All eyes on May 19, 2018 are on Meghan Markle, and most people want to know: What will her wedding dress look like? Will it deviate from tradition? The Royal Family has a long tradition of royal weddings, of course, and it’s interesting to look back at the dresses worn by women who were – or would become – royalty. To some degree, the Royal wedding dresses mirror the eras in which they were worn. However, they often include an ode to history and tradition.
Here’s a round-up of British Royal Family wedding dresses throughout history, with photos:
One of the most famous English queens, Queen Victoria “dressed simply for her wedding to Prince Albert on 10 April 1840, at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace,” the Royal Family says.
“Her dress was of white satin with a deep flounce of Honiton lace,” according to the Royal Family. “Pinned to the off-the-shoulder neckline was a brooch that Prince Albert had given her as a wedding present: a large sapphire surrounded by diamonds. Her earrings and necklace were also made of diamonds. On her head, instead of the expected coronet of diadem she wore only a wreath of orange blossom and a lace veil.”
Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal
According to The Royal Family, Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal, was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. She “married Prince Frederick of Prussia, later Frederick III, German Emperor and King of Prussia on 25 January 1858 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.”
Princess Victoria’s dress “was made of white Moiré Antique, a fabric with a wavy (watered) appearance, which was decorated with three flounces of Honiton lace,” the Royal Family says. “A flounce is a wide ruffle sewn onto a skirt or sleeve. The lace was decorated with roses, shamrocks and thistles – the emblems of England, Ireland and Scotland.”
Princess Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse. “The muted Royal occasion was reflected in the dress, which was noted as being a ‘half-high dress with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, a veil of the same and a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle. It was a simple style and not embellished with a court train,” the Royal Family says.
Another daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise married the Marquis of Lorne. “Louise’s white silk wedding dress was decorated with national and royal symbols, with deep flounces of flower-strewn Honiton lace, and a short wedding veil of Honiton lace that she designed herself and was held in place by two diamond daisy hair pins presented by her siblings, Princes Arthur, Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice,” according to the Royal Family.
Before there was Princess Beatrice, the daughter of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, there was Beatrice, the daughter of Queen Victoria. She married Prince Henry of Battenberg. “Beatrice’s white satin dress and lace overskirt was trimmed with orange blossom and white heather. Beatrice was a lover of lace – one her most treasured possessions was a tunic of point d’Alençon lace that had belonged to Catherine of Aragon. Queen Victoria allowed Beatrice to wear the Honiton lace and veil that she wore for her own wedding – the only one her daughters that had the opportunity to wear it,” explained the Royal Family.
Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Princess Alexandra of Denmark later became an English queen. She married the Prince of Wales, and the couple later became Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII. “The white silk dress was garlanded with orange blossom and trimmed with Honiton lace in a patriotic pattern of roses, shamrocks and thistles. As a wedding present, Prince Albert gave Alexandra a looped pearl and diamond necklace and earrings with pendant drops,” the Royal Family reveals.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother
Of course, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon would later be known as the Queen Mother. She was the mother of the current queen. She married the future King George VI in the 1920s, so it is not surprising that her wedding dress fit the era. “Her medieval-looking, waistless dress was of ivory silk crepe, with strips of silver lamé embroidered with seed pearls and two trains, one fastened at the hips, the other floating from the shoulders,” the Royal Family website says.
Queen Elizabeth II
When she married, Queen Elizabeth II, the current queen, was Princess Elizabeth. Her husband is now commonly known as Prince Philip. According to the Royal Family, “The rose of York, hand-embroidered in over 10,000 pearls and crystals, was a prominent feature of daughter The Queen’s (then Princess Elizabeth) wedding dress in November 1947. The dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who cited Boticelli’s Painting Primavera, which symbolises the coming of spring, as his inspiration for the design.”
The website adds: “The spreading skirt of ivory Duchesse satin, below a fitted bodice with heart-shaped neckline and long tight sleeves, was embroidered with garlands of roses in raised pearls entwined with ears of wheat in crystals and pearls. Round the full hem a border of orange blossom was appliqued with transparent tulle outlined in seed pearls and crystal.”
Princess Mary of Teck
Princess Mary of Teck also became and English queen. She married the future King George V. “The choice was a simple, elegant white and silver dress. Her train, woven in silver and white brocade, was embroidered with roses, thistles and shamrocks, and her small lace veil fastened with a diamond rose of York,” reported The Royal Family.
Diana, Princess of Wales
Who can forget the ethereal wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales? It might have shattered later, but, at the time, it was a fairy tale. The Royal Family provides the details: “The fitted and boned bodice had embroidered lace panels (the lace had belonged to Queen Mary) and waist, hem and long train were decorated with more lace sparkling with pearls and sequins. Her ivory silk tulle veil, spangled with mother-of-pearl sequins, was held by the Spencer family’s diamond tiara. The pearl and sequin embroidery was repeated on the hand-made ivory silk slippers.”
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, went traditional for her trip down the aisle to marry her prince. “The ivory satin bodice was padded slightly at the hips and narrowed at the waist, and was inspired by the Victorian tradition of corsetry that is a particular Alexander McQueen hallmark. The bodice incorporated floral motifs cut from machine-made lace, which were then appliqued onto silk net by workers from the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. On the back were 58 buttons of gazar and organza, which fasten by means of Rouleau loops,” the Royal Family explains of her dress.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, also got her prince: Prince Edward, son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The Royal Family explained: “was designed by Samantha Shaw and was made of hand-dyed silk organza and hand-dyed silk crepe. It was full-length, with long sleeves and the detail consisted of rows of pearls and crystal beading around the neck, sleeves and train, with further beading down the back and front of the dress-coat. 325,000 cut-glass and pearl beads are sewn on the dress, which was corseted, with a v-neck. The full length veil was one inch longer than the train, and was made from hand-dyed silk tulle, and hand-finished with spotted crystal detail.”