Updated: Oct 13, 2022
What little girl doesn't someday wish that she could be a princess? Imagine twirling around in an ornate ball gown while descending from the velvet seats of a royal horse-drawn carriage! Certainly every girl dreams of wearing a bejeweled tiara resting carefully upon her head! Perhap it is for thi reason we are so taken with the lives of royalty. For doll collectors, it is our fascination with Great Britain' Queen Elizabeth II and the dolls that were made in Her Majesty's likeness.
From childhood to marriage and from motherhood to coronation, Queen Elizabeth Il has had the milestones of her life preserved in dolls. This year, Her Majesty proudly celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60th year of reign, the longest reign of a British monarch second to Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years. In celebration of this jubilee, let us examine the history of Her Majesty's life from Princess to Queen through her dolls.
BY ELIZABETH K. SCHMAHL
Source: Summer 2012 • Doll News, Pages 58-77
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born in 1926 in London. She was the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1936. (Queen Elizabeth wa later referred to as "Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother" to eliminate confusion with her daughter Prince Elizabeth who wa to become Queen Elizabeth II, tbe subject of thi article). A darling young child with a radiant smile, Princess Elizabeth quickly captivated people's hearts. The public began to yearn for news, pictures, and memorabilia and very soon, o did the doll market. One
of the first firms to create a doll in the likenes of Princes Elizabeth was the German firm, Schoenau and Hoffmeister in 1929. According to the Coleman's Collector s Encyclopedia of DolJs, this doll was con idered a portrait doll depicting Elizabeth as a three-year-old child. The dolls range from 14" to 24".
They have a charming character bisque head with sleep eye and an open mouth that is smiling. The head is marked, 'Porzellanfabrik Burggrub Princess Elizabeth Made in Germany D.R.G.M." They have a five-piece ball-jointed composition toddler body with chubby legs. Original dresses on these dolls are often made of organdy a thls example in her lovely original yellow organdy ruffled dress! The charming birthday postcard that accompanied this particular example also depicts the doll in her original organdy dress.
It wasn't long before British doll companies saw the effect of Prince Elizabeth's charm on the public and realized the demand for Elizabeth dolls. In 1930, Chad Valley introduced their 4-year-old version of Princess Elizabeth. According to the Colemans, by 1938, Chad Valley had obtained the "Royal Warrant of Appointment'' as "Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen," a phrase often found on Chad Valley tags. This very desirable 18" Chad Valley Princess Elizabeth has blue glass eyes, a pressed felt face with hand painted facial features, and a mohair wig. The neck, shoulders, and thigh are jointed. The body i made of velveteen. Princess Elizabeth wears a blue felt coat and bat, although there have been examples of Chad Valley Elizabeth dolls wearing other colors as well. These dolls were immen ely successful for Chad Valley and remain the most mass-produced
royalty doll by this company.
Another British company to create and market Princes Elizabeth dolls wa Dean's Rag Book Co. In 1935, they introduced a doll marketed as "Lilibet" (al o seen spelled "Lilibet"). In the Story of Princess Elizabeth (1930 John Murray Publishers, London, p. 53), one of the former household employees Anne Ring explain that as a young child, Elizabeth coined her own nickname when she called her mother, 'Mummy, Mummy, come to Lilliebeth!" The hard-to-find Dean's Rag Lilibet doll stands 15" tall. She is made of cloth with an oil-painted face and blue eyes. She has a green felt outfit that includes her matching hat, coat, and shoes. She has a bJonde mohair wig. Her cloth tag ewn on her foot says, "Made in England by Dean's Rag Book Co Ltd London."
It wasn't long before the deep affection for the beloved Princess Elizabeth was felt in the United State. One of the first American companies to sell "Princess Elizabeth" dolls was Madame Alexander. The first Elizabeth dolls marketed by Madame Alexander were in 1935. The early dolls were made of composition and most of them are found in 12- 13" size . They had the so-called "Betty" face. They bad human hair wig. and early ver ions had tin sleep eyes (later version had glassine eyes.)
Although most of the early dolls were of the 13" size, very rare examples exist of smaller Madame Alexander composition Princes Elizabeth dolls. This very elusive example of the smaller 8-inch compo itioo Princes Elizabeth doll is unusual in that Madame Alexander used a wigged version of the Dionne Quintuplet head for this doll. She ha painted eye rather than the usual glassine or tin. She is all original in her taffeta gown and silver shoes. She wear a lovely wreath of flowers around her head. It is also believed there may be a 7" Tiny Betty doll in existence as references to this doll have been found in the literature.
Coronation of King George VI, Elizabeth's Father
In 1936, the father of Prince e Elizabeth and her si ter Margaret, the Duke of York, became King George VI when Princess Elizabeth was 10 years old. Several months later in 1937, the Princes es celebrated one of the most significant event in their live - the coronation of their father as King.
British coronation doll began to be created, with both Pri.ncesses donned in lovely coronation gowns and robe . One of the leading companie to make these
dolls was Liberty of London, (originally a fine fabric and an oriental import firm) founded in 1875 by Arthur Lazenby Liberty. This 1941 Kimport Doll
advertisement depicts the series of 1937 Liberty of London coronation dolls. Th6
dolls were each handmade of beige linen cloth and typically 9" tall. The 10-year
old children Prince Elizabeth and Prince Margaret were depicted in a 6" tall version. The dolls had needle-sculpted faces with hand prunted facial features.
The hands were either made of stitched cloth, felt, or leather. They had a wire armature o that the doll could be posed. Because Lazenby Liberty was known for his fine fabrics, the clothing on the dolls was of high quality, including fine silk , velvet trains, pearl and embroidery accent , and even ermine trims! Finding these complete sets in good condition is very rare. The
sets generally include the children Princess Elizabeth and Margaret, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth , Queen Mary (the grandmother of Princess Elizabeth), and other ceremonial figure such as Lord Chancellor, Chief Justice, Lord John and Lady Alice, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Speaker of the House.
Princes dolls made for King George VI' coronation were a sensation for doll companies, they were even found in the form of paper doll ! In 1939 Saal field Publishing Co produced a paper doll set called, "The Princess Paper Doll Book" in commemoration of their father's coronation. The paper dolls were made with vibrant colors and exquisite detail! Just as the Liberty of London doll bad captured the regality of princesses perfectly in their coronation gown , so did the Saalfield paper dolls. Among the darling clothe that can,e with the paper doll set included play dresses, dress coat, and riding habits. Also included in the paper doll set was a darling party dress with floral headband, flowers at the waistline, and white gloves. The 1937 postcard shows Princess Elizabeth dressed in the same dress for her father's coronation party. This dress wa also used on many different Prince s Elizabeth dolls of this era.
As children begged their mommies and daddies for coronation dolls, other plaything emerged such as this toddler coronation costume. It has lovely detail with pearl decoration down the sides and gold tassels at the shoulder. The dress has a purple felt robe with faux trim. Oh, how very regal to be a child and dre up like Princess Elizabeth!
Soon after Germany and England created their version of Princess Elizabeth dolls, France followed suit. In 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were to visit Paris, but it was deemed that Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were too young to travel. A a gift from the "children of France", the French company S.F.B.J. created two bisque head dolls called France and Marianne with extensive wardrobes a gift for the Princesses back home in London. The dolls stood nearly 40 inches tall and had a trousseau of over 350 pieces, including clothing made by Luis Vuitton and jewelry made by the famous Cartier jewelry company! They were marked' JUMEAU PARIS PRINCESS" (the S.F.B.J. and Jumeau companies had merged by this time.) The dolls France and Marianne toured the world as a way to rai e money for charities.
The original France and Marianne SFJB dolls are still on display today at Windsor Castle. These dolls became so well-known by the public that S .F.B .J. made smaller variations for the commercial market.
Dolls such as these 18" versions are considered portrait models of the Prince ses. This particular pair has bisque heads, sideglancing blue eyes, and a closed mouth. They are marked "UNIS FRANCE 149 306 JUMEAU 1938 PARIS" (UNIS was a mark used by SFBJ during this time period.) They had a five-piece jointed composition body. They are all-original in their taffeta gowns and faux pearl necklaces. Elizabeth is the doll in blue· Margaret is the doll in pink. These doll are considered rare, especially in their original clothes such as these.
Not to be outdone by the other doll companies in 1937. Madame Alexander created the "Princess Elizabeth' face to coincide with the coronation of her father as king. These composition dolls ranged in size fom 13-28''. They are seen with both human hair and mohair wigs. The Princess Elizabeth face came with open and closed mouth variation , the
open mouth being the most commonly seen. The Princess Elizabeth face was made until 1946. As with many of the doll companies, Madame Alexander made Princess Elizabeth in
a variety of party dresses, play dre ses, gowns, and even an Equestrian riding habit! Most of these costumes were de igned from actual outfits worn by Princess Elizabeth herself.
It hould be noted that the New York-based An-a.nbee Doll Company also fabricated composition princess doJls during the 1930s. Arranbee marketed these dolls as "Princess Nancy" most likely to avoid any issues with competitor uch as Madame Alexander as well as any issues with the royal family. Some Princess Nancy dolls have a face and clothing that very closely resembles Madame Alexander's Princess Elizabeth dolls.
Marriage and Motherhood
As Princess Elizabeth blossomed into a radiant young adult, it wasn't surprising for her to ultimately become a bride. In 1947. Princes Elizabeth married Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh. The wedding wa broadcast on the radio worldwide to millions of people. The wedding was such a sen ation that it wasn't long before doll companies began to sell Prince s Elizabeth dolls in royal wedding gowns. Madame Alexander, for example, produced an exquisite example of a l 4" hard plastic bride to commemorate the wedding of the Princess using the so-called "Margaret" face. As described by the well-known collector, Lia Sargent, this "Princess Elizabeth ... know she is a celebrity and has ru1 air of self-confidence in her expression ... In her magnificent all satin gown styled with leg o' mutton sleeves, prince s seams and edged all over with delicate sating looped braid, she is ready for all the world to watch as she walk down the aisle.
A cathedral length veil and flourishes of lilies of the valley add elegance." What sets this doll apart from other Madame Alexander brides is that she is specifically tagged, "Princess Elizabeth." According to Ms. Sargent, this "preserves the historical importance of the doll." Madame Alexander also made several composition Princes Elizabeth dolls using the "Wendy" face. There was even a version of the Princess Elizabeth Wendy bride in a wonderful boxed wedding trou eau with several outfits! These boxed doll are quite hard to find.
Other prominent doll artists made exceptional examples of Elizabeth on her wedding day. Perhaps the most exquisite rendition of Princess Elizabeth in her wedding gown is this very rare l948 one-of-a-kind 15" portrait cloth needlesculpted doll by the American-born NIADA artist, Dorothy Wendell Heizer. Heizer is often credited a being one of the most gifted doll artist of our time and her dolls are often said to be true works of art. With a background training in sculpting, painting, and sewing, Dorothy Heizer had quite an exceptional talent at creating very realistic portrait dolls of many different historical figures.
She was often commissioned by celebrities and the wealthy to create specific dolls. Her doll have a cloth tag sewn inside the clothing that bears the signature, "Dorothy Wendell Heizer." Dorothy Heizer was known for her craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Her Princess Elizabeth bride doll has a wire armature body covered in silk crepe and is wearing a copy of Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress. The jewelry and tiara the doll wear are exact replica of those worn by Pru1cess Elizabeth on her wedding day. According to Theriault's, Dorothy Heizer considered this doll to be one of ber best pieces of work.
The year after her wedding, in 1948, Princess Elizabeth and Philip gave binh to a bouncing baby boy, Prince Charles Philip Artbur George. The birth of Princess Elizabeth's first child was certainly not overlooked by the doll companie of the era. This 14" doll made by the Arranbee Doll Company depicts a hard plastic Prince s Elizabeth holding a bi que baby Prince Charles
in his christening gown.
The fabric of Princess Elizabeth' dress and baby Prince Charles' gown are color variations of the ame material. Prince Charle was considered a darling infant and in many 1948 British radio broadcast , Prince Charle wa referred to a "the world' most famous baby." After all, he was now second to the throne after his mother.
In just a few short years, that was soon about to change a "Prince Elizabeth" was not to remain "Princess" for very much longer.
Coronation of Elizabeth
Ever ince Elizabeth was ten years old, this prince s, wife, and mother always knew she wa heir to the throne. But when her father, King George VI, died unexpectedly in 1952, Princes Elizabeth did not expect he would so quickly become Queen at the young age of 25. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was one of tbe biggest event in British history. This was the first coronation event televised, broadca tin forty-four languages! Three million people crowded the streets of London to see her carriage go by. There were street partie anc fireworks! And, of course, a wealth of coronation souvenirs! From plate to coloring books to buttons to toys to dolls, the souvenirs abounded!
Coronation dolls once again became the populai theme for companies. Madame Alexander gave the Elizabeth dolls a refreshed look by marketing an 18" hard plastic "Margaret" face coronation doll in 1950 and 1954. This doll was part of a series referred to as the 'Beaux Arts Creations." This example is a 1954 version of the Margaret face Queen. The dolI was decorated with a rhinestone crown, fancy pearl accents, matching earrings, the royal blue Order of the Garter sash, a lovely taffeta gown, and an elegant small cape with white faux fur.
In 1954, Madame Alexander introduced an 8-inch Alexander-kins Queen Elizabeth II doll for the "Me and My Shadow Series." She i a hard plastic straight leg walker doll. She wear her ivory brocade gown with burgundy velvet cape. The faux jewels on her blue ribbon sash match those of her crown. In 1992, a variation of this 8-inch coronation doll was reintroduced to celebrate the 40th anniver ary of Her Majesty's reign.
Of course, no Madame Alexander reference to the coronation would be complete without a brief mention of the most renowned collection of Madame Alexander coronation dolls referred to as the "Coronation Serie ." This group of originally 41 dolls (now 36 remain) was an inspired work of great effort, research, and vision on the part of Madame Alexander. The grouping of dolls was commis ioned by the New York department store Abraham & Straus for their coronation display. The Coronation Series was quite extensive and detailed, depicting Queen Elizabeth II, Philip, the Queen Mother, the toddler Prince Charles, Princess Margaret and numerous other royal coronation figures. The collection now resides at the Brooklyn Children's Museum in New York .
In this photo, Queen Elizabeth is surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting. Unlike the mas produced coronation dolls sold to the public, this one of-a-kind Coronation Series included regalia with real ermines and gems, heavy embroideries, beading, fine brocades and trim , and all the fineries a Coronation ensemble should have!
One of the most treasured and rare coronation dolls known to exist is this 18" hard plastic example. She originally belonged to a Madame Alexander designer and was u ed as a prototype or sample for the Coronation Series set of doll . According to her owner, Lia Sargent, the doll has pecial makeup painting accentuating ber eyes. Her gown is fully decorated with pearls, crystal beads, and rhinestone .. She ha a real ermine cape rather than the faux fur used in the dolls of the Beaux Arts series. She is truly one-of-a-kind!
While the Madame Alexander company was bu y marketing their coronation doll , the Vogue Doll Co. realized they also had to compete in the coronation market! In 1953, Vogue introduced their lavi hly dre ed ver ion of the Queen Elizabeth II coronation doll in a straight leg 8-inch version. According to a 1953 Playthings original catalogue advertisement, the doll I "gowned in a sumptuous white brocaded satin, trimmed with gold and lace. She is wearing the 'Order of the Garter' with a hand-made medallion. Her robe i a maje tic sweep of purple velvet trimmed with white fur. Climaxed by a pearl-and-golden crown with scepter is the ultimate in beauty and artistry."
Certainly not wanting to be overlooked, even the Nancy Ann Storybook Doll Company created a doll version of the Queen. This very rare 18" Nancy Ann Style Show doll came in her original box marked, "Style Show by Nancy Ann, her Royal Majesty, The Queen" and i circa 1953. According to Theriault's Doll Auctions, the doll had a "hard plastic socket head, blue eye , short brown curly hair, [and a] five piece body". The doll wore an 'embroidered tulle gown over [a] silver metallic under skirt' and had a 'coronet and matching brooch of royal blue 'jewels' and pearls"'.
Even the Terri Lee Doll Corporation attempted a Terri Lee doll dre ed in coronation attire that is often een on clothing boxe and brochure . This Terri Lee booklet says, "This i the month when Princess Elizabeth is crowned Queen of England. The magazine is in honor of the queen, and that is why I am wearing my new queen costume on the cover." It is unknown if this doll was actually produced by Terri Lee ,ince a true example of this doll has not yet been identified.
In addition to the popular doll companies of the time, other individual artists also
reated examples of Queen Elizabeth II uch as the NIADA artist Martha Thompson.
Martha Thomp on was an American artist who showed an exceptional talent or creating dolls that very much closely re embled the real people they presented. The doll were made with parian heads and cloth bodie . hey had lovely bisque arms and legs. They were signed on the shoulder late by Martha Thompson with the year they were made (most of her Lizabeth dolls were usually dated during the 1950 ). This 21" doll by Martha Thompson depicts Her Majesty in all her royal grandeur as she wears a lovely pale blue gown with her highly detailed rhinestone-jeweled necklace and tiara.
Another lovely example shows Elizabeth in one of her white royal gowns. Her head wear a molded crown with rhinestone accents and a beautifully imbroidered gown. It is interesting to note that this particular doll won a blue ribbon at the United Federation of Doll Clubs national convention in 1955!
It seemed as though nearly every doll maker created a variation of an Elizabeth doll. For example, the French doll arti t Bernard Ravca delighted the doll community during the 1950 with hi huge 39" one-of-a-kind Queen Elizabeth II doll in her coronation outfit! The doll's owner. Laura Terrace, describes her: ·'She has all painted feature , rooted auburn hair and look at that jeweled crown! She has her purple velvet cape with 'fur' trim and atin lining ... Her dress is gorgeous and adorned with more 'jewels'." Supreme in both detail and ize, this Queen Elizabe IT is a tunning example ofRavca's talent as a doll arti t. (It is interesting to note, when Princess Elizabeth took her first visit to Paris as a child, Ravca made fifty different regional dolls dressed in French attire as a gift for the Princes with whic to decorate her room! )
Seeing the marketing potential of the coronation, the Liberty of London company also introduced a new 9" version of Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation gown. (They al o made Philip in coronation attire as well). This photo depicts Queen Elizabeth II in her co.ronation regalia sunounded by several members of her royal guard. The "Queen's Guard" were soldiers who e mission was to protect tbe Queen at all times. The Queen Elizabeth II coronation doll wears a white satin dres . Her purple velvet robe is trimmed with sequins, gold thread, and white felt with black threads to imulate ermine. Her crown is decorated with sequins and glass beads. She wears pearl bead earrings and a necklace of glass beads.
Seeing the marketing potential of the coronation, the Liberty of London company also introduced a new 9" version of Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation gown. (They al o made Philip in coronation attire as well). This photo depicts Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation regalia sunounded by several members of her royal guard. The "Queen's Guard" were soldiers whose mission was to protect tbe Queen at all times. The Queen Elizabeth II coronation doll wears a white satin dres . Her purple velvet robe is trimmed with sequins, gold thread, and white felt with black threads to imulate ermine. Her crown is decorated with sequins and glass beads. She wears pearl bead earrings and a necklace of glass beads.
Another British maker that created a Queen Elizabeth II coronation doll was Ilse Ottenberg. This doll in 12" and is made of a ceramic-like composition. The doll i dressed as the Queen would have been for the pre-coronation ceremonies. She wears her ornate gown with clover designs on the front and a purple velvet cape with fur trim and gold braiding. She wears a bra s crown with eed pearls an colored rhinestones and a matching rhinestone necklace. Several references to this doll uggest she may have been only made in a limited edition of 50 doll .
Also in 1953, the London-based Chelsea Art Doll Society created a imilar pre-coronation doll. The doll is a 14" compo ition doll that wear the typical purple velvet cape with gold embroidery trim. This example of Queen Elizabeth II carries her orb and cepter, just a the Queen herself did at the coronation.
Perhaps one of the most cherished British coronation dolls is this 26" composition Queen Elizabeth II doll from the "Rosebud" line made by Nene Plastics. The doll had a white atin gown and a red felt cape with plush trim and a rhinestone pin in the front. Her crown made of cardboard and silver foil. The very special aspect about this doll was that she had a talking mechanism inside her body that wa a recording of the real voice of the queen!
Queen Elizabeth II's Reign
Throughout the year of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, she continued to be a popular figure for doll makers. Madame Alexander continued to make variou rendition of the beautiful queen. In 1958, she introduced the Cissette Queen, in 1961 the Ci sy Queen and in 1963 the Elise Queen. The company continued to produce variations of the Queen throughout the decades, producing a Cissette Portrette in 1972. The Madame Alexander company continues to market various version of Queen Elizabeth II doll even today!
The popularity of Prince and Queen Elizabeth II doll was so extensive that this brief study couldn't pos ibly have covered them all. Other companies known to have made dolls in the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II included England's House of Peggy Ni bet, Canada's Reliable Toy Co. Ltd, England's Ro ebud Co, England's Pedigree Company Soft Toys. Ltd., Franklin Mint, Lew Sorensen, and many others.
Throughout the year , the image of Her Royal Majesty has been pre erved in countless examples of dolls. lt all tarted with one precious little Prince that won the heart of the public and e pecially the love of many little girl . From bi que to cloth and compo ition to pla tic, the doll of Elizabeth II are a cherished part of our doll history. A Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee approaches this (2012) year, I offer a "Congratulations" to Her Majesty on behalf of the doll-collecting community. But more importantly, I offer a "Thank You" to Her Majesty for sharing her image and life in dolls and for allowing our little girls to dream!