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Grayson Perry accepts knighthood in burgundy taffeta dress in honour of the King

The artist and broadcaster was recognised in the New Year Honours list for services to the arts.

Ellie Iorizzo
Wednesday 28 June 2023 14:39 BST
Sir Grayson Perry, artist, writer and Broadcaster after being made a Knight Bachelor by the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Sir Grayson Perry, artist, writer and Broadcaster after being made a Knight Bachelor by the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)

Sir Grayson Perry has accepted his knighthood from the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle wearing a burgundy taffeta dress in honour of King Charles.

The Turner prize winning artist and broadcaster, 63, who is known for his tapestries, ceramic works and cross-dressing, was recognised in the New Year Honours list for services to the arts.

In 2014, Sir Grayson was made a CBE during an investiture by the then Prince Charles and wore what he called his “Italian mother-of-the-bride” outfit, a midnight blue dress with a wide-brimmed black hat.

Speaking about his knighthood outfit on Wednesday, he told the PA news agency: “The last outfit was ‘mother-of-the-bride’, so maybe I’m now ‘grandmother-of-the-bride’ – I’ve got a bit older.

“My basic thought was that King Charles has just been crowned. I thought Carolingian, so I looked to the Stuart era for influence – 17th century, those sort of portraits of women of that age.

“That was my starting point, with big sleeves and a dropped shoulder. I designed it, and then I have a dressmaker and a hatmaker who I work with. We have fun.”

Asked about the material of the dress, Sir Grayson described it as “burgundy taffeta”.

The Essex-born artist said he wanted to use the title informally because he doesn’t want to come across as “pompous”, but also said it should be used during a “very formal occasion”.

“But it’s quite funny to sign off a text to your best friend, ‘Sir G’,” he joked.

He later said: “When you’re trying to get into somewhere, it’s the equivalent of sort of: ‘Do you know who I am?’”

His wife Philippa Perry clarified: “We don’t use it for booking restaurants.”

Asked what a young Grayson Perry would make of him being knighted, he said: “I’m in a completely different stratosphere. I’m a blue-chip member of the establishment now, but that’s fine by me because in a way it’s a by-product of success.

“You don’t ask for honours; they’re bestowed upon you. You can’t plan for those.”

Sir Grayson also described his conversation with “fun” William, who bestowed the honour on Wednesday.

“We talked about humour, because humour is important. I don’t think it gets enough recognition in the culture quite often, because humour is the check and balance of culture, there’s no common sense without a sense of humour,” he said.

Sir Grayson previously said being given a knighthood was an honour coming from a kind of working-class background.

Born in 1960 in Chelmsford, he began his career at Braintree College of Further Education and then at Portsmouth Polytechnic, where he studied fine art.

Later when he moved to London in the early 1980s, he began attending evening pottery classes and developed a strong connection with the medium, and often appeared in public as his female alter-ego, Claire.

He won the Turner Prize in 2003 after being nominated for the piece Claire’s Coming Out Dress and a collection of vases depicting the dark recesses of life.

Speaking about what his advice would be for young artists, Sir Grayson said: “It’s a long haul.”

He continued: “I was very much a late developer. I was one of those artists that rose without trace.

“I was in my late thirties before I made a living from my work. But I’ve also had a really lovely late career where I’m doing lots of different things and trying new things. So, I would say never stop learning. It’s absolutely important to always try new things that excite you.”

Sir Grayson compared the investiture ceremony with his experience in 2014, describing it as “very smooth and well-rehearsed”.

He told PA: “What’s nice now is it’s much more intimate compared to the old way they did it in Buckingham Palace, where it’s more of a mass celebration, and there was a big audience, hundreds of people there.

“This was much more intimate and it felt more meaningful somehow and it felt more validating.

“The whole reason of a ritual is to orchestrate emotion, you know, a wedding, a funeral, a christening, these are there to promote the emotion and I suppose the emotion you’re trying to do here is pride.”

Asked if being a knight changes anything, he said: “Obviously now I could get into real trouble if I did something naughty.

“At the lower end, speeding. At the upper end, well we won’t go there!

“I haven’t got any dirty secrets. I’ve led with my secrets all my life and they’re all dirty!”

He added that the honour will be placed in his “cupboard of medals”, joking: “I’m very good at winning things.”

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