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Queen Victoria's bloomers revealed

A pair of enormous knickers which belonged to Queen Victoria have been uncovered after being hidden away in a private collection for more than 100 years, it was announced today.

The linen bloomers, which measure more than 50 inches around the waist, have been added to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, housed at Kensington Palace in west London.

The royal underwear, known as "split drawers", is embroidered with a small crown and the initials VR, and comes with a large matching chemise.

It is thought to date from the 1890s.

The knickers were bought by Historic Royal Palaces at auction for £600 earlier this summer.

Alexandra Kim, curator of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, said: "The drawers have quite a large waist - about 56 inches.

"By this stage in her life, Queen Victoria had gained quite a few inches.

"When she was about 18, her waist was about 20 inches... Over the years, particularly having given birth to nine children, that changed entirely."

As well as featuring Queen Victoria's monogram, the underwear has a laundry mark - a number which allowed it to be traced after it was sent to be washed.

It is thought the item survived when the Queen's clothes were divided up after her death and distributed amongst her staff as mementoes.

Ms Kim said: "There is a long tradition of items being handed down to trusted servants as a perk."

The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, which has been given a national Designated status in honour of its importance, features some 12,000 items belonging to royalty and courtiers from the 17th century to the present day.

It includes a safari suit worn by King Edward VIII, who was later to abdicate.

He used the outfit on a visit to Africa in around 1926, when he was still the Prince of Wales.

It featured adjustable shorts designed by the Prince himself, which could be worn long or buttoned above the knee depending on the terrain.

Diana, Princess of Wales's tweed sports suit made for her honeymoon, William III's 17th century knitted green silk stockings and a turquoise silk damask waistcoat believed to be one of the last things George III wore before his death also form part of the collection.

It is hoped Queen Victoria's underwear will be put on display following a £12 million project to redevelop Kensington Palace by 2012.