› February 10th, 1840 – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
› March 10th, 1863 – The Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra of Denmark
› July 6th, 1893 – The Prince George and Princess Mary of Teck
› April 26th, 1923 – The Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
› November 20th, 1947 – The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten
› July 29th, 1981 – The Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
›› April 9th, 2005 – The Prince Charles and Camilla (Shand) Parker-Bowles
These moments truly are the stuff of fairytales.
Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton
For their engagement press conference, Kate wore a rich blue dress to compliment her sparkling ring – the iconic sapphire which had previously belonged to William’s mother. The Prince proposed to Kate with the ring while vacationing in Kenya, saying that this was his way of keeping Diana close while they celebrated this special time in their lives. Their wedding was held in the ancient Westminster Abbey in London, and the day culminated in the famous kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Kate’s gown was created by Sarah Burton, the head of the Alexander McQueen design team. It featured intricate lace applique on the bodice and sleeves with a high waist and a full, embroidered train.
There are only a few degrees of separation between Prince William and his new title: he is the great-great-great-great grandson of Prince Adolphus, the 1st Duke of Cambridge (during its 4th creation!). Adolphus’ granddaughter was Mary of Teck, who became Queen Mary, the wife of King George V and “Granny” of Queen Elizabeth II.
Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten
The wedding of the century came when the heiress presumptive to the throne married Prince Philip of Greece. Princess Elizabeth, who would one day become Queen Elizabeth II, married her handsome prince in Westminster Abbey on November 20th, 1947.
Described by Winston Churchill as a “bright ray of colour on the hard gray road we have to travel”, the wedding was the first royal celebration following World War II. People were still limited as to what they could buy and eat, yet many would send Elizabeth their clothing coupons so that their Princess could have the most beautiful wedding gown imaginable. There were even gifts of food from abroad, and hundreds of pairs of stockings – a rarity during the war.
Norman Hartnell designed the wedding gown (he would also design Elizabeth’s coronation gown a few years later). The wedding dress was a rich ivory color and made of duchesse satin with white seed pearls, silver thread, sparkling crystals, and transparent appliqué tulle embroidery. Flowing from the bride’s head was a silk tulle veil, and on her feet were ivory duchesse satin high-heeled sandals, trimmed with silver and seed pearl buckles.
Below we see an image of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding tiara. It is the Fringe tiara, also used for Princess Anne’s wedding to Captain Mark Phillips. To see other images of the tiara, as well as the wedding gown, the Queen Mother’s dress, and other wedding day accoutrements, visit the royal collection here.
There had been a last-minute panic – as is the case for many brides – when the fringe tiara snapped and had to be quickly repaired. Then, the bouquet went missing and the princess did not have the pearl necklace she wanted to wear. It had been a wedding gift from her parents King George VI and the Queen.
While the ladies went dashing about in search of the bouquet – soon found in a cold cupboard – a quick thinking courtier went running back to the palace where the wedding gifts were laid out on display. He found the pearl necklace and quickly ran back to present the dear jewels to Princess Elizabeth.
At last, the princess, with tiara, necklace, and bouquet in hand, got into the state coach and headed to Westminster Abbey to unite with her betrothed.
Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones
The marriage of HRH Princess Margaret to Anthony Armstrong-Jones was celebrated May 6th, 1960. Their engagement announcement and subsequent nuptials had come hot on the heels of a letter from Captain Peter Townsend.
Townsend had been Margaret’s great love. The Palace and the Government did not deem him a suitable husband for a princess, however, so Townsend had been sent abroad to Brussels as a diplomatic attache to keep him at a distance. He wrote to Margaret a few years later to tell her that he was engaged to a Belgian tobacco heiress and that they would soon marry. Upset at the news, Margaret turned to her friend and lover Armstrong-Jones. They announced their own engagement in February 1960.
Princess Margaret’s engagement ring was a ruby, created in the style of a rose in honor of her middle name. The only other royal to become engaged with a ruby was Sarah Ferguson, the now ex-wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
The Princess’s wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell, the favored couturier of Margaret’s sister the Queen. The gown was made from silk organza, and the skirt of the gown was comprised of 30 meters of fabric. Crystal embellishments and beading were kept at a minimum in order to better suit Margaret’s petite frame. Hartnell did not want the gown to overwhelm the princess’ classic beauty.
The Poltimore tiara sat regally upon Margaret’s dark hair. Like many of the tiaras in the Royal Family, it was seen in several alternative forms such as a diamond fringe necklace and as brooches.
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips
The wedding of the Queen’s only daughter was seen by a television audience estimated at 500 million viewers.
Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in November 1973. Her blonde hair was swept up and topped with her mother’s fringe tiara. Her gown featured large, full sleeves that gave the Princess a medieval and romantic look.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
The wedding that went down in fairytale history was that of Lady Diana Spencer and HRH Prince Charles. Their engagement was announced on February 24th, 1981. Surrounded by the press within the Buckingham Palace gardens, Diana showed off her enormous sapphire engagement ring, surrounded by fourteen smaller diamonds. Just a few months later on July 29th, Lady Diana became HRH The Princess of Wales at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Diana’s gown was ivory silk, created by British husband and wife designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. It was created to look like the consummate fairytale gown in a pouffy, “meringue” style. Diana wore the Spencer family tiara atop her golden hair.
The young girl’s nerves were apparent as she recited her husband’s names in the wrong order. Instead of calling him “Charles Philip Arthur George”, she accidentally said “Philip Charles Arthur George”. Prince Andrew quipped, “She’s just married my father!”
As the new Prince and Princess of Wales departed St. Paul’s Cathedral, Diana’s 25-foot train rippled behind her down the staircase. It was truly the wedding of the century.
HRH Prince Andrew, younger brother to Prince Charles, proposed to flamed-haired girlfriend Sarah Ferguson at Floors Castle in Scotland with a Burmese Ruby engagement ring surrounded by small diamonds. They announced their engagement March 19th, 1986. They married four months later on July 23rd in Westminster Abbey.
Sarah’s wedding gown, designed by Lindka Cierach, was made of ivory duchesse satin, and had a 17-foot train adorned with small crystal anchors and a large “A” in honor of Prince Andrew. After their vows, the new Duke and Duchess of York signed the marriage register and then departed the Abbey in the 1902 State Landau to Buckingham Palace.
The Queen had conferred Prince Andrew with the title Duke of York – last held by her father King George VI and traditionally reserved for the sovereign’s second son – just 90 minutes before the ceremony.
The Duke and Sarah Ferguson divorced in 1996. Sarah lost the style “HRH” (Her Royal Highness) but was allowed to remain Duchess of York.
Lady Sarah, the daughter of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, married her beau on July 14, 1994. Her husband, Daniel Chatto, is an actor and the couple of have two children.
Lady Sarah’s wedding dress was a picture-perfect gown of white simplicity, with a wreath of flowers crowning her head. The gown was designed by Jasper Conran, a favorite of the bride. He also designed the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones
Prince Edward married his longtime girlfriend Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. Their royal wedding took place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the ancient Norman fortress built by William the Conqueror.
Sophie chose British designer Samantha Shaw to create a coat dress made of ivory silk organza and silk crepe. It had full-length sleeves and thousands of little crystals and pearls stitched along the neckline.
Sophie’s tiara was a gift from the Queen, and her pearl jewelry was created for her by her new husband, Prince Edward.
Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly
The May 2008 wedding of Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly was an intimate affair by royal standards. The son of Princess Anne married his Canadian love at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. St. George’s was once again becoming a popular place to hold smaller royal weddings.
Peter’s sister Zara was a bridesmaid, and the bridal party’s color was a fresh, lovely light green. The bride’s gown was designed by Sassi Holford, an English designed with a distinctly feminine and romantic design technique [see my interview with Sassi].
Holford created a beautiful ivory duchesse satin gown with a lace Bolero jacket. Down the back of the dress were satin bows, and the veil was trimmed with lace. Autumn’s tiara was on loan from her mother-in-law, Princess Anne.
The reception was held at the Victorian Frogmore House in Windsor.