The Wedding of John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier

Bridal bouquet 1

On this day, over sixty-two years ago (September 12, 1953), John “Jack” Kennedy and Jaqueline “Jackie” Bouvier were married in a large ceremony held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island followed by a huge reception held at Hammersmith Farm, the stepfather of the bride’s oceanfront estate.  At the time of the wedding, the groom was a U.S. Senator and destined to become President of the United States and the bride was a roving reporter/photographer and she was also destined to become the fashionable and, perhaps, the most famous First Lady.  Before I discuss the details of the wedding and the reception, let’s start with how the couple meet …

Most sources indicate that Jack and Jackie were introduced by a mutual friend, Charles Bartlett in May 1951 at a small dinner party held in Georgetown located just outside of Washington, D.C.  (His version was “I leaned across the table for the asparagus and asked her for a date”)  Another possible story of their first meeting possibly happened several years earlier in 1949 when they met casually on a train traveling from New York to or from Washington, D.C.  (Her version and first impression on meeting him was “he was charming, handsome but a hopeless flirt”)  In reality, Jack and Jackie casually dated and went for long periods of time without seeing each other throughout the years.  Jack was busy in Washington, D.C. or campaigning in Massachusetts and Jackie was in Europe vacationing with her sister before going to London to cover the Queen’s coronation.

It seems that absence could really make the heart grow fonder, and when Jackie returned from England Jack proposed on June 24, 1953 with a stunning Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring.  The design of the ring was very unique and featured a 2.88 carat diamond and 2.84 carat emerald with several baguette diamond accents.  (Special Note:  Jackie later had the ring redesigned and replace the baguette diamond with marquis and round diamonds.  Then after the death of her husband, Jackie had the ring reset to the original design for sentimental reasons)

Jackie's engagement ring

After the engagement was announced the wedding planning quickly started in earnest and everybody seemed to have an option from the mother of the bride, Janet Auchincloss, to the mother of the groom, Rose Kennedy.  The only thing not questioned was the type of ceremony, since both the bride and the groom were Catholic and the location selected was St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island.  The nuptial mass was officiated by Cardinal Richard Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston, and a special papal blessing was received from Pope Pius XII.

From the Kennedy perspective, the wedding would be seen as a political event with an extremely large guest list of Washington senators and congressmen and Massachusetts politicians. The invitation list would be approximately 800 guests for the church services and 1500 guests for the reception at Hammersmith Farm.  There would also be a large wedding party with the bride’s sister Lee (who had recently married Michael Canfield a few months earlier in April 1953) serving as matron of honor and her stepsister, Nina Auchincloss, as the maid of honor and ten additional bridesmaids all wearing pink taffeta dress.  The groom’s brother, Bobby Kennedy, served as best man long with another brother Edward Kennedy, brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law Michael Canfield, Lem Billings, Red Fay, Charles Bartlett and several others that served as ushers.

The bridal party

Every wedding has some problems and there was a major problem with Jackie’s father, “Black Jack” Bouvier.  Jackie’s parents had a bitter divorce back in 1940 amid adultery claims; Jack was a known womanizer as well as a heavy drinker and gambler.  Despite her father’s problems Jackie adored him and he was very proud and honored to be escorting her down the aisle.  But on the morning the wedding when someone went to get Jackie’s father he was found passed out drunk and it was clear that he would not be able to perform his duties and he was quietly and quickly sent out of town to avoid any embarrassment.  When Jackie arrived with her stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, the reporters were told that Jack Bouvier had suddenly come down with a very bad cold and would be unable to attend the wedding.  Jackie was deeply disappointed about the situation with her father and she somehow blamed her mother for inadvertently causing it to happen.

Wedding ceremony - interior    Wedding ceremony - exterior

Almost 4 miles away from the church was the reception site, Hammersmith Farm, the 300 acre estate of Hugh and Janet Auchincloss.  At the reception, the bridal couple spent three hours greeting guests on the receiving line, then after lunch was served the party continued with several speeches, dancing, cake cutting and the bridal bouquet toss.

Wedding reception - dancing  Wedding reception - cutting the cake  Wedding reception - bouquet toss

After the wedding, the bridal couple went to New York and stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan before a catching a flight to Acapulco, Mexico for their honeymoon.  They spent two weeks in Mexico and then stopped in California for a short stay at the San Ysidro Ranch in located in Montecito.

Honeymoon in Acapulco 1  Honeymoon in Santa Barbara

Historical Note: While on their honeymoon, Jack caught a large sailfish on a deep sea fishing trip and Jackie had the “trophy fish” stuffed and mounted.  Many years later after Jack became President of the United States; the “honeymoon fish” was hung in the White House.

Honeymoon Fish  Honeymoon Fish in the Roosevelt Room of the White House

Jackie Bouvier’s Wedding Dress

The wedding dress of Jackie Bouvier was designed by Ann Lowe and made of ivory silk taffeta and featured an off-the-shoulder neckline, fitted bodice and a very full skirt.  The skirt was embellished with flounces and swirls using 50 yards of crème colored faille (plain weave fabric made of silk with a lustrous finish).  To complete her wedding ensemble, Jackie choose to wear white gloves with the dress.

Image:  Formal portrait - close-up

For something borrowed, Jackie wore her Grandmother Lee’s rosepoint lace veil and she also carried a lace handkerchief of her mother’s, something blue was the traditional blue garter and something new was a diamond bracelet which the groom had given to her the night before the wedding.  Her other jewelry items were a pearl choker necklace which was a gift from her family and a diamond leaf brooch which was a gift from her new in-laws.  Jackie’s wedding bouquet was a cascading style of pink and white orchids and fragrant gardenias.

 Wedding veil - back view

Special Notes:  Jackie had always said that she intensely disliked the elaborate bridal dress that she wore on her wedding day and felt that it was too much dress for her.  Like most young brides, she had felt pressure from her mother to choose the more traditional style but personally would have preferred a wedding dress with more simple and chic lines.

One week before the wedding, disaster struck when the New York showroom of Anne Lowe, the dress designer, suffered severe water damage from a broken pipe.  The wedding dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses were ruined and Lowe and her staff need to remake all the dresses in less than seven days. (it had previously taken eight weeks for the dresses to be made before)

Coco Chanel (Part One)

Coco Chanel - 1909Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (born: August 19, 1883 died: January 10, 1971) was a French fashion designer who drastically changed the dress design style of what women had been previously wearing for a century.  When Chanel began her first business designing fashionable hats, women had been wearing long dresses, stiffly corseted and made in heavy materials.  Then, when Chanel could not find stylish and comfortable clothing to fit her own needs, she started her own fashion line which featured innovative designs of loose fitting dresses made in easy care fabric.  Her clothing line proved to be an enormous success and her designs set many of the trends that women are still wearing.  Chanel also expanded her fashion line to include accessories, such as jewelry, handbags and fragrance Chanel No. 5 still remains one of the bestselling perfumes of all times.

In Part One of the two part series on Coco Chanel I will discuss her personal and professional life.  In Part Two I will discuss some of Chanel’s contributions to the world of fashion.

The Personal and Professional Life Of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel had an improvised childhood, her mother was Eugenie “Jeanne” DeVolle who was a laundrywoman and her father was Albert Chanel a traveling salesman who was frequently absent.  Sadly, when Gabrielle was only 11 years old her mother died of bronchitis.  With her father constantly away from home, the decision was made to send her brothers to work as farm laborers and Gabrielle and her two sisters were sent to a convent.  Aubazine, located in central France, was run by the nuns of the Sacred Heart of Mary as a home for abandoned or orphaned girls.

Life at Aubazine was harsh and when Gabrielle turned 18 years old, she went to live in a Catholic girls boarding home in the small town of Moulins.  During her years at the convent, the nuns had taught Gabrielle how to sew and she soon found work as a seamstress at a small store in Moulins.  To earn more money, Gabrielle often sang at the local cabaret which was frequented by French cavalry officers.  It has been said that the beautiful and flirtatious Gabrielle received the name “Coco” from the officers because one of the most popular songs she sang was “Ko Ko Ri Ko” or another more scandalous possibility was that the name was a reference to cocotte, the French word for a prostitute.

In 1906, Chanel had moved to the small resort town of Vichy to seek work as a stage performer but she failed at finding employment as a singer.  Eventually, she was able to find work in a small shop dispensing glasses of mineral water for the tourists, Vichy was known as a spa town and the water there was said to have curative powers.  Unfortunately the work at Vichy was only seasonal and Chanel soon moved back to Moulins.

Soon after returning to Moulins, Chanel met a former cavalry officer and wealthy heir to a textile fortune named Etienne Balsan.  By the age of twenty-three Chanel had become his mistress and she moved into his chateau, Royallieu, located in Compiegne.  Chanel’s lifestyle improved immensely and she was soon living a leisurely and lavish life with days spent in equestrian pursuits and nights socializing with Balsan and his friends.  Balsan indulged Chanel’s every whim and showered her with gifts of beautiful dresses and jewelry.  But Chanel had many hours of idle time and she was looking for a diversion to fill the hours of the day.  So, she began making her own hats mostly because she could not find the styles that she preferred.  Some of the women that came to Royallieu liked her hats and requested that Chanel make ones for them.

Coco Chanel 10

In 1908, while Chanel was living at Royallieu, she met the man that would become the “love of her life”.  Captain Arthur “Boy” Capel was an English aristocrat and he was a close friend of Balsan.  By 1908, Chanel and Capel had fallen deeply in love and Chanel had left Balsan and she moved to Paris staying in an apartment paid for by Capel.

Capel also financed Chanel’s first venture into the fashion industry.  After Chanel arrived in Paris she wanted to earn her own money which she felt would give her more independence.  In 1910, she decided to start a milliner business and she opened up a small store, Chanel Modes, located at 21 rue Cambon.  Initially she sold to the upper class acquaintances that she met through Balsan and Capel but her business grew when a French actress named Gabrielle Dorziat wore one of Chanel’s hats in a play and it caught the attention of the fashionable women in Paris.  This led to Dorziat wearing several of Chanel’s hats in a French fashion magazine, Les Modes, in 1912.  The ladies of Paris all wanted a Chanel hat.

Then, while on a vacation with Capel to Deauville, Chanel once again came up with a fashion idea out of the necessity of not finding any resort clothing that met her style.  She borrowed clothing from Capel, such as a striped shirt, a knit sweater, a pair of comfortable pants and she even wore a mariniere, a shirt usually worn by sailors.  Chanel caused a sensation wearing these outfits and immediately found a need for women visiting the resort who also wanted comfortable clothing.  Chanel soon developed a line of loose fitting dresses made in an unusual light-weight jersey fabric.  Capel, aware of another good business opportunity, decided to finance a store for Chanel located in Deauville where she would be able to easily sell her new fashion line. She recruited her two sisters, Antoinette and Adrienne, to wear her dress designs on promenades down the boardwalk and around the town to advertise.  Business was so good that Chanel opened a second store location in Barritz, which opened in 1915, it also proved to be very successful and Chanel was able to pay back the loan from Capel.

Coco Chanel 1920 - 1    Chanel dress sketch 1917

Despite the fact that Chanel and Capel were very much in love, their affair ended in 1918 when Capel was obligated to marry an English women, Lady Diana Wyndham.  After being together for almost ten years, Chanel was heartbroken and then totally devastated when a year later Capel died in a tragic car accident.  After the death of Capel, Chanel dedicated herself to her new clothing business concentrating on new designs and marketing to increase sales.   After a period of mourning, Chanel also moved forward with her personal life and she briefly became romantically involved with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicolas II who was the last czar of Russia.  After their relationship ended, Chanel and the Grand Duke were still able to maintain their friendship which lasted throughout the years.

In 1919, Chanel’s fashion business had become so profitable that she was able to buy the entire building at 31 rue Camdon, the site was not very far from her previous location in Paris.  After the building renovations were completed she opened the doors of the beautiful new store and it set the standard for future fashion stores where not only dresses but an extended variety of accessories could be sold.

31 Rue Cambon

In 1920, Chanel met the composer, Igor Stravinsky, who was working with the Ballets Russes in Paris.  When Stravinsky needed a place for his family to stay, Chanel let them stay at a property she owned in a suburb of Paris.  During that time Chanel took on a commission for Stravinsky to design the costumes for the Ballet Russes production of “The Rite of Spring” as a personal favor but in the end when the project had been completed Chanel had taken a huge financial loss.

The first real relationship that Chanel entered into after the death of Capel was with the French poet, Pierre Reverdy.  Chanel and Reverdy were together from 1921 to 1926 and afterwards they went their separate way they were still able to maintain a forty year friendship.  Reverdy became a great mentor for her and he is largely credited for writing many of Chanel’s published statements.

Coco Chanel 1920 - 2

Chanel continued to find professional fulfillment in her fashion designs but throughout the years was still constantly looking for ways to expand her business.  In 1922 she was introduced to Pierre Wertheimer, the director of the Bourgeois perfume and cosmetics company through her connections to Theophile Bader.  Chanel worked with Ernest Beaux, a Russian-French perfumer to create the chemical formula for a special fragrance.  At that time upper class women wore traditional perfumes made from the pure essence of a single flower while ladies of the lower class wore more sensual perfumes made from animal musk.  Chanel No. 5, which was sold exclusively in the Chanel stores, was a combination of the two different scents perfectly blended for the new modern women of the 1920s.

After entering into the agreement with Wertheimer and Bader, a separate company was created called Parfums Chanel.  The arrangement was that Wertheimer would receive seventy percent, Bader would receive twenty percent and Chanel would have the remaining ten percent but she would have no involvement in the actual running of the business.  Years later, Chanel realized her error in being “tricked” into such a low percent of the company when the profits of the sale of the perfume reached nine million dollars annually.  She was also concerned that the original formula for Chanel No. 5 had been altered and was being produced inexpensively with inferior ingredients to meet the high consumer demands.  It would take twenty years of legal battles to finally reach a settlement and a new arrangement was agreed upon paying Chanel retroactive outstanding profits not paid to her and also increasing her percentage of the future profits, her earnings from Chanel No. 5 sales would be almost twenty-five million dollars annually.

In the mid-1920s, Chanel was introduced to Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster while on a trip to Monte Carlo.  This would be her opportunity to enter into the privilege world of the British nobility moving in the same circles as Winston Churchill and Edward, the Prince of Wales.  Chanel and the Duke quickly became romantically involved and he set her up in an apartment in the prestigious area of London known as Mayfair.  The Duke lavished Chanel with extravagant jewels and expensive gifts and paintings.  In 1927, the Duke gave Chanel the deed to land that he had purchased on the French Riviera.  A charming villa was built on the property and she named it La Pausa which translated as “restful pause”.  When planning her new home Chanel had included the architect included features inspired by Aubazine, the convent where she spent her childhood.  The love affair of Chanel and the Duke lasted ten years and during that time the Duke introduced her to Edward, the Prince of Wales.  The Prince and Chanel enjoyed a brief flirtation but he was destined for another romance that would eventually cost him the throne of England.

Coco Chanel 1931

In 1931 Chanel met Samuel Goldwyn, the famous Hollywood movie studio owner, through an introduction by her longtime friend, the Grand Duke Pavlovich.  Goldwyn would eventually hire Chanel to design costumes for MGM.  She traveled twice a year to Hollywood but, despite the fact that she was paid an exorbitant salary, she disliked the work and her fashion designs did not translate well on the movie screen.  Chanel went on to design costumes for several French films but these projects were temporary work and her fashion design business remained her major focus.

On a personal level, Chanel had associated herself with a group of elite members of the Parisian art world; one of those was her good friend Misia Sert.  It was said that this bohemian group was known to be right-wing politics and they were also known to be sexually provocative and emotionally unstable probably fueled by their drug addictions.  French illustrator, Paul Iribe, was one of the members of this group and Chanel and Paul soon became romantically involved.  The couple was together from 1931 until Iribe’s death in 1935.  During that time Chanel collaborated with Iribe on designs for a jewelry collection featuring diamond set in platinum which was commissioned by the Guild of International Diamond Merchants, the exhibition of the jewelry drew large crowds.  Chanel was to become Iribe’s muse and her image appeared in several of his published drawings throughout the years.

By 1935, the House of Chanel had become a very prosperous business that employed four thousand people but a year later, everything changed with the onset of World War II, Chanel closed several of her stores and 3,000 employees were let go during the general labor strike.  Even though Chanel retained her apartment above the store on 31 rue Camdon, during the German occupation of France, Chanel choose to live at the Hotel Ritz.   Most citizens of Paris fled with the invasion of France by the Germans, so it seemed an unusual choice for Chanel to remain in the occupied city living at the Ritz where several German military officers had move into.  Years later there has been some documentation that proves that Chanel was possibly working with the Germans as a Nazi spy during the war.  When charges were brought against Chanel it is said that Wintson Churchill intervened on her behalf and the charges were dropped without further inquiry.

Coco Chanel - pearls 1

In 1945, after World War II had ended, Chanel moved to Switzerland where she stayed until 1954 but before returning to Paris, Chanel sold her French Riviera villa.  With her personal life in order, Chanel decided to revive her professional career.  The world of fashion had drastically changed and the industry was dominated by men, such as Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.  But once again, Chanel thought that the 1940s style of padded shoulder jackets and tight waisted skirt and dresses were impractical and very restrictive for women to wear and she was inspired to design again.  Oddly, Chanel’s new venture back into fashion and the reestablishment of the House of Chanel was financed by an old enemy, Pierre Wertheimer.


In 1954, when Chanel’s new fashion line debuted there was very limited favorable response for most of Europe, this could possibly be attributed to the stories because of Chanel’s association with Nazis but it did not stop the British and American customers from favoring her collection.  It was during this time that Chanel designed some of her most iconic fashions, such as the classic Chanel two piece day suits made in tweed and fully lined that is still very popular today.

Chanel dress sketch 2

By 1971, Chanel had grown noticeably disagreeable and sometime hostile to her employees and was generally unhappy in her professional life.  She also felt very lonely in her personal life and had been without a male companion for several years.  On the day before she died, she had been working on her Spring fashion collection and when she returned from a long drive she was feeling very ill.  The next morning, January 9, 1971, she died of natural causes at the Hotel Ritz, she was 87 years old.  Coco Chanel is buried in the Bois de Vaux Cemetery in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Chanel grave

For more information a fun craft post including a list of supplies and instructions, please click on the link to Chanel-Inspired Shadowbox.

Celebration – The Order of the Garter Ceremony

Order of the Garter - garter and star

In a previous Travel post, I discussed detailed information about the history and the architecture of St. George’s Chapel located in the Lower Ward at Windsor Castle.  St. George’s Chapel is dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of the Order of the Garter. The Chapel is where the traditional Garter Ceremony takes place annually in mid-June, the first Monday of Ascot week which has become known as Garter Day.

In this post, I will start with the history of the Order of the Garter and then more detailed information about the Garter Ceremony and finally a description of the distinctive vestments and accessories wore by the Knights of the Order and the elaborate decorations within the Knights stalls in St. George’s Chapel.

The History of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

The Most Noble Order of the Garter was first established by King Edward III in 1348 (historical records could possibly indicate that the order was founded four years earlier) and is the oldest and the highest British order of chivalry.  The Order is considered the third most prestigious honor to receive; the other two are the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.

From the time the Order was first established and for almost two centuries thereafter the Sovereign and the Knights of the Garter would annually gather for three days at Windsor Castle and in particular St. George’s Chapel.   Then, from 1674 to 1805, the Order began to gather for a short amount of time and the ceremony and celebrations were drastically limited to a one day event.  Eventually, the venue was changed from Windsor Castle to London and the members only gathered for the investitures.

Then in 1948, King George VI requested that the Knights of the Order would once again formally gather annually at Windsor Castle followed by a religious service at St. George’s Chapel.  Throughout the previous centuries, the government had advised the selection of the Order’s members but King George VI implemented that the Sovereign would personally select any additional members.  Previously, members of the Garter were exclusively limited to the British aristocracy but today the Garter Knights have been drawn from members of the British Royal Family, former Prime Ministers of the British government or foreign Monarchs.  Currently the membership of the Order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales and 24 additional members.

Since the Order of the Garter was established there have been approximately 990 Garter Knights.  Today, members of the Order are entitled to use the title of “Sir” before their names and they are also able to add the letters K.G. to indicate Knight of the Garter after their names.  For a current list of the Knights of the Order of the Garter which includes the several members of the Royal Family; please click on the link:

Order of the Garter members 1

Historical Note: Over the past centuries, a few Garter Knights have been degraded in status or removed from the order.  One important reason would this would have occurred was when a Knight committed treason against the Sovereign.  Between 1387 and 1716 there were over twenty Knights removed although six of those were later reinstated.  During World War II, Emperor Hirohito of Japan and King Emmanuel III of Italy’s banner, crests and swords were removed from St. George’s Chapel.  In 1945, when Winston Churchill was voted out of the Conservative party, was offered the position as Knight of the Order for the first time and famously refused.  Later, he stated “I cannot accept the Order of the Garter from the King (George VI) after the British people have given me the Order of the Boot”!!  Then in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II offered him the position again he graciously accepted and became a Knight of the Order of the Garter.

Annually on St. George’s Day, April 23, if there are any new members being added to the Order a public announcement is made; St. George is the patron saint of the Order.  Then, in mid-June, on Garter Day, a formal investiture of new members is performed by the Queen in the Garter Throne Room at Windsor Castle.  The members would be dressed in the full robes of the Order which would include the mantle and the velvet hat with the white feathers.  (There will be more information on the Order of the Garter vestments and accessories later in this post)

After the investiture ceremony, a long procession led by the Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle, followed by the Military Guards of Windsor and the Queen with the Knights of the Order of the Garter walk from the Upper Ward of Windsor Castle to the Lower Ward and St. George’s Chapel for a religious service of thanksgiving and the installation of any members.  Afterwards, the current Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh host a luncheon for the Knights of the Order.

Travel Note:  When planning a trip to Windsor Castle or St. George’s Chapel, please be advised that both are closed to visitors on Garter Day.  If visitors are interested, a limited number of tickets, maximum of four tickets, are available for the public to watch the procession from Windsor Castle to St. George’s Chapel.  Requests for tickets can be made from January 1 to March 1 each year at the following email address:

Order of the Garter vestments and accessories

When the Knights of the Order of the Garter dress for ceremonial events, the members wear special vestments and accessories.  Each of these items are listed below:

The Garter

The distinctive symbol of the order is a dark blue garter with the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (“shame on him who thinks evil of it”) written in gold lettering.  The origin of the garter used in connection with the Order could be a reference to the small piece of cloth was used to attach the armor of the knights and it makes perfect sense that the organization used the symbol of the garter to represent the Knights of the Order bond together.  The Knights customarily wear the garter attached beneath the left knee and the Ladies of the Order wear it below their left elbow but in either case the garter is wore infrequently except for formal occasions and ceremonies.

Order of the Garter  - garter

The material used for the garter can vary from blue velvet trimmed in diamonds or blue silk embroidered in gold.  The Queen rarely used the Garter and over the years two notable exceptions have occurred when she wore it on her visits to the Vatican in 1961 and 1980.

Order of the Garter  - Queen Elizabeth wearing garter at Vatican

The Garter Mantle

The Knights of the Order of the Garter have been wearing a robe or mantle (a loose-fitting cloak) in some form or fashion for centuries.  Originally the cloth used for the mantle was wool and the color was purple but over the years it has changed and the current material is dark blue velvet lined with white taffeta.  The mantles used by the Sovereign (Queen Elizabeth II) and those of the Prince of Wales and other Royal Knights and Ladies are different in the fact that their mantles end with a train.  On the left breast of the Knight’s mantle is the heraldic shield of St. George’s Cross which is encircled by the Garter, the Queen’s mantle has the Garter Star of the Order.  On the right shoulder is a dark red velvet hood and surcoat (an outer garment most commonly worn during in the Middle Ages).  The mantle has elaborate cords used for closure with white ribbons at the shoulders and the Garter Collar with the Great George pendant is pinned and drapes across the front.

Order of the Garter  - mantle and bonnet

The Garter Hat or Tudor Bonnet

Worn with the mantle is the Garter Hat or Tudor Bonnet (a traditional soft crowned round brimmed cap).  This unusual hat is made of black velvet and trimmed with the plume of white ostrich and black heron feathers.  Attached to the hat is a badge of the heraldic shield of St. George which is encircled by the Garter of the Order.

Order of the Garter  - Queen Elizabeth Garter hat

The Garter mantle and the hat are worn by the Knights of the Order only for ceremonial events such as the annual Garter Day service at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in mid-June.  One exception when the Garter mantle and hat are worn is for formal portraits or photographs.

(Shown below are the formal portraits of King George V and Queen Elizabeth II)

    Elizabeth II - Garter Robe

The Garter Collar

The Collar worn by the Knights of the Order of the Garter dates back to the 15th century and today it is worn attached to the shoulders and draped across the front of the mantle.  The Collar features alternating golden knots and red enameled Tudor rose encircled by the garter medallions joined together with gold links and attached to the Collar is the Great George pendant.

Order of the Garter  - collar and the George

The Garter Star

The Garter Star is another item worn by the Knights of the Order and it is worn on the left breast.  It was first included in the vestments of the Order in the 17th century under the reign of King Charles I.  The Garter Star is an eight-point silver badge; each point is depicted as the rays of the sun with the four longer ones indicating the directional points of a compass.  In the center of the Star is an enamel version of the Heraldic shield of St. George’s Cross which is encircled by the Garter of the Order.

The Queen’s Garter Star was given to her as a gift from her father King George VI, in 1947 when she was invested into the Order.  The Queen’s Garter Star is simply magnificent and is set with diamonds.

Order of the Garter  - star

The Garter Riband

The Garter Riband is a 4 inch wide sash which is customarily worn pinned from the left shoulder across the body to the right hip.  The Riband was first included in the vestments in 17th century during the reign of King Charles I.  Throughout the centuries the color has change from light blue to dark blue.

Order of the Garter  - lesser George

The Lesser George

The Lesser George is worn attached to the riband at the hip.  Like the Greater George which is attached to the Garter Collar, it depicts St. George on his horse slaying the dragon but is much smaller in size and was flatter with fewer dimensions.  Depending on the wearer, the Lesser George can vary in design with enameling and jewels.

The Queen wears a more elaborate Lesser George which had originally belonged to King George IV and was later given by Queen Victoria to her husband and Consort, Prince Albert.  The Queen has also worn another Lesser George which depicts St. George in a cameo style badge which had originally belonged to her father, King George VI, and was also given to her upon her investiture.

Order of the Garter Investiture Ceremony and Garter Service

As previously mentioned in this post, the Order of the Garter hold investitures of new members and participate in a religious thanksgiving service at Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel annually in mid-June on Garter Day.  From 1805 to 1948, the Garter Services had been discontinued but it was eventually revised by King George VI and has since become one of those British ceremonies filled with pomp and circumstances.

When there are new members that are being installed in the Order, they meet in the Garter Throne Room located in Windsor Castle in the morning.  The Sovereign and Knights of the Order gather wearing the vestments and accessories of the Order. The newest member recites the Order of the Garter oath and then the Admonitions (an advice of counsel and warning) are given by a Church prelate or chancellor.  The Knights items of the Order which have been placed on cushions in preparation for the investiture are presented to the Sovereign.  The Sovereign, assisted by several Knights of the Order, ceremoniously gives the items to the newest member.  The Garter is placed around the left leg of the new Knight, the Riband and the Lesser George are placed across their chest, and the Mantle and the Collar are also given at this time.

Windsor Castle - Garter Throne Room

After the investiture ceremony, a long procession led by the Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle, followed by the Military Guards of Windsor and the Queen with the Knights of the Order of the Garter walk from the Windsor Castle to St. George’s Chapel for a religious service of thanksgiving.  Military bands perform during the procession to the Chapel; one is positioned near the Henry VIII Gate and the second near the Henry VII Tower.  The Royal Arms officers dressed in their black knee breaches start the possession.  The next group is led by the newest Knight of the Garter that was just invested in Windsor Castle followed by the established and senior Knights.  Then, the Knights and Ladies of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and Prince William follow next.  Next, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are followed by a group of Yeoman of the Guards wearing their iconic Tudor uniforms.

Garter Day - Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip 1

Finally, the procession arrives at the East Door of St. George’s Chapel and climb the grand steps and into the Nave.  After the procession enters the Quire, the Knights take their place in their assigned stalls.  The service of thanksgiving follows and upon completion, everyone returns to Windsor Castle by carriage or car.  Then, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh host a luncheon for the Knights of the Order in the Waterloo Chamber of the Castle.

Windsor Castle - Waterloo Chamber

The Order of the Garter Heraldry in St. George’s Chapel

Each Order of the Garter Knight is assigned a stall in St. George’s Chapel and their name and coat of arms plate is affixed to the back wall of the stall.  Hanging above the stall are the Knights heraldic banners, carved crowns or cornets or helmets and swords are displayed above the stall.  The items remain throughout the life of the Knight and upon their death the heraldic items are removed from the Chapel but the stall plate remains in place.

St. George's Chapel - Order of the Garter stalls

Order of the Garter - Knights banner & crest    Order of the Garter  - stall plates

Celebration – British Royal Wedding Dresses (Part Two)

In the first of the two part series on Royal Wedding Dresses, I discussed five wedding dresses of the Royal brides from the previous centuries starting with Queen Victoria who had married Prince Albert in 1840 through to the Duchess of Windsor who married the Duke of Windsor in 1937.  In the second part in the series, I will discuss six more recent wedding dresses starting with Princess Elizabeth who married Prince Philip in 1947 (they will be celebrating their 68th wedding anniversary this November) through to the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, who married Prince William in April 2011.

Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress

Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) married Philip Mountbatten (now known as the Duke of Edinburgh) on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London.  At the time of the wedding, World War II had recently ended but due to food and supply shortages coupon rationing was still in effect.  After the engagement was announced, thousands of clothing coupons were received at Buckingham Palace to assist in making a wedding dress fit for a Royal Princess but it was illegal to transfer coupons.  For this reason, the coupons were rightfully returned with a letter from Princess Elizabeth thanking the people for their generosity and thoughtfulness.

Norman Hartnell had been the long standing and favorite designer of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth’s mother, since 1938 and he received the commission to create the wedding dress.  It has been said that Hartnell was inspired by the paintings of Botticelli that he had seen and at the time he thought the wedding dress for Princess Elizabeth was the most beautiful dress he had ever created.  He designed a lovely gown of ivory duchess satin with a fitted bodice and full skirt that extended into a 15 foot train.  The dress and train were elaborately embroidered with garlands of satin appliqued starflowers, roses and wheat created with silk thread, 10,000 seed pearls and crystals.  (Hartnell was also commissioned to create another important dress for Princess Elizabeth who was destined to become Queen of England.  For more information on her coronation dress, please click on the link to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II)

Special Note:  Due to the recent war and the ongoing hostilities with Japan, silkworms from China were used to manufacture the silk for Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress.  After the wedding, the dress was donated to the London Museum but sadly throughout the following years the choice of the silk material has proven to be a poor one and the fabric has severely deteriorated caused by the weight of the heavy embroidery and beading.

Princess Elizabeth wedding 1

To complete the bridal ensemble for her wedding day, Princess Elizabeth wore a white silk tulle veil held in place by the diamond King George III Fringe Tiara.  Unfortunately, while preparing for her wedding day the frame of the tiara broke in half but luckily the royal jeweler was called in to quickly make the repair before the ceremony.  Royal Note: Princess Elizabeth was the first royal bride that wore her bridal veil covering her face.

Fringe Tiara

Princess Elizabeth’s bridal bouquet was made by the local British florist Longmans from three different kinds of British-grown orchids; cattleya, odontoglossum and cypripedium.  Per Royal tradition dating back to Queen Victoria, a sprig of myrtle was picked from the garden at Osborne house and added to the bouquet.

Princess Margaret’s wedding dress

Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon) were married on May 6, 1960 in Westminster Abbey, London.  Since the bride was the sister of the Queen, the wedding was a grand event which was celebrated with the pomp and circumstance that the British are known for and the streets of London were crowded with people that had gathered to see the festivities.

Norman Hartnell, a favorite designer of the Royal family, was commissioned to create Princess Margaret’s wedding dress.  Because of Princess Margaret’s petite figure, the dress was specifically tailored to be simple, sophisticated and classic per the 30 year old bride’s request.  The bodice featured long sleeves with a deep v-neckline, tapered bodice to accent Princess Margaret’s tiny waist.  The full skirt used over 32 yards of silk organza with several layers of tulle underneath.  Because of the fullness of the skirt, Hartnell cleverly designed a split at the back of the skirt to accommodate the confines of the Glass Coach that would take the bride from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey and this little trick prevented the dress from crushing or creasing the material.

Princess Margaret wedding 1

To complete her bridal ensemble, Princess Margaret wore a veil made of tulle and boarded with ivory satin which was secured in place with the beautiful Poltmore Tiara to compliment her high bun hairstyle which was chosen specifically to add height to the petite bride.

Princess Margaret wedding tiara

Royal Note:  Princess Margaret’s wedding dress now belongs to the British Royal Collection.  Also, many years later when her son, Vicount Linley married Serena Stanhope in October 1993, the bride chose a wedding dress style similar to that of Princess Margaret’s dress and she even wore her hair in the same high bun hairstyle which she wore with the Lotus Flower tiara that she had borrowed from her new mother-in-law.


Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales’ wedding dress

Diana Spencer married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981 in St, Paul’s Cathedral in London.  One of the most closely guarded secrets of the royal wedding was Diana’s wedding dress.  Much has been written about the dress which was designed by the David and Elizabeth Emanuel who were relatively unknown at the time.  The famous dress that Diana wore was an ivory silk taffeta gown trimmed with antique lace decorated with 10,000 pearls and sequins, the dress also featured a 25 foot long train.  Unfortunately, when she emerged from the horse-drawn Glass Coach upon arriving at the Abbey the dress looking slightly crumpled because it seems there was too small a space allowed for the voluminous amount of material.  Maybe the designers should have learned from Hartnell clever use of a split in the back of the skirt of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress.  (Special Note: Diana’s wedding dress is currently on display at Althorp House, the ancestral seat of the Spencer family in Suffork, and is part of a special exhibit called “Diana: A Celebration”.  On occasion, the dress sometimes goes on display in a traveling exhibit, most recently it was shown in Australia,  Additional Note: The Exhibit at Althorp was permanently closed in 2013)

Diana wedding bouquet    Diana Wedding 1

To complete her wedding attire, Diana wore the beautiful Spencer tiara, the precious family heirloom was considered her “something borrowed”.  The tiara was originally given to Viscountess Althorp, Cynthia Spencer, who was Diana’s paternal grandmother as a wedding gift.  In 1927, the original tiara was redesigned with additional stones taken from various other jewelry owned by the Spencer estate to create the look of the current tiara.  The tiara is made in gold with diamond scrolls accented with diamond tulip and star flowers set in silver.  (Special Note: The Spencer tiara occasionally goes on display during the summer months at Althorp)

Diana wedding - Spencer tiara

Diana’s bridal bouquet was designed by Longmans Florist; who was the same florist that made the Queen’s bouquet for her wedding in 1947.  Diana’s bouquet was very large cascading style, 42” long and 15” wide.  It was made of fragrant gardenias, stephanotis, freesia, Odontoglossum orchids, lilies of the valley, the Earl of Mountbatten roses, ivy and myrtle.  The Mountbatten roses were used as a tribute to Prince Charles Uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who died tragically in 1979.  The sprig of myrtle was added to the bouquet in keeping with the royal tradition.

(If you are interested in more information about Princess Diana’s wedding dress, I would recommend “A Dress for Diana” by David and Elizabeth Emanuel”)

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York’s wedding dress

The wedding of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew took place on July 23, 1986 at Westminster Abbey.  The designer, Linka Cierach, created a classic dress made from ivory duchesse satin which featured a deeply scooped neckline, fitted bodice, three-quarter length slightly puffed sleeves with bows at the shoulder and a full skirt.  The bodice of the dress was beautifully hand embroidered with intricate beadwork and the 17 foot train featured intertwined A and S initials for the bridal couple, ship anchors to honor Prince Andrew’s naval career and bumblebees and thistles which are symbols used on the Ferguson family crest.

Duchess of York wedding 1

In the months leading up to the wedding day, the press and the public had increasingly commented on Sarah’s fuller figure especially when compared to the much slimmer Princess Diana and for this reason Sarah worked very hard to loose over 25 pounds.  Cierach had created a dress that was perfectly tailored and accentuated Sarah’s smaller waistline.

Duchess of York wedding 2

Sarah wore her red hair in long loose curls and her bridal veil was attached to her head with a floral headpiece when she arrived at the abbey.  She carried a lovely S-shaped bouquet made of gardenias, cream lilies, yellow roses, lilies of the valley and the traditional sprig of myrtle.  Later after the vows and signing the registry, Sarah removed the floral headpiece and exchanged it with a diamond tiara which had been purchased for her from Garrard’s by her new mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth.

Duchess of York floral headpiece    Duchess of York wedding dress closeup 1
Duchess of York wedding tiara

(To best honest, I preferred the Sarah the Duchess of York’s wedding dress when it is compared with the one of Diana the Princess of Wales.  I really liked the more fitted bodice without excessive frills, the choice of satin instead of taffeta and the stylized embroidery and beading which added a distinctive personal touch)

Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall’s wedding dress

Camilla Parker-Bowles married Prince Charles on April 9, 2005 at the Windsor Guildhall, later that same day in St. George’s Chapel there was a religious blessing followed by a formal reception at Windsor Castle.  For the civil ceremony, Camilla wore a cream silk chiffon dress with a matching coat and she wore a Prince of Wales feather brooch attached to the coat lapel.  She also wore a large Philip Treacy cream wide-brimmed straw hat covered with ivory French lace and accented with feathers.  To complete her civil ceremony outfit, Camilla choose to wear L.K. Bennett shoes in an almond shade and a Launer purse made of embossed leather and lined in suede.

Camilla Duchess of Cornwall wedding 1    Camilla Duchess of Cornwall headpiece 1a

For the Church of England blessing in St. George’s Chapel, Camilla wore a Robinson Valentine long pale blue and gold embroidered damask coat over a matching chiffon gown.  To complete her bridal ensemble, Camilla wore an impressive spray of golden feathers also created by Treacy in her perfectly coiffured hair instead of a tiara.

Camilla Duchess of Cornwall wedding 2    Camilla Duchess of Cornwall headpiece 2b

The designers struggled with creating the appropriate dresses and choosing the right accessories for both the civil ceremony and church blessing.  (Personally, I think that the two dress/coat ensembles were the perfect choices and Camilla looked wonderful)

Royal Note: After the official engagement of Prince Charles and Camilla was announced there were many meetings held to discuss the unusual situation of how a previously divorced heir to the throne of England could be remarried.  It had been several decades since the couple had first meet and eventually married other people only to have both those marriages end in very public and scandalous divorces and then sadly having to deal with the tragic death of Princess Diana.  (Personally, I think the civil ceremony and the church blessings were the right choices for the celebrations of the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla)

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress

Catherine (Kate) Middleton and Prince William married on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey.  Kate’s wedding dress, much like Diana’s was almost 30 years earlier, was a closely guarded secret. The dress was designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen.  The beautiful dress was made of satin gazar with a fitted bodice, long sleeves that button at the wrist and the skirt was gathered gently at the waist over slightly padded hips that formed a bustle in the back and a 9 foot train featured lace with a floral design of roses, thistle, shamrocks and daffodil which are the National symbols of the United Kingdom.  The lovely lace was appliqued by hand onto tulle and then applied to the bodice and skirt of the dress.  The stunning dress was instantly compared to that of another royal bride, Princess Grace of Monaco.  (For more information on the other iconic wedding dress, please click on the link The Wedding of Grace Kelly and the Prince Rainier.


In keeping with the bridal tradition of “something old, new, borrowed and blue”, Kate’s bridal attire included the following items:  vintage lace was also incorporated into the dress for “something old” as well as a blue ribbon sewn into the bodice for “something blue”.  The “something new” was a set of earrings especially commissioned by Kate’s parents for her wedding day and the design came from the newly created Middleton family crest.  The earrings were 18 carat white gold and diamonds in the form of curved oak leaves at the top and featured a pave diamond acorn suspended in the center of an oval-shape covered in more diamonds.

Wedding earrings

To complete her bridal attire, Kate wore a veil made of silk tulle which was embroidered with lace and held in place by the Cartier Scroll Tiara, also known as the “Halo” Tiara, which was the “something borrowed” from the Queen.  The tiara was originally purchased in 1936 by the Queen’s father (later King George VI) for his wife (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother).  On the occasion of her 18th birthday, the tiara was given to their daughter (Queen Elizabeth II).  The Queen loaned the tiara to the bride of her grandson, Prince William.  The Halo Tiara has 16 decorative scrolls set with over 800 diamonds and compliments the earrings that Kate selected to wear on her wedding day.

Kate Middleton wedding veil and tiaraCartier Halo Tiara

Finally, Kate carried a bouquet that traditionally “speaks” the Victorian language of flowers.  The bouquet that the florist Shane Connolly created included such flowers as the lily of the valley which represented a return to happiness, Sweet William for gallantry, hyacinth for constancy of love, ivy for fidelity and friendship and lastly the tradition sprig of myrtle that is used in all royal wedding bouquet.


Celebration – British Royal Wedding Dresses (Part One)

Last year I did a four part series on the British Royal Weddings starting several centuries in the past with the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 through to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.  England has always been known for their grand pageantry and traditions especially concerning a Royal wedding.  I remember being very excited to wake up early in the morning to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981; it was the first wedding of the heir to the British throne since Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Phillip back in 1947.  Of course, everyone was anxious to see Diana’s dress made by British dress designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel and it was keep a closely guarded secret until the wedding day.  (For more information on Princess Diana’s wedding dress, please click on Part Two)

In this post, the first of the two part series on Royal Wedding Dresses, I will start with Queen Victoria who married Prince Albert in 1840 through to the Duchess of Windsor who married the Duke of Windsor in 1937.  The Duke, the former King Edward VIII, had abdicated in 1936 amid scandal and disastrous worldwide publicity.  I know normally Wallis Simpson is not included when discussing the British Royal family but she was known for her great fashion style and for this reason there is a brief description of her wedding dress at the end of this post.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on February 10, 1839 in the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace.  It has been said that Queen Victoria started a bridal custom of wearing a white or ivory wedding gown.  Prior to that time royal brides wore elaborate dresses made especially for the occasion from gold or silver fabric sometimes embroidered with silken threads and embellished with semi-precious stones to show their wealthy status.  Ordinary brides of the working class wore their “best dress” usually made in a dark and durable material.

Queen Victoria wedding dress

Queen Victoria wedding dress closeup bodice    Queen Victoria wedding dress closeup sleeve

Queen Victoria wore a white satin dress which featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt.  The bodice had a round neckline with a pointed waist decorated with piping and short full sleeves trimmed with Honiton lace that gathered into double puffs.  The skirt was gently gathered at the waist into deep pleats and featured a court train that measured 18 feet in length that had a border of orange blossom sprays that matched the head wreath that Queen Victoria wore on her head to secure a square Honiton lace veil.  Orange blossoms were a wedding tradition often worn to symbolize fertility and purity.

VictoriaRoyal Note:  Queen Victoria continued to wear her bridal veil long after her wedding day and she wore it for the christenings of her nine children with the exception of her eldest son, Prince Albert (later King Edward VII), when she wore her Garter robes to mark the grand occasion of the christening of the heir to the British throne. She also wore it for the marriage ceremonies of two of her children, eldest daughter Victoria’s wedding in 1858 and her youngest son Leopold’s wedding in 1882, and also for the wedding of her grandson George’s (later King George VI) wedding in 1893.  Queen Victoria’s youngest child, daughter Princess Beatrice, was given the distinct honor of wearing the Queen’s bridal veil for her own wedding in 1885.  Queen Victoria wore her bridal veil one final time in 1897 for her official photograph on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee and when she died in 1901 her request was to be buried with her wedding veil.

To complete her bridal ensemble, Queen Victoria wore a necklace and earrings set made from Turkish diamonds.  In 1838, almost two years prior to her wedding, the Queen received several diamonds as a gift from the Sultan of Turkey.  These diamonds were made into a necklace and earrings set by the Royal Jewelers, Rundells and Bridge.  The necklace features several diamond rosettes on a strand made of even more diamonds.  The earrings were made in a similar style and were considered quite heavy to wear.  Records indicate that upon her death in 1901, the set was given to her son, the Duke of Connaught.  Unfortunately, the set is no longer a part of the Royal Collection and has since disappeared with its whereabouts unknown.

Also, on her wedding day, Queen Victoria also received another significant piece of jewelry, a beautiful sapphire and diamond brooch which she wore attached to the bodice of her wedding dress.  The brooch was a wedding gift from Prince Albert and after her death it became the personal property of the British crown and, on special occasions it is still currently being worn today by Queen Elizabeth II.  (For information on this item of historical jewelry and a brief description of the brooch, please on the link to The Queen’s Personal Jewel Collection)

Special Note:  Queen Victoria’s wedding gown is preserved and is now part of the British Royal collection and was most recently put on display at Kensington Palace in 2012.  It is doubtful as to whether the dress will be further exhibited due its fragile condition.  The wedding dresses of the additional Royal brides mentioned in this post, with the exception of the Duchess of Windsor’s dress, are also part of the British Royal collection which were also displayed at Kensington Palace in 2012.  Hopefully, these historical fashions will be exhibited again in the near future.

Princess Alexandra of Denmark’s wedding dress

Princess Alexandra of Denmark married Prince Albert the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on March 10, 1863 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  At the time the Royal court was still in mourning after the unexpected death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert in December 1861. The strict rules that dictated the mourning customs of the time meant that the royal court was required to wear shades of grey, lilac or mauve.  Queen Victoria, who was devastated by the death, wore a black dress for the wedding and wearing black is something that she continued to do for the remainder of her life.  She also refused to take part in the ceremony and watched from a secluded area in the St. George Chapel.

Princess Alexandra

The exception to the mourning custom was the elaborate ivory silk taffeta wedding gown worn by the eighteen year old bride, Princess Alexandra, which was made by Mrs. James who worked out of her design studio in Belgravia.  The dress featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt which had an overlay of Honiton lace with a design that incorporated roses, shamrocks and thistles designs which were symbols of England, Ireland and Scotland.  The skirt featured a 21 foot train of antique silver moiré which was carried by the eight bridesmaids as the Princess entered St. George’s Chapel on her wedding day.  The dress was also trimmed with orange blossoms and the Princess also wore a white Honiton lace veil that was secured on her head by a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle.

To complete her bridal ensemble, Princess Alexandra wore a diamond necklace and matching earrings which were complimented by a pearl and diamond brooch worn on the bodice of her wedding dress.  The jewelry was presented to her before her wedding day as a gift from her husband, Prince Albert the Prince of Wales.  The Queen gave her an opal and diamond bracelet.

Princess Mary of Teck’s wedding dress

On July 6 1893 Princess Mary of Teck married Prince George (later King George V) in the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace.  Princess Mary had been previously engaged to Prince Albert, the brother of Prince George.  Sadly, Prince Albert died suddenly of pneumonia on January 14, 1892 and, concerned about the line of succession, Queen Victoria strongly encouraged her grandson, Prince George, to marry his deceased brother’s former fiancé who the Queen had become very fond of.

Because Prince Albert had died only a few weeks before their anticipated wedding, Princess Mary had already had her dress made and obviously after the tragedy, due to the emotions involved, it could no longer be worn.  After a period of mourning, Princess Mary and Prince George had spent an increasingly amount of time to together grieving the loss of Prince Albert.  The Royal couple soon fell in love, became engaged and a wedding date was set.  Of course, a new bridal dress was needed and one was created by British designer Arthur Silver.

On her wedding day, Princess Mary wore an ivory silk satin dress accented with a design of roses, shamrocks and thistles in silver thread.  In keeping with the tradition set by Queen Victoria and later by Princess Alexandra, the entire bridal dress was made by English manufacturers.  The dress also featured Honiton lace and garlands of orange blossoms.

Mary of Teck wedding 1    Mary of Teck wedding dress 1

The Princess wore a small veil made of Honiton lace which was borrowed from the bride’s mother, Princess Mary Adelaide the Duchess of Teck, and had been worn previously on her wedding day in 1866.  To attach the veil to the back of Princess Mary’s head a set of diamond Rose of York pins were used to secure it in place, the generous gift from Queen Victoria. To complete her bridal ensemble the bride also wore a diamond necklace from Prince George’s parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales and a diamond tiara from Queen Victoria and finally diamond earrings and brooch from her groom, Prince George.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon ’s wedding dress

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married Prince Albert (late King George VI) on April 26, 1923 in Westminster Abbey located in London.  Elizabeth’s wedding dress was designed by Madame Handley Seymour, the former London court dressmaker to Queen Mary.  The dress was a simple medieval style made from ivory chiffon moiré which featured a square neckline with a bodice that was cut straight to the waist and decorated with horizontal silver lame panels that were heavily gold embroidered with pearl and paste beads.  The front of the skirt was gently gathered at the waist and had a vertical silver lame panel that was also decorated with more gold embroidery edged with pearl and paste beads.  The back of the skirt extended into a separate train that spread to 80 inches wide and a second train of green tulle that flowed from the shoulders.   Superstition of the time suggests wearing green on a wedding day would bring the bride bad luck, but Elizabeth choose to disregard the old custom.  (One unfortunate note to make, is that the 1920s style of her wedding dress did not really complement the short and fuller figure of Elizabeth and would have better suited a taller and slimmer women)

York Wedding

Lady Elizabeth wore an antique ivory veil made of Flanders lace veil and secured in place on her head with a simple wreath of myrtle leaves with a cluster of white York roses and white heather positioned on either side of her head.  The veil was presented to the bride from her future mother-in-law, Queen Mary, to wear on the wedding day.  For the bride’s “something old”, a piece of Brussels lace said to be a Strathmore family heirloom, was added to the wedding dress.  The lace had been originally used on the ballgown of a relative.  To complete the bridal ensemble, Elizabeth’s shoes were made from ivory silk moiré and embroidered with silver roses.

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor’s wedding dress

In less than a year after his abdication, the exiled Edward the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson on June 3, 1937 at the Château de Candé located in France.  Wallis had always been known for her high fashion style and her bridal dress was destined to became one of the most photographed and most copied dresses of that time.

The designer of the dress was an American named Main Rousseau Bocher, who became known in the fashion industry as Mainbocher, and he was working in Paris at the time of the marriage.  Since this would be the Duchess’ third and final marriage, the dress was made in a beautiful light shade of periwinkle blue.  It has been said that the color was specifically chosen to match the Duchess’ eyes and it would later become her signature color called “Wallis blue”.  The bridal dress was made of silk crepe and featured a long slim skirt that slightly flared at the bottom and a long sleeve jacket with a high collar, soft gathering below the bust line and a button closure.

Duchess of Windsor wedding 1    Duchess of Windsor wedding 2

The Duchess wore blue silk crepe gloves which were specifically designed to match the dress and also to accommodate her large engagement ring.  She wore blue leather shoes made by a company called Georgette.  On her head, she wore a blue straw hat made by Caroline Reboux which was accented with coq feathers and blue tulle which unknowingly created an image of a halo.  (Special Note: In 1950, the Duchess donated the entire bridal ensemble to the Metropolitan Museum located in New York City.  Unfortunately, over the years the dress has lost the lovely blue color because of the defective dye used in making the material)

Prior to their marriage, the Duke of Windsor was known to generously lavish the Duchess with extravagant jewelry.  On her wedding day, the bride wore a Van Cleef & Arpels Art Deco brooch featuring oval sapphires and baguette diamonds which the Duchess wore attached at the neckline of her dress.  She also wore two important pieces of jewelry, on one wrist she wore the large Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire and diamond bracelet which had been engraved with the words, “For our contract 18.V.37” to commemorate the civil ceremony that was so important to the couple.  On her other wrist she wore a Cartier bracelet that featured crosses set with precious gemstones, each charm was engraved with special engraving noting various special occasions over the years.  (If you are interested in more information about the Duchess of Windsor’s Jewelry Collection, please click on the link)