We are back with a special guest post from my friend Pascale Helyar-Moray. Some What Kate Wore readers may recognize that name, or the name of Pascale’s company, StyleRocks. On our sister site StyleRocks has sponsored giveaways, generously donated to EACH to help us reach a fundraising goal (and continues to donate anytime we do a joint promotion), and been one of our favorite sponsors on the WKW site. Because I have been swamped with a variety of issues, Pascale generously offered to do a guest post or two and I immediately said “Yes, please!” Today she writes about the Cambridge family nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, and Norland College, where a few elite students graduate and become Norland Nannies.
“Ooooh it’s Mary Poppins!”
This was my immediate thought when I saw a tall woman, dressed in clothing that looked like it was from another era, in the photos from Princess Charlotte’s christening.
Her uniform jarred with me visually, at a couple of levels. Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are every inch the modern couple. Whether it’s their use of Instagram to announce Princess Charlotte’s birth or their decision to have informal, non-traditional christening photos, their Highnesses are determined to do things like any other young family.
Compared with the Duchess’ beautiful (and modern) Alexander McQueen outfit, the uniform stood out not only for its lack of glamour but also because it looked like it belonged in the 1950s – a fashion anachronism if you will. It intrigued me. As did the lady wearing it. Who was she and what was this uniform about?
The lady turns out to be Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, the Cambridge’s nanny. Employed by William and Kate in March 2014, she accompanied them on their Australian & New Zealand tour. Here we see her at the airport in Canberra, wearing plain clothes rather than that distinctive uniform. (Eagle-eyed readers will recognize George’s kangaroo backpack from Save the Koala shop. )
Not much is known about the 44-year-old Nanny publicly, other than that she has apparently worked for other high-profile society families – which is how the Duke & Duchess came to hear of her. And of course she would be low-profile: discretion is a trait any employer of this kind would demand. She is known to be dedicated to the job – surely a byproduct of her training. Below, Ms. Borrallo at George’s Plunket playdate during the New Zealand tour.
The Norland Nanny uniform worn at Charlotte’s christening tells us that she is a graduate of the Norland College. The college offers a BA (Hons) degree in Early Learning & Development with the Norland Diploma, a three year course dedicated to both the academic and practical aspects of raising young children.
The college has a very interesting evolution; founded in 1892 by Emily Ward, its childcare principles were those of being child-centric, nurturing and structured. The introduction of education itself on how to care for children was novel at the time; prior to this, young children were cared for by housemaids, who were largely uneducated. ‘The Training School for Ladies as Children’s Nurses’ was the original name of the college.
While accurate, it’s not exactly a quick or catchy title and so over the years, it came to be known as Norland College, a result of its location in Norland Place in London. This is located in the very wealthy area of Holland Park, in west London, a mere 5 minute drive from Kensington Palace. Over a century later in 2003, the college relocated to Bath, in the south west of England. Bath itself has a great history and is known for its stunning Roman Baths and also one of its most famous residents, Jane Austen.
In researching this article, I was both surprised and pleased to see that there is an Australian connection (StyleRocks is an Australian company): the Norland College was hosting a week of training for the students of the Miss Pepper Australian Nanny School. Clearly other Commonwealth countries are welcomed at Norland! Below, a pin with the school’s “Love Never Faileth” motto.
Now let’s talk Norland fashion. The concept of a uniform for the Norland Nurses (as they were known under Ms Ward’s governance) was for two reasons. Firstly, they were to add credence to their training and show them to be graduates of the college to not only the employers, but the public as well. Secondly, they were to distinguish the college graduates from the housemaids of the household.
The uniform has, like the college, evolved over the years; a relatively recent (2013) style overhaul took place, with an update by a local designer. The new uniform, made in Britain, paid homage to the college’s history in retaining the lace-up shoes, hat and a choice of brown or white gloves, dependent on the season. There are two uniform styles,”practical” (l) and “formal” (r).
The 1950s-style dress and long brown woolen overcoat are part of the formal winter uniform, seen below on students in a picture from the Norland College Facebook page.
The formal summer uniform.
A group of students in the lighter weight look.
Here we see Ms Borrallo wearing that uniform – no overcoat required for summer in the UK.
More about the uniform from Norland in a blog post about Nanny Maria and the uniform :
Once graduated from Norland, very few will continue to wear the uniform when working with children, however we expect the professionalism the uniform represents to be upheld throughout their career as a Norland Nanny.
Norland graduates are proud to wear the uniform and most will keep it in their wardrobe for life as a symbol of their training and them being an honoured member of the Norland family.
While few positions require wearing the uniform, graduates consider it an honor to don the notable look, representative of their graduation from the elite institution. We will probably never know if the Duke and Duchess asked Ms. Borrallo to wear it for Charlotte’s christening, or if she requested that she wear the uniform. Here, a closer look at the watch, Norland ‘N’ on the brim of the hat, and white gloves.
I was fascinated to note the timepiece pinned to her dress; very much akin to something a nurse would wear, which makes complete sense given that the college graduates were originally known as nurses. I feel that it adds a further sense of qualification to the uniform and imparts the impression that the children are in extremely safe, quasi medical, hands.
And of course, being in the jewellery industry, I was keen to see what kind of earrings Ms Borrallo was wearing. They appear to be a pair of white pearl stud earrings, approximately 8mm in size, a perfectly appropriate and discrete choice for both the uniform and the occasion. Here we see the same earrings during the New Zealand/Australia tour.
Norland College notes that, “…graduates are no longer expected, however, to wear their uniform when working in a family, unless the family specifically wants them to.” The occasion of Princess Charlotte’s christening was significant enough to merit the uniform being worn, and it is the only time we have seen Ms Borrallo in the iconic style. We’ve not seen her wear it on any other occasion. Below we see the Nanny with Prince George in this picture from Trooping the Colour in June.
While the uniform may be ‘old-school’, the Norland college training is not. There are basic courses, like food and nutrition.
As well as sewing and other skills.
But today’s graduates are also trained in martial arts, kidnap evasion by using the pram, self-defense, and advance driving techniques; they are in all regards thoroughly modern Mary Poppins.
Upon learning all their qualifications, I then only had one final question when considering the Norland Nanny proposition: “How soon can one start at our house?”!!!
- The Norland College website is here, its Facebook page is here and its Twitter feed here
- You can read the Norland Code of Professional Responsibilities by clicking here
- You can read the detailed uniform description here
- The full Norland blog post prompted by media coverage of Nanny Maria wearing the uniform may be read here
- A dedicated page is here with info for those in the US interested in hiring a Norland nanny
- Norland has posted several videos on its YouTube page; a 1981 BBC story about Norland nannies may be seen here, a 2014 ITV story is available here