Excitement is mounting as the UK prepares to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the 19th May. People up and down the country are planning their parties, getting ready to welcome the American actress into the Royal Family.
To help get everyone in the mood, we are exploring the stories of six famous Royal brides, from Queen Victoria through to Kate Middleton.
We present to you: six Royal brides all looking radiant, regal and beautiful…
For her wedding to her beloved Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Queen Victoria wore a dress made by Mrs Mary Bettans (her personal dressmaker) and shocked everyone because it was white. Prior to that dresses had been gold, silver or any other colour for that matter. Yes! It was Queen Victoria who started the trend for white wedding dresses. It was also the Queen’s wish that the bridal outfit was made from materials of British manufacture, so the satin for the gown was purchased from Spitalfields, East London, and it was trimmed with hand-made lace from Honiton, Devon. Orange blossom was used to make a garland for her headdress and small sprays of the flower also decorated the front of the dress.
The day of the wedding, 10th February 1840, was very wet and very windy but this did not deter the thousands of people who had turned out to see the bridal procession from Buckingham Palace to St James’s Royal Chapel, where the marriage took place.
All future Royal brides would have a sprig of myrtle in their wedding bouquet. Queen Victoria was given a myrtle bush by Prince Albert’s grandmother which they had planted in the garden at Osborne House, their home on the Isle of White, and it thrived. When their first daughter Princess Victoria married, a sprig from this plant was incorporated into her bouquet, and the rest as they say is history.
HRH Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother)
When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother) married the Duke of York (later King George VI) on 26th April 1923, her dress, created by Madame Handley Seymour, dressmaker to Queen Mary, was described by The Times as the simplest ever made for a Royal wedding. Believed to be inspired by the style of Coco Chanel, the bodice was straight cut and the skirt gently pleated at the waist. It was made from chiffon moiré and decorated with silver beading. The outfit was completed with a matching Point de Flandres lace veil, with sprigs of myrtle and roses attached to the sides, complemented by a bouquet of roses and lily of the valley. On entering Westminster Abbey, Lady Elizabeth paused to lay her bouquet on the tomb of the unknown warrior in honour of the war dead, and this would be the start of another tradition for Royal brides.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll
The wedding of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) to Prince Phillip brought excitement and joy to post war Britain, as it was a cause for the whole nation to celebrate. Her Majesty’s dress and those of her bridesmaids were made by a young Norman Hartnell, a publican’s son from Streatham and a talented couturier to the Queen Mother. He had taken inspiration from Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ for the brides’ dress. It was made of silk, with a 15-foot train decorated with white roses in padded satin, and corn in diamanté and pearl embroidery. The outfit was completed with a long tulle veil held in place by a diamond tiara, and a bouquet of white orchids, supplied by the worshipful company of gardeners, with the traditional added sprig of myrtle.
Wearing an outfit ‘fit for a Queen,’ the young princess travelled along The Mall in the Irish State Coach to Westminster Abbey, where the route was lined by more spectators than ever before.
HRH Princess Margaret
When Princess Margaret married talented photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, she too hired the designer Norman Hartnell to make her dress. It was a simplistic white dress made from diaphanous silk with a fitted bodice and full skirt. The outfit was completed with a long waterfall effect sheer veil, a diamond tiara and a bouquet of mini orchids, stephanotis, lily of the valley and of course a sprig of myrtle.
The wedding at Westminster Abbey was the first Royal wedding to be televised, and wow! With her breath-taking good looks, what a great choice.
Diana Princess of Wales
In 1981 the whole world went ‘Diana crazy’. The wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral was broadcast by over 80 media companies around the world.
The designers David and Elizabeth Emmanuel were hired and inspired to make the dress of fairy tales. Made from ivory silk with a full skirt, a 25-foot train, and full of flounces, frills, lace, mother of pearl, sequins and layers of petticoats, it did not disappoint. Complemented by a matching ivory silk tulle veil secured by the Spencer family diamond tiara, Diana looked every bit the fairy tale princess.
Diana’s cascade bouquet made by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners weighed almost 3 kilos and consisted of ivy, lily of the valley, freesia, stephanotis and gardenia (it must have smelt divine) – plus, you guessed it, the sprig of myrtle.
The Duchess of Cambridge
In 2011 Kate Middleton married her friend from university, HRH Prince William, at Westminster Abbey. In the media frenzy it was declared “a fashion moment” by a BBC commentator, as the country tuned in to get a look at ‘the dress’ of the pretty young lady who is now the Duchess of Cambridge.
Designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, Catherine’s dress was made of ivory satin with a full skirt and train just under 9 feet long. The bodice, boned and covered in lace, was hand worked by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace using a technique originating in 19th century Ireland. It was complemented with a hand embroidered silk tulle veil, held in place by a Cartier halo diamond tiara lent to her by the Queen – it had been a present from her own mother for her 18th birthday.
Catherine carried a bouquet containing lily of the valley, sweet william and the traditional myrtle. Again, in accordance with the tradition started by Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), the bouquet was placed on the tomb of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey.
And now we have another Royal wedding to look forward to when HRH Prince Harry marries beautiful bride to be Meghan Markle. What will she wear? Who will create it? Undoubtedly, she is going to look sensational, but at the moment we know very little. What we do know is the when and the where: 19th May 2018, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Why not let one of our guides take you for a sneak peek of the venue, via the couple’s home in Kensington Palace?
Blog By Paula