Celebration – British Royal Weddings (Part 4)

To conclude the four part series on British Royal Weddings are two of the most famous weddings in recent history.  The first was the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and it became known as the “wedding of the century”.  The second was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 which also captured the world’s attention almost 30 years later.  Both weddings were equally grand and filled with the traditions, customs and spectacular pageantry that make British royal weddings so wonderfully unique.

Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer (later the Princess of Wales)

Date and location:  July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Prince Charles and Diana Wedding 2    Prince Charles and Dian Wedding 1

For several years prior to Prince Charles wedding there had been much speculation as to whether the long time bachelor would ever settle down.  Then in 1980, Lady Diana Spencer caught the attention of the Prince and quickly after a six month courtship he proposed to her and their engagement was officially announced on February 24, 1981 at Buckingham Palace.  This occasion was the first time the world saw Diana’s stunning engagement ring, which was a large oval 12 carat blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds and in white gold setting.

Since it was the wedding of the heir to the British throne, it took an extensive amount of preparations for the state occasion.  St. Paul’s Cathedral was selected as the site for the ceremony instead of Westminster Abbey because it would hold the 3,500 guests. Royal Note: Westminster Abbey had been the site of many royal weddings over the past decades; most notably Prince Charles’ grandparents, Prince George (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and his parent’s, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Prince Phillip in 1947.  (For more information of these two weddings, please click on the link to Part Three of the British Royal Wedding series

On the wedding day of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, over two million people lined the parade route from Buckingham Palace and Clarence House to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also, as with most high profile events, security was a major concern and over 4,000 police officers with an additional 2,000 military officers were on duty. There was an estimated 750 million people worldwide that watched the wedding ceremony.

At St. Paul’s Cathedral, crowned or elected heads of state from around the world and all the representatives from the British Commonweaths had gathered.  Prince Charles arrived from Buckingham Palace in the State Landau accompanied by his brother, Prince Andrew. Of course, the last to arrive was Diana who was traveling from Clarence House with her father, the Earl of Spencer, in the grand Glass Coach.  Then, after a brief moment to compose herself and have the dress designers straighten her wedding dress, Diana and her father walked down the nave to the altar.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, presided over the traditional Church of England wedding service.  In the months leading up to the wedding date, the bridal couple had choose to omit the word “obey” from the vows, this had caused much controversy and also received worldwide media coverage since this was the first time it had been done for a Royal wedding.

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 on her wedding day 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.  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. (Special Note: Diana’s wedding dress and the Spencer Tiara are displayed at Althorp House, the ancestral seat of the Spencer family in Suffork, during the summer months as part of a special exhibit called “Diana: A Celebration”)

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.

Diana's wedding bouquet 1

After the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, Prince Charles and Princess Diana traveled to Buckingham Palace from St. Paul’s Cathedral in the State Landau for an intimate wedding breakfast attended by only 120 guests.  Photographs of the couple, the bridal party and the immediate family were taken in the grand Throne Room before Prince Charles and Princess Diana made the traditional appearance on the balcony to greet the massive crowd gathered at the front of Buckingham Palace which cheered wildly as the bridal couple walked onto the balcony and their spontaneously kiss was the first for a British Royal wedding!!

Later in the afternoon of the wedding day, Prince Charles and Princess Diana rode once again in the State Landau traveling from Buckingham Palace to Waterloo Station. Upon arriving at the station, the Royal Train was waiting to take the bridal couple to the Mountbatten home, Broadlands, to start their honeymoon.  (Royal Note: this was also where Prince Charles’ parents spent their wedding night)  Later, Prince Charles and Princess Diana flew to Gibraltar where they boarded the Royal Yacht, Britannia, to embark on an eleven day Mediterranean cruise and then afterwards they went to Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Sadly, the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana which had started out as a fairytale later turned out to be a very unhappy union.  The couple’s formal separation was officially announced in 1992 and in 1996 the divorce was finalized.  Princess Diana died a year later in 1997 in a car crash in Paris, France.

Prince William to Catherine (Kate) Middleton

Date and location:  April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London

Prince WIlliam and Catherine wedding 1    Prince William and Catherine wedding 2

Another more recent British Royal Wedding that also captured the world’s attention is the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.  Prince William and Kate met at the University of St. Andrews and dated for several years.  The Prince went on to Sandhurst Academy, was commissioned as an officer in the Blues and Royals regiment before transferring to the RAF taking a job as a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot stationed in Angelsey, an island off the coast of Wales.  In October 2010, the Prince proposed to Kate while on a private vacation in Kenya and surprisingly presented her with his mother’s engagement ring.  (Special Note: Prince Harry, the groom’s brother, had inherited the ring after the death of their mother, Diana the Princess of Wales. Several years later when he learned that his brother was to propose to Kate, Prince Harry graciously gave the ring to Prince William)  The engagement was officially announced in November 2010 to the media at St. James Palace.

The wedding was not officially considered a state occasion and for this reason the 1900 people invited to the ceremony were mainly family and friends of the bridal couple but protocol still called for British Commonwealth representatives included as well as members of the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and people from the Prince’s various charities.

On the wedding day, Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry left Clarence House in a Bentley State Limousine to travel to Westminster Abbey. Prince William wore the uniform of an Irish Guard and he wore the Order of the Garter star with his Royal Air Force wings and Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Medal attached to a blue riband. Next, the members of the Middleton family and the British Royal family arrived with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive just before the bridal party.  Kate and her father left the Goring Hotel in a Phantom VI Rolls Royce to travel to the Abbey, they had been staying there in the days leading up to the wedding.  Kate’s sister, Pippa Middleton was waiting at the bottom of the steps of the Abbey to assist the bride into the Abbey, she caused quite a media sensation with her form fitting dress nearly overshadowing the bride!

Like Princess Diana almost 30 years earlier, Kate’s wedding dress, had remained a closely guarded secret prior to the wedding day. The dress was designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen was made of satin that gathered gently at the waist with slightly padded hips that formed a bustle in the back and a 9 foot train.  The stunning dress was instantly compared to that of another royal bride, Princess Grace of Monaco.  (If you are interesting in seeing the wedding dress, please click on the link the Wedding of Grace Kelly and 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.  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, which was the “something borrowed” from the Queen.

On her wedding day, Kate carried a bouquet the florist Shane Connolly created which included such flowers as the lily of the valley, Sweet William, hyacinth, ivy and lastly the tradition sprig of myrtle that is traditionally used in all royal wedding bouquet.  Also in keeping with another Royal tradition, later in the day the wedding bouquet was returned to Westminster Abbey and placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.  (For more information on this tradition started in 1923 by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Prince William’s beloved  great grandmother, please click on the link to Part Three of the British Royal Wedding Series)

For anyone that watched the wedding television broadcast that was shown in over 180 countries, the interior of Westminster Abbey was beautifully decorated with trees placed along the aisle and at the entrance, six English maples were used in the church and two Hornbeam trees were used at the entrance to create a natural archway.  After the ceremony the trees were taken to Prince Charles’ country estate, Highgrove, and planted as a living memorial to mark the wedding.


After the conclusion of the wedding service, the Queen hosted a wedding luncheon reception at Buckingham Palace for approximately 600 invited guests.  In addition to the wedding cake and per Prince William’s request a special groom’s cake was created from chocolate bisquits and made according to a Royal Family recipe which was a favorite dessert when the Prince was a child. As another wedding tradition dictated, the bridal couple appeared on the balcony to greet the waiting crowd gathered in front of Buckingham Palace and they surprised everyone with not one but two kisses!!

The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left the Palace after the wedding luncheon and travel the short distance to Clarence House to relax and change for the evening reception. (Royal Note: The car that the bridal couple drove in was a blue two seat Aston Martin DB6 Volante convertible which had been a gift from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Charles, the groom’s father, on the occasion of his 21st birthday)  Later, 300 invited quests returned to Buckingham Palace for a special private wedding dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales. The event was followed by dancing and finished with a small firework display on the palace grounds.

The Duke and Duchess left on their honeymoon ten days after the wedding, the destination was a secluded villa on a private island in the Seychelles and the time was limited due to Prince William’s RAF duties.

For more information about additional British Royal Weddings, please click of the following links:  Part One – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Part Two – Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck.  Part Three – Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Phillip.

Celebration – British Royal Weddings (Part 3)

In the previous posts of the British Royal Weddings series, I discussed the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 in Part One and the weddings of Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck in Part Two.  In this post, I will discuss the weddings of a father who was unexpectedly made King and his daughter who is the current Queen of Great Britain.  The father was Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and his daughter was Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Prince Phillip.

Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother)

Date and location: April 26, 1923 at Westminster Abbey in London

Prince George and Lady Elizabeth wedding 2

Prince Albert, known to his family as Bertie, was the second son of King George V.  Bertie had fallen in love with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and proposed to her several times over the course of several years but she was very hesitant to accept because she had great misgiving about joining the royal family, but finally she accepted in 1923.  Like all royal marriages, this union needed the approval of the King and the bridal choice was very unusual at the time because normally princes were expected to marry princesses; Elizabeth was not considered royal and she was only the daughter of a British peer.

York Wedding

Upon the announcement of their marriage, the people of Wales presented the bridal couple a rather large nugget of Welsh gold from which Elizabeth’s wedding ring was made.  This same piece of Welsh gold also has traditionally been used to make the wedding rings of several other members of the royal family, such as Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II), Princess Margaret (sister of the current Queen) and Prince Charles (son of the current Queen) and most recently for Catherine Middleton on the occasion of her marriage to Prince William (grandson of the current Queen)

As it has seemed customary for British Royal weddings, the weather was projected for rain but over a million people gathered along the parade route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.  As the invited guests began to arrive, the bells of the Abbey had already been ringing for four hours prior to the start of the service. Shortly before the start of the service the aged but still elegant Queen Alexander, grandmother of the groom, arrived with her sister, Dowager Empress Marie of Imperial Russia.  (Sadly it is her son, Tsar Nicholas II, along with his wife and family who had tragically died six years earlier during the Bolshevik Revolution which brought an end to  the reign of the Romanov Dynasty)

On the morning of the wedding, the twenty-two year old bride departed for Westminster Abbey to meet her twenty-seven year old groom from her family home on Burton Street located near Berkeley Square in London.  The maroon and gold 1920 State landau was pulled by four perfectly matched grey horses and as it arrived at the Abbey the sky cleared and the sun came out casting light through the beautiful stained-glass windows.

Then, prior to the start of the wedding ceremony, an unexpected and spontaneous gesture by Elizabeth was to start a royal tradition that has continued throughout the years.  On her way to the altar, Elizabeth set her bouquet of white roses, lilies of the valley and heather at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is located near the entrance of the Abbey.  She wanted to honor her brother, Fergus, who had died in World War I and she placed the bouquet there in his memory.  Since then, the bouquets of royal brides have traditionally been placed at the tomb with the one exception that is done after the wedding ceremony rather than before.

Lady Elizabeth’s wedding dress was unlike other recent royal brides and it was designed in a simple medieval style made from ivory chiffon moiré designed by Madame Handley Seymour.  The dress 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 antique ivory point of Flanders lace veil was secured 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 from the bride’s future mother-in-law for the bride to wear on the wedding day.

This photograph is for slide/reference use only. Not for reproduction.     Lady Elizabeth's bridal bouquet

After the wedding ceremony, the bridal couple and their guests gathered at Buckingham Palace for a lavish breakfast.  Then the new Duke and Duchess of York left London for an extended honeymoon first in Surrey at Polesden Lacey and then at Glamis Castle, the bride’s ancestral home of the Strathmore family, which is located in Scotland.

The wedding of Prince George and Lady Elizabeth also set another precedence for royal weddings when it was filmed with the footage of the event shown later in theaters throughout the country.  Prior to then, royal weddings were strictly private events and the bridal party was only seen traveling to and from the venue and sometimes there was the occasional public appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after the ceremony.

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten

Date and location:  November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillips wedding 2

Princess Elizabeth meet her future groom when she was just a young girl, she was only 13 years old when she fell madly in love with the dashing naval officer and the two began to exchange letters.  Almost ten years later, in July of 1947, after Princess Elizabeth returned from a long trip to South Africa with her parents their engagement was officially announce to the public.

Princess Elizabeth received a beautiful diamond engagement from Phillip.  The large 3-carat diamond originally came from the tiara that had belonged to Phillip’s mother.  Phillip was personally involved in the designed that also included eleven additional diamonds.

At the time of the Royal wedding, World War II had recently ended two years before but coupon rationing was still in effect.  After the engagement was announced, thousands of clothing coupons were received at Buckingham Palace to assist in making the wedding dress but it was illegal to transfer coupons and they were rightfully returned with a personal letter from Princess Elizabeth thanking them for their thoughtfulness.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillips wedding 1    Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress

Norman Hartnell, the Royal Designer, received the commission to create Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress.  He designed a lovely gown of ivory duchess satin with a fitted bodice and full skirt that extended into a 15 foot train.  Princess Elizabeth completed her bridal attire with white silk tulle veil held in place by the diamond King George III Fringe Tiara.  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.

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.  A sprig of traditional myrtle was picked from the garden at Osborne house and was also added to the bouquet.

On the day of the wedding day Prince Phillip arrived dressed in his naval uniform and accompanied by his cousin David Mountbatten, the Marquess of Milford Haven. The next to arrive at the Abbey were the bride’s mother, Queen Elizabeth and grandmother Queen Mary, then the bride’s eight bridesmaids, including Princess Margaret, who were wearing dresses designed by Hartnell.  Finally, Princess Elizabeth and her father, King George, arrived from Buckingham Palace traveling in the magnificent golden Irish State Coach.  Finally, on the arm of her father, as the trumpets played, they slowly walking down the nave to the altar steps to meet Prince Phillip.  The hour long ceremony included vows from the Book of Common Prayer and per the bride’s request, the service was the same as her parent’s wedding service which happened almost twenty-five years earlier in the same Abbey.

At the conclusion of the service, the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh entered the Chapel of Edward the Confessor to sign the register officially recording their marriage.  King George, Queen Elizabeth and also Queen Mary and Princess Andrew, the groom’s mother, also signed the register.  Immediately following the service the bridal party exited to the sound of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and then their guests went to Buckingham Palace for a grand wedding breakfast. Afterwards, Elizabeth and Phillip left for their honeymoon spent partly at Broadlands, the Mountbatten home located in Hampshire.

The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip set a precedence for royal weddings when it was broadcast live on the radio. (Royal Note: In 1961, the wedding of Princess Margaret (the sister of the current Queen) to Anthony Armstrong-Jones was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on the television)

For more information about additional British Royal Weddings, please click of the following links:  Part One – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.   Part Two – Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck.   Part Four – Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

Celebration – British Royal Weddings (Part 2)

To continue the four part series about the British Royal Weddings, this post will discuss the weddings of two future Kings of England.  The two weddings took place almost 30 years apart and both took place shortly after two tragic deaths in the British Royal family.  The first one was the wedding of Queen Victoria’s oldest son, Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) which took place 15 months after the death of his father.  The second one was the wedding Prince George, the son of King Edward VII and heir to the throne of England, who married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary).  She had been previously engaged to Prince George’s older brother, Albert, who had died rather quickly suddenly from pneumonia in 1892.

Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Date and location:  March 10, 1863 at the St. George Chapel, Windsor Castle

Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra wedding

The wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra came while the Royal court was still in mourning after the unexpected death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert in 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 of her husband, was in deep mourning for the loss of her beloved husband, and she wore a black dress for the wedding, wearing black was 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.

Many years prior to the wedding, Queen Victoria had started the search for a proper bride to calm her mischievous and troublesome son, Prince Albert the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne. With the aid of her eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, they focused their search for a suitable princess and eventually settled on Alexandra of Denmark.  Alexandra was a very timid and humble girl who had led a relatively normal life in Copenhagen, Denmark.  She was tall in height, slim and very beautiful but despite her simple wardrobe she was said to have a wonderful and elegant sense of fashion.  (As Princess of Wales and then later as Queen, Alexandra would ultimately set the clothing style for England during the late Victorian and Edwardian period.  For more information on the subject, please click on the link Queen Alexandra – the Fashion Icon)

Albert and Alexandra were introduced by his sister in September 1861, but unfortunately Albert was only mildly interested.  At the time, Albert had been in military training in Ireland with the Grenadier Guard and he had become romantically involved with an Irish actress named Nellie Clifden.  Albert had moved onto his studies at Cambridge University and the scandalous news was starting to circulate in the royal court.  His father became aware of the disastrous situation and eventually confronted Albert about his improper behavior.  It has been said that while father and son took a long walk in the rain along the streets of Cambridge discussing the situation, his father became gravely ill afterwards and died a short time later.  For this reason, Queen Victoria blamed her son for causing the death of her beloved husband. Although, much later it was proven that he had been suffering from chronic long term stomach problems (possibly abdominal cancer) which were further compromised by his heavy workload causing severe fatigue.

Prince Albert and Princess AlexandraSo, after the death of Prince Albert’s father and a brief period of mourning the wedding date was set and negotiations for the marriage contract were finalized. At the time of the marriage, Prince Albert was 21 years old and he choose his brother-in-law, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia as his best man.  Princess Alexandra was 18 years old and she wore an elaborate ivory silk taffeta wedding gown which featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt that had an overlay of Honiton lace and the skirt featured a 21 foot train of silver moiré.  The dress was 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 diamond and pearl necklace, earrings and brooch that were given to her as a wedding gift from her groom.  She also wore an opal and diamond bracelet which was a gift from Queen Victoria.  The bouquet that she carried on her wedding day was made of white rosebuds, lilies of the valley, rare orchids and the traditional sprig of myrtle.  (For more information about how the tradition of adding myrtle to the bouquets of British Royal brides, please click on the link to British Royal Weddings (Part One)

Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck

Date and location:  July 6, 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace

Prince George and Mary of Teck wedding 1

Princess Mary of Keck had been engaged to Prince Albert, the eldest son of Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) and grandson of Queen Victoria.  Sadly, Prince Albert died suddenly of pneumonia on January 14, 1892.  Queen Victoria was very concerned about the line of succession and was also very fond of Princess Mary.  As a result, she strongly encouraged her grandson, George, to marry his deceased brother’s former fiancé.  (Special Note:  I know it seems very confusing with so many men of the British Royal family to be named Prince Albert but this is something that Queen Victoria insisted on as a way for her descendants to honor her beloved husband!!)

The wedding day for Prince George and Princess Mary was unusually hot but once again the British public gathered along the parade route.  Queen Victoria arrived ahead of the bridal couple dressed solemnly in a black satin dress and wearing the white wedding veil that she had wore on her own wedding day many years earlier, she also wore her unique small diamond crown.  After leaving her carriage she slowly walked the aisle with the aid of a cane to take her seat at the front of the Royal Chapel.  The groom, Prince George arrived dressed in his naval uniform with his almost identical looking cousin, the Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia as well as his father, Prince Albert and his uncle, the Duke of Edinburgh.  The bride, Princess Mary arrived with five children attendants and five bridesmaids.  The bridal party proceeded down the aisle to the music of Lohengrin and the Archbishop of Canterbury performed the ceremony.  Afterwards, the bridal couple kissed Queen Victoria and then proceeded through the streets of London and back to Buckingham Palace for a bridal luncheon.

Prince George and Mary of TeckOn her wedding day, Princess Mary wore an ivory silk satin dress with a long train.  The dress was accented with a design of roses, shamrocks and thistles in silver thread and, in keeping with the tradition set by Queen Victoria and later Princess Alexandra, the entire bridal dress was made by London manufactures.  The dress also featured Honiton lace and garlands of orange blossoms.  The Princess completed her bridal ensemble by wearing a small veil that was previously used by her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide the Duchess of Teck, on her wedding day in 1866.

For the wedding ceremony, the Princess carried a bridal bouquet made entirely of white flowers.  The bouquet included the “York” roses, orchids, lilies of the valley, carnations, orange blossoms and of course the traditional springs of myrtle.

There is a charming story that on the morning of their wedding Prince George had a glimpse of Princess Mary who he saw in the distance at the end on a long corridor in Buckingham Palace.  The Prince gallantly bowed to the Princess and this sweet memory was remembered and cherished for their long lifetime together.  After the wedding, the newly married couple spent their honeymoon at Sandringham which was the Norfolk estate of the groom’s father.  Despite the unusual beginning of their romance after the death of Prince Albert, the couple grew to be very fond of each other and their marriage proved to be a very successful one.

For more information about additional British Royal Weddings, please click of the following links:  Part One – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Part Three – Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Phillip.  Part Four – Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

Celebration – British Royal Weddings (Part 1)

British Royal Weddings have become known over the past centuries for their grand traditions and pageantry.  I remember waking up very early in the morning to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 and most recently the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.  (For more information about these two weddings, please click on the link to the British Royal Weddings Part Four) In this post, I will start a four part series, by discussing the clothes, customs and traditions of British Royal Weddings starting with the wedding of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria wedding

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Date and location: February 10, 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace

Queen Victoria had ascended to the throne in June 1837 and quickly she had been encourage by her favorite Uncle Leopold to marry her second cousin, Prince Albert. On Albert’s second visit to England after the coronation, Victoria soon became smitten with the handsome Albert and because of her royal status as Queen protocol dictated that she was required to propose to him, which she did in June 1839. Shortly thereafter, Victoria called a meeting with her Privy Council and wedding plans were finalized for the beginning of the following year.

The wedding day of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert started with imperfect weather conditions, it was a rainy day with high winds but that did not keep the public from gathering along the procession route to St. James Palace.  Prince Albert arrived ten minutes ahead of his bride wearing the scarlet and white uniform of a British field marshal with the Star of the Garter proudly displayed on his chest.  When Victoria arrived at the Chapel Royal with her twelve bridesmaids she was a wonderful mixture of a composed and regal Queen while still an excited twenty year old bride.   (Later the Queen would give her bridesmaids eagle brooches set in turquoise and pearls as a token of appreciation and to mark their participation in the wedding)

The wedding ceremony started as Albert entered the Chapel and proceeded to the altar while Handel’s “See the Conquering Hero Comes” appropriately played. Victoria walked down the aisle on the arm of her uncle, the Duke of Sussex, who officially gave her away.  It was noted that as the vows were exchanged, Victoria’s eyes filled with tears possibly expressing her deep happiness at marrying her handsome prince and finding her one true and lasting love.

After the ceremony, there was a reception held at Buckingham Palace.  A celebration banquet and the newly married couple cut a massive wedding cake.  The cake was nine feet in circumference, weighed three hundred pounds and was decorated with a Britannia figure depicted with cupids at her feet.  Later, at four o’clock in the afternoon, Victoria and Albert left London for nearby Windsor Castle for a four day honeymoon.

The wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set quite a few precedents and created many royal customs and traditions which are still observed today.  One of the first precedents set was that prior to the wedding of Queen Victoria, most royal weddings were usually celebrated at night, but the Queen decided to break with this custom and her wedding ceremony was held at one o’clock in the afternoon.  Since then, most royal weddings have followed this new Victorian tradition and are generally held in the early to late afternoons.

Another royal tradition was set by Queen Victoria and it has been said that she started a bridal custom of wearing a white 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 wore a white satin dress which featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt which featured a court train that measured 18 feet in length and 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 bridal tradition which were often worn to symbolize chastity and fertility.

Speaking of flowers, Queen Victoria carried a small bouquet of snowdrops which were Prince Albert’s favorite flower.  Legend has it that the myrtle supposedly used in her bridal bouquet has been used by every royal bride since the time of her wedding including most recently by Catherine Middleton when she married Prince William in 2011.  The tradition of the myrtle first started when the Princess Royal Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1958 and continued thereafter for their other four daughters’ weddings.  In fact the myrtle planted during Queen Victoria’s time, that still grows in the garden at Osborne House, did not come from her bridal bouquet but it originally came from a nosegay presented by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Prince Albert’s homeland of Germany several years later.

To complete her bridal ensemble, Queen Victoria wore a necklace and earrings set made from Turkish diamonds.  Also, on her wedding day, Queen Victoria 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 the history of this item of historical jewelry and a brief description of the brooch, please on the link to The Queen’s Personal Jewel Collection)

Queen Victoria wearing her crownTo conclude this post, I have a few last additional notes regarding Queen Victoria’s bridal veil. Queen Victoria continued to wear her bridal veil long after her wedding day.  She wore it for the christenings of her nine children and the weddings of several of her children. Queen Victoria wore her bridal veil for the final time in 1897 for her official photograph on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee.  When she died a few years later in 1901 her request was to be buried alongside her beloved husband, Prince Albert, who was laid to rest almost 40 years earlier in 1861 at Frogmore in the Windsor Great Park.  As a fitting final tribute to him, the Queen also requested the she be buried wearing her wedding veil.

For more information about additional British Royal Weddings, please click of the following links:  Part Two – Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck.  Part Three – Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Phillip.  Part Four – Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and Prince William to Catherine Middleton.