King Dick slips into something a little more comfortable

Slice of Heaven has been on open for a year now. This means that some of the light-sensitive paper and textile exhibition items have had their full quota of light exposure and have to come off display.

Coatee (short coat) for Seddon’s Civil Uniform, Full Dress, 1897, England. Hill Brothers. Gift of Dame Elizabeth Knox Gilmer, 1955. Te Papa

Coatee (short coat) for Seddon’s Civil Uniform, Full Dress, 1897, England. Hill Brothers. Gift of Dame Elizabeth Knox Gilmer, 1955. Te Papa

This includes this majestic coatee, pictured above, that Premier Richard Seddon wore to grand royal events. Seddon had the nickname ‘King Dick’. He revelled in imperial pomp and circumstance at every opportunity, and always dressed accordingly.

Today, a less blingy ‘Levee Uniform’ was put in the place of this coatee. Seddon wore this uniform to afternoon events known as ‘levees’. The coatee is pictured below. The matching trousers are also on display.

Coatee [Levee Dress], ’Civil Uniform, first class’. 1897, England. Maker unknown. Gift of Dame Elizabeth Knox Gilmer, 1955. Te Papa

Coatee (Levee Dress). 1897, England. Maker unknown. Gift of Dame Elizabeth Knox Gilmer, 1955. Te Papa

Seddon was a large man: he was almost 2 metres tall and weighed about 127 kgs. You can see from the image below that the form had to be padded out with foam to add the necessary girth to hold up the trousers!

Richard Seddon's Levee Uniform trousers on a padded form

Richard Seddon's Levee Uniform trousers on a padded form. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

The changeover procedure was a little fiddly. Objects had to be moved out of the way while glass on the display case protecting the garments from dust was removed.

Display case with Seddon's Civil Uniform removed from it. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

Display case with Seddon's Civil Uniform removed from it. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

Then, after the Levee Uniform was put into the case, Te Papa’s installers had to manoeuvre themselves around to fix other items back into place.

Te Papa installers putting back exhibition objects. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

Te Papa installers putting back exhibition objects. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

And below you can see the end result: Seddon’s relatively sober Levee Uniform which will be on display for the next 12 months.

Richard Seddon's Levee Uniform on display in Slice of Heaven. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

Richard Seddon's Levee Uniform on display in Slice of Heaven. Photograph: Kirstie Ross

There’s more to read about Richard Seddon and his imperialism on the Slice of Heaven website.

And there is interesting information about Seddon’s imperial dressing in Collections Online

2 Responses

  1. Adele

    what lovely clothes, bet he felt like a King wearing them…thank goodness we have a place like Te Papa to display these treasures.. which reminds me I have a photograph of Richard Seddon when he was at Papawai (Greytown) must look it out.. would have been taken in 1890s.. Thank you

    Reply
    • Kirstie Ross

      Hi there Yes – Richard Seddon certainly cut a regal figure in this finery at home and abroad.

      Te Papa also has a number of sumptuous garments and accessories worn by Seddon’s wife, Louisa. She wore these at royal occasions such as the 1902 coronation of Edward VII.

      Kirstie

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)