A royal superfan and fashionista who only dresses in vintage 1950s style clothing and owns more than 200 hats inspired by the Queen said the world has lost the “most incredible, inspiring and principled” woman in a heartfelt tribute.
Since her childhood on the Italian island of Sardinia, Francesca Manca, 45, has idolised the British monarch and her immaculate dress sense – particularly her penchant for a fetching hat – and now boasts an incredible collection of fancy hats, fascinators and gloves in the Queen’s honour.
The marketing and business specialist said she was left heartbroken after Buckingham Palace announced the tragic news that Queen Elizabeth II had died on Thursday evening, adding she could not imagine a world without her.
Francesca, from Liverpool, who is married and has a son from a previous relationship, but prefers not to name them, paid tribute to the Queen, saying: “The Queen was a determined, headstrong woman who did everything she did out of conviction and love for the people she was serving.
“She was the most incredible, inspiring and principled woman who always stood for what was right.
“She has inspired and empowered so many women, and I will always have admiration for her.”
She added: “I’m going to miss her very much. She is someone I felt like I knew my whole life.
“And I can’t imagine a world without her.”
Francesca said she has loved the British Queen and her iconic looks ever since she first caught a glimpse of the monarch on Italian television when she was around eight years old, and was fascinated by her co-ordinated style.
By the time she was 14, she bought her first hat, a fedora with feathers on the side, and has not looked back since.
She said: “I know I’m not born British, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve absolutely loved the Queen and she’s been a style icon of mine since childhood.
“I remember when I was little, I was around eight or nine, and I was still in Italy and I saw her on TV.”
She added: “I saw her wear a matching suit and hat and I thought she was wonderful. I tried to find pictures of her in magazines as there was no internet.
“The way she put together outfits was just perfect – everything from the gloves to the coat, hat and matching scarf.”
Over the years, Francesca travelled across the country to attend the Queen’s public appearances and she always dressed for the occasion whenever there was an address to the nation.
She said: “Whenever the Queen made a speech, I liked to make sure I was dressed up for it. I did my make-up and hair and wore something nice – I certainly wouldn’t watch her on TV in my pyjamas!”
The superfan’s obsession with the Royal family has not been limited to her wardrobe, as her home features an array of Royal merchandise – including mugs, tins, and statuettes – and her engagement in April 2020 also stuck to the royal theme.
Her engagement was one of her fondest memories, with her husband proposing with a smaller version of Her Majesty’s three-carat round diamond ring.
Francesca added: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve had pictures of the Queen around my house.
“My husband definitely knows me very well. When he asked me to marry, he proposed with a much smaller version of Her Majesty’s three-carat round diamond engagement ring.
“I knew there and then I’d definitely found a keeper.”
When she first adopted the Queen as a style icon in her early teens, a then 14-year-old Francesca saved every scrap of her pocket money to buy her first hat, one for £140 – after which she became known as the “weirdo” who was obsessed with hats.
Francesca recalled: “When I started getting pocket money at 14, I saved it and, once a year, when we went skiing in Italy, stopping off in Torino in the north, I’d go to this very old hat shop there and buy something. It was the highlight of my year!
“People would mock me and think of me as the, ‘hat wearing weird girl’, but I didn’t really care – I just loved them.”
All that changed when Francesca moved to the UK, aged 31, after visiting England many times to see her best friend, who lived here.
Falling in love with the country, after settling in Liverpool and working freelance in marketing, she said: “Hats are much more of a thing in the UK.
“When I moved here, I went on a wild shopping spree – looking for vintage British outfits, hats, hair accessories and fascinators.”
Now Francesca is the proud owner of over 200 hats, from beanies and berets to straw hats, fedoras and bonnets, as well as 100 fascinators and 50 pairs of gloves – a trademark of our impeccably dressed Queen.
She added: “I own all sorts of hats and accessories – some are family heirlooms. If someone dies in my family and they leave behind a hat, I’ll get a call.”
Despite owning so many fancy hats, Francesca only spends roughly £200 a year on them, because none of her purchases are brand new.
And she tries to always wear a different one each day – as she said the Queen never wore the same combination twice.
She said: “She was almost never with the same combination of hats and jewels. She was just a fashion icon.”
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