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Sir Norman Bishop Hartnell, KCVO (12 June 1901 – 8 June 1979) was a leading British fashion designer, best known for his work for the ladies of the Royal Family. Hartnell gained the Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1940; and Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.
Hartnell never married, but enjoyed a discreet and quiet life at a time when homosexual relations between men were illegal. In many ways, the consummate Edwardian in attitudes and life-style, he considered himself a confirmed bachelor, and his close friends were almost never in the public eye, nor did he ever do anything to compromise his position and business as a leading designer to both ladies of the British Royal Family and his aristocratic or 'society' clients upon whom his success was founded. He was on chilly terms with the self-publicising Cecil Beaton and others of the more flamboyant theatrical set. Hartnell was generally considered to be the leading British dress designer, even by most of his INCSOC colleagues. He rarely socialised with any of them. The younger Hardy Amies, fellow designer for Queen Elizabeth II, was surprised to discover how much he enjoyed his company in Paris in 1959. They were both there during the State Visit to France to view their creations being worn. Hartnell had been known to term Amies 'Hardly Amiable'. In late years, long after Hartnell's death and in a more liberal climate, Amies became known for some unfortunate ad lib remarks during interviews and in explaining his business success compared to Hartnell's near penury at the end, he more than once termed Hartnell a 'soppy' or 'silly old queen' whilst describing himself as a 'bitchy' or 'clever old queen.' Hartnell's elegant evening wear from this period can be seen in museum collections to this day.
Hartnell had many women friends, often drawn from the more talented actresses seen on the stage or on film or more private circles. Claire Huth Jackson, later Claire de Loriol, appointed the designer as guardian to her son, Peter-Gabriel. His dresses were also worn by another Streatham resident of the past, ex-Tiller Girl Renee Probert-Price. A Hartnell evening ensemble features in the collection of vintage dresses inherited by Probert-Price's great-niece following her death in 2013.
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