In the past months, I have noticed the steady buzz of fanfare for Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. A year’s worth of royal parades, pageants, parties, and pomp celebrates the six decades Queen Elizabeth has served as monarch. The people of the British realm certainly adore her. And to be honest, many Americans also follow news of Britain’s royal family, finding the whole notion of queens, kings, princes, and princesses fascinating despite fighting a war to stop British royals from ruling our shores.
If you can’t participate in the Diamond Jubilee events going on in London, across Great Britain, or in the 16 countries that recognize Elizabeth as their sovereign, you can at least celebrate by purchasing commemorative teapots, magnets, medals, teddy bears, jigsaw puzzles, and playing cards. These souvenirs carry on a tradition of Elizabeth II–related toys and dolls that dates back to the 1930s.
Doll makers, especially, have reveled in the celebrations of Elizabeth II’s life, and the resulting dolls have found their way to American girls, collectors, and the National Museum of Play at The Strong. For example, in 1938 some companies offered dolls of Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, when the girls travelled to France on a good-will trip. The French firm Jumeau issued dolls representing the sisters, and Chad Valley, a British toy company, created charming depictions of the sisters made of felt. On this side of the pond, popular American doll manufacturer Madame Alexander created a sweet-faced Princess Elizabeth for little girls to cherish.
To commemorate Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding to Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, doll artist Dorothy Heizer fashioned an amazing 15-inch figure of Elizabeth in her wedding gown, decorated with 45,000 (yes, 45,000) hand-sewn pearls, rhinestones, and beads. Heizer painstakingly copied the design of the embroidered and beaded dress and train from photos of the original.
Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952 inspired a number of commemorative dolls. Two dolls created by artist Martha Thompson decked the queen in her coronation splendor and depicted her in street clothes with, of course, her ever-present stylish hat and matching purse. The Chelsea Art Doll Makers of London served up a lavish Coronation Elizabeth to the collector market. The Liberty company also tendered a doll of Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne. And The American Weekly provided its readers with a paper doll of Elizabeth and her coronation finery.
American doll manufacturers made coronation dolls too. One doll in the National Museum of Play’s collection represents the queen in the red velvet robes of her office. Another shelf doll for girls, by the Nancy Ann Storybook Doll Co., presents Her Royal Majesty the Queen without referring to Elizabeth herself at all.
This year’s Diamond Jubilee celebration has inspired a few new dolls made in the likeness of the queen. My favorite includes a little solar panel on the top of Elizabeth’s handbag that powers her raised hand in greeting. Long live the queen! And long may she wave!