The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

Author:Jennifer Robson
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction, Historical fiction
Publisher: Harpercollins
Published: 2018-10-30T00:00:00+00:00

Chapter Seventeen


September 15, 1947

No one at Hartnell would dare say so, but Miriam was beginning to worry they wouldn’t finish in time.

There. She’d admitted it.

Last week Miss Duley had announced that Princess Elizabeth would be in London for a few days at the very end of September. “Mr. Hartnell and Mam’selle are expecting to be summoned for a fitting of the wedding gown while the princess is in London. Working backward from Monday the twenty-ninth, when she returns from Balmoral, we shall need to have all the principal embroidery finished on the gown by Monday the twenty-second.”

That had left them with ten working days—and now, a week on, only five days remained, and the atmosphere in the workroom was one of grimly focused determination. They all knew there was no question of not finishing in time—but what if they didn’t? What would happen then? It wasn’t as if they could ring up Buckingham Palace and ask Princess Elizabeth to rearrange her calendar because the women in the embroidery workroom at Hartnell had been slow at their work.

She’d assumed, when they’d begun work on the gown, that nothing much would change. They made clothes for famous women all the time; had been making clothes for the queen for years and years. Monsieur Hartnell had been written about in magazines and newspapers, and clips of his fashion shows were often included in newsreels. But then Ruthie had come running into the cloakroom one morning, only days after they’d begun, and she’d been waving one of the morning newspapers.

“Look—just look at this. Someone’s added up the number of people who’ll be listening to the wedding on the wireless, plus everyone who’ll see the pictures in the papers and magazines, and it’s not just millions but hundreds of millions of people. Can you believe it?”

Miriam absolutely did.

For weeks now photographers had taken to lurking outside the rear doors on Bruton Place, and she and the other girls had grown accustomed to being followed as they came and went. Usually the men just shouted questions at them, but more than once—it was always when she was walking alone—she’d been offered a bribe in return for details of the gown.

“A fiver for a picture, a tenner for a look inside,” the man might say, or “Throw me a bone, luv, I’ll make it worth your while.” She never so much as glanced at them. The only journalist in the world to whom she’d willingly talk, now, was Walter Kaczmarek—and only because he had promised never to ask her about the gown or her work at Hartnell.

It wasn’t only the junior staff who were feeling the pressure, for Miss Duley was forever confiding in Ann and Miriam about one crisis or another brewing upstairs. First there was the issue of the pearls for the dress and the difficulties in fetching them from America, including their nearly being seized by customs officers when Captain Mitchison presented ten thousand pearls for inspection. “He told them they were for the princess, and those wretches still gave him a hard time,” Miss Duley had fumed.


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