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In this photograph:

enter image description here

from the recent funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II in London, England, in the row of attendees nearest to the queen's coffin, three attendees are wearing blue sashes. According to BBC News the three people wearing blue sashes are the King, the Princess Royal, and the Earl of Wessex. I notice that these people with blue sashes, including the Princess Royal, also have swords as part of their ceremonial dress.

Is the blue sash related to the bearing of a sword, or an unrelated insignia? And, for how long has it been customary (or at least accepted) for women members of the British royal family to wear swords to solemn ceremonies such as state funerals?

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    I'm confused; the Admiral wore a sword as required by the uniform code, not to mention respect. Why is this controversial?
    – MCW
    Sep 20 at 17:10
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    This needs serious copy-edits? I strongly suspect, you want to know: 'Anne is seen wearing sash & sword' so 1. What does that mean/symbolise? 2. On which occasions did/does she display this gear? 3. Are there prior examples of female members of the royal family wearing a sword as part of dress? (-> Drop "solemn", shortened your own research/reasonig and seperate this inference making more clearly from the question asked?) Sep 20 at 21:22
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    @ user90413 One of the men in the photo is wearing a sword on his left side, as is normal, and wears a blue shash from his left shoulder to his right waist. The other two persons with blue shashes wear them in the some positions. Thus the blue shashes are nort used to support the swords being worn. So I don't understand why you mentioned the blue shashes since they have no relationship with the wearing of swords in that photo.
    – MAGolding
    Sep 21 at 4:16
  • @MAGolding - what is a 'shash'? Sep 22 at 6:00
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    @user90413 I have done my best to edit this question, to concentrate on the two main points - the significance of the blue sashes, and the wearing of a sword by female members of the Royal Family. Please feel free to revert/change if it no longer reflects your queries.
    – TheHonRose
    Sep 22 at 10:56

3 Answers 3

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What appears to be missing from both question and answers is the fact that the Princess Royal is breaking ground for (royal) women.

If anyone has seen older videos of the Remembrance Day services at the Cenotaph, only male members of the Royal Family laid wreaths, in dress uniform, complete with sword, with the sole exception of Queen Elizabeth II, who laid the first wreath on behalf of the nation — but always in civilian dress. The other Royal ladies watched from the windows of the Foreign Office. (AFAIK, the only times the late Queen wore uniform was when she took the salute at the Trooping of the Colour, on horseback. When she took to using a carriage, she wore civilian dress.)

During her life Princess Anne has held various honorary military ranks, and the integration of women into the military, including the bearing of arms, presumably aided the Princess's challenging of gender stereotypes. (If you watch recent Cenotaph ceremonies, Her Royal Highness (HRH) is always handed her wreath by a female aide-de-camp (ADC), which would scarcely have been possible at one time.)

Princess Anne has broken gender barriers in other ways: when Queen Elizabeth made her a Companion of the Order of the Garter, Anne said she would not be a Lady Companion, but a Knight Companion — KG instead of LG.

In some ways the Princess Royal's more visible presence in traditionally male military roles reflects the changes in society. Female soldiers, sailors etc on parade carry the same arms as the men: the Princess is simply a high profile example of this.

The blue sash is an insignia of The Most Noble Order of the Garter, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Garter) the premier British chivalric order. It has no bearing on formal dress uniform or the wearing of a sword

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    Similar as I commented below Pieter's-A: wasn't Lizzy already breaking ground for time as well? First female full active service member, then in uniform on horse (albeit: side-saddle, always in those uniform ceremonies at least?) That'll leave not much other options for what QOP observed possible? (Uniform), sash, and sword worn. But then I guess posting that recent picture here would have helped more in understanding the question than all the deliberations… Sep 22 at 6:39
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    @MoziburUllah I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you, but not sure it is relevant to the topic under discussion.
    – TheHonRose
    Sep 22 at 8:52
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    @LаngLаngС apparently George VI insisted the then Princess Elizabeth learnt to ride side-saddle, which she hated. Whether this was specifically for ceremonies such as the Trooping of the Colour, idk, but seems possible. And, AFAIK, the Princess Royal is the first and only Royal woman to actively participate in ceremonial events wearing the same uniform as her male counterparts - i.e trousers and sword.
    – TheHonRose
    Sep 22 at 9:24
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    Since neither QOP nor one of us seems willing or able to straighten up the question text, I think yours and Pieter's A —with additions & clarifications from comments integrated and thus perhaps better in providing a frame— are what makes the Q understandable and comprehensible. Please update, I'm sure this makes or will make at least this entire thread easier to follow. Sep 22 at 9:30
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    @LаngLаngС I've attempted a major edit. If anyone is able to improve it, please feel free.
    – TheHonRose
    Sep 22 at 10:58
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Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, wore a Royal Navy uniform to the funeral in virtue of being an Admiral of the Royal Navy (since 2012, having previously been Rear Admiral since 1993 and Vice Admiral since 2009). As expected of any officer of that rank in dress uniform, she wore an appropriate sword. As a commenter below notes: without it she would have been "improperly dressed".

Note that Her Royal Highness holds a few dozen other honourary military appointments in both United Kingdom and Commonwealth armed forces; and at functions involving those units she holds military appointments in, will don the uniform appropriate to those appointments, units, and functions.

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    Peter - You are correct. For full dress admiral's uniform as worn by the Princess Royal her sword is a required article of uniform. Without it she would have been, as they say, "out of uniform" or "improperly dressed." The blue sash is the Order of the Garter worn with a military or naval uniform vice the blue cloak. Up vote!
    – R Leonard
    Sep 20 at 12:23
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    Ah, thx! If you'd add the explanation from that comment that you answred that part spevifically, it makes quite a bit more sense to read. Thx again. Sep 20 at 15:39
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    @PieterGeerkens: The semse is confusing. Sep 20 at 15:45
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    @PieterGeerkens: English is my first language too. The sentence I altered doesn't run smoothly, so I inserted a comma. Well, it was a "weak question", as you admitted. Is this what history has descended to - arguimg over commas amd what kind of ceremonial dress is appropriate when - thats for protocol ofgicers - not historians. Toynbee wpuld turn over in his grave. Sep 20 at 15:49
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    @LаngLаngС: Yes, my explanatory comment mysteriously disappeared. That's why I made no attempt to add it to the answer, despite your pleas to do so. Sep 22 at 10:05
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Well one solemn occasion is the knighting of knights. This requires a sword. The sword used by the late Queen Eizabeth II is the sword she inherited from her father, George VI, when he was Duke of York.

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    Can the downvoters say why a knighting ceremony is not an occasion for solemn ceremonial dress. Sep 20 at 15:37
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    In Great Britain they very very rarely nowadays whack someone on the shoulder with a sword to symbolize being knighted; one is presented with an appropriate decoration as defined by the order of knighthood to which one is honored. What one might wear to such an occasion is decided by tradition or on the advice of the palace staff. The wearing of a sword by someone other than one attired in one's service full dress uniform is not acceptable. see royal.uk/queen-and-honours and also thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists
    – R Leonard
    Sep 20 at 16:05
  • @R Leonard: see picture in this article. Sep 20 at 16:09
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    Well good, you go find them or, perhaps, you could better spend your time crafting some well thought out search enquiries that might better show you how the process works and how awards and decorations are made rather than searching for the exceptions.
    – R Leonard
    Sep 20 at 23:18
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    @RLeonard: While no accolade - dubbing on the shoulders with a sword - is normally performed for the Order of the Garter, it absolutely is performed for Knights of the Order of the British Empire. "The Order of the British Empire has two senior ranks: Knight or Dame Grand Cross, and Knight or Dame Commander. ... These are traditionally presented with a touch of the sword by the monarch." Link Sep 20 at 23:58

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