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, whom Anne had known since childhood, and the duchess’ cousin Abigail Masham, a maid in the queen’s service, that is the centerpiece of Yorgos Lanthimos’ new period drama, The Favourite. In the film, the political powerplay between the women often took place in the bedroom. Though TIME’s Wilder Davies reports there’s no definitive proof that Anne and Sarah were sexually involved in real life, as depicted in the film, Julie Crawford, a professor at Columbia University, who studies the history of sexuality, tells The Cut that the same-sex erotic relationships featured in The Favourite used to curry Anne's political favor would have been considered “totally unremarkable” in the pre-modern period.

As Hannah Furness at The Telegraph reports, the film’s look into Anne’s intimate life offered the perfect excuse for Historic Royal Palaces, an independent organization that maintains several of the locations used in the film, to finally mount an exhibition on the real queen, whom a curator for the properties characterizes as a “slightly forgotten monarch.”

According to a press release, costumes from the film will be on view at Kensington Palace until February 8, 2019. Anne lived at the Palace during much of her reign and she died there in 1714. The outfits are on display in the Queen’s Gallery, where Anne and her husband, Prince George, exercised during bad weather.

Created by three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell, the sumptuous looks are similar to what Anne and her courtiers really wore, though Powell gave the costumes a modern edge. “I knew it was going to be period yet slightly off the wall and there was an element of stylization involved—all the things I love,” Powell says. They are on display with the memorable wigs by the film's hair and make-up designer Nadia Stacey.

In an interview with Jordan Crucchiola of Vulture, Powell explains that since Lanthimos wasn’t wedded to capturing the exact looks of the era, she was free to swap out the colorful textiles of elite courtiers of the period in favor of a more stylized black-and-white palette. For servants, she also excised the frilly lace and ornaments of the time for a look she characterizes as more "punk rock."

Powell's costumes (she created 150 in total for the film) were altered to accentuate the characters’ needs. For instance, Anne's robe—which is made from a chenille bedspread Powell found on eBay—is meant to give the socially awkward queen something comfortable to drape herself with, akin to a security blanket.

The exhibition at Kensington will include information about how the costumes were made, along with historic context on the queen and her courtiers.

“At Historic Royal Palaces, we’ve been wanting to tell Queen Anne's story for a while,” Matthew Storey, a curator for Historic Royal Palaces, tells Furness. “We’ve been doing a lot of research into how we can tell diverse stories, especially LGBT stories, and Queen Anne is a key person for that.”

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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