A British Royal Bride – Queen Victoria

Previously I featured a post about the British Royal Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert which took place on February 10, 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace.  Queen Victoria set many trends during her long reign and she directly influenced the traditions of the British Royal weddings, such as the use of myrtle in the bridal bouquet. She is also credited for starting the custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress which is still a popular choice for many modern brides.  This post will be about Queen Victoria as a British Royal bride and I will discuss what she wore on her wedding day including all the items of her bridal ensemble and jewelry.

 Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and bridal accessories

The wedding dress custom until the Georgian Era was that ordinary brides of the working class often wore their “best dress” on their wedding day, usually made in a dark and durable material.  Brides of the upper class would wear dresses especially made for the occasion to show their wealthy status.  Royal brides wore elaborate dresses made in gold or silver fabric sometimes embroidered with silk threads and embellished with semi-precious stones as was befitting their royal status.

When it came time for Queen Victoria’s wedding, she decided that she wanted to wear a white or ivory bridal gown and she also wanted to used the opportunity to promote the British fabric manufacturing industry.  Her dress was made of the finest white satin provided by Spitalfields in London and featured a bodice top and a full pleated skirt.  The skirt included Honiton lace and had a detachable train that measured 18 feet in length and was accented with a border of orange blossom sprays.  The separate top also featured Honiton lace accents across the bodice and on the sleeves. (Special Note: Queen Victoria’s wedding gown has been carefully preserved and is now part of the British Royal collection and was most recently put on display at Kensington Palace in 2012.  It is questionable as to whether the dress will be further exhibited due its fragile condition)

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

Queen Victoria’s bridal shoes were made by Gundry & Sons of London.  The shoes were made of white satin to match the dress, it has been noted that the shoes were approximately a size 3.  The shoes was a typical design of the Georgian Era and had flat leather soles with no heels and featured a square toe trimmed with six bands of ribbon with additional ribbons used to tie the shoe onto the foot.


Queen Victoria’s bridal shoes

On her wedding day, Queen Victoria wore a bridal veil made of Honiton lace but instead of wearing a diamond tiara that would have befit her royal status she chose to secure the veil to her head with a wreath of orange blossoms.  Orange blossoms were often worn by brides to symbolize chastity and fertility.

Queen Victoria bridal veil and wreath
(photograph from royalcollection.org.uk)

Historical Note: Queen Victoria wore her bridal veil many times in the years following her wedding day for such family events as her children’s christenings, the wedding of her eldest daughter Princess Victoria in 1858 and her youngest son Leopold’s wedding in 1882.  She loaned the bridal veil to her youngest daughter when Princess Beatrice married in 1885, she was the only one of the five daughters to be given this honor.  Queen Victoria wore her bridal veil for the last time underneath her famous small crown for the formal portrait of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  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 final tribute to her beloved husband, the Queen also requested the she be buried wearing her wedding veil)

Queen Victoria wearing her bridal veil at the time of her Golden Jubilee

On her wedding day Queen Victoria carried a small bouquet of snowdrops which were Prince Albert’s favorite flower.  Legend has it that clippings from the myrtle in Queen Victoria’s bridal bouquet have 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, used a clipping of Queen Victoria’s myrtle when she married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1958.  The tradition continued thereafter for the weddings of Queen Victoria and Price Albert’s other four daughters.  (Special Note: 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 originally came from a nosegay presented by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Prince Albert’s homeland of Germany several years after her wedding)

Queen Victoria’s wedding jewelry

In 1847, Queen Victoria commissioned Franz Xaver Winterhalter to paint a portrait of her wearing her wedding dress as an anniversary present for Prince Albert. In the Winterhalter portrait the Queen is seen wearing the Turkish diamond necklace and earrings and the insignia of the Order of the Garter.  Back in 1838, Queen Victoria was given a collection of several diamonds by Sultan Mahmud of Turkey.  The next year, the Queen commissioned the Royal jewelers, Rundell & Bridge, to create a necklace and earrings using the Turkish diamonds.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

The necklace featured three diamond rosettes connected by three strands of diamonds; the center rosette was larger than the two rosettes on either side.  Strung behind the second rosettes are two rows of diamonds connected by two large oval diamonds; the necklace clasp had a large diamond framed by smaller diamonds.  The matching Turkish earrings featured two small rosettes connected by three rows of diamonds; it has been noted that the earrings were very heavy to wear.  In the years following her wedding, Queen Victoria wore the Turkish jewelry set for several important events in her life, such as the christening of her children. (Special Note:  After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the Turkish diamond set was given to her son, the Duke of Connaught.  Unfortunately, the set is no longer a part of the British Royal Collection)

Queen Victoria’s Turkish necklace

On the bodice of her wedding dress Queen Victoria pinned a large sapphire and diamond brooch that was a wedding present from Prince Albert which he had given to her the day before their wedding.  The center stone is a large oblong blue sapphire surrounded by twelve round diamonds and set in gold.  (Special Note: After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the brooch became very sentimental to Queen Victoria and she wore it frequently on many occasions during her long life.  When Queen Victoria died in 1901, this important historical brooch was given to the British Crown. Several Queen Consorts have worn the brooch over the years that followed including the present Queen Elizabeth II)

Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond brooch

Queen Victoria’s going-away outfit

After the wedding at St. James Palace and the reception at Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert departed London to travel to nearby Windsor Castle for a four day honeymoon.  Before leaving, the Queen changed into a white satin pelisse dress trimmed in swan feathers.  She also wore a white velvet bonnet trimmed with orange blossoms accented with marabou feathers.  The Prince wore a plain dark traveling suit with a dark coat.

Queen Victoria’s going-away dress

Queen Victoria’s going-way bonnet
(photograph of the bonnet is from the royalcollection.org.uk)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s anniversary photographs

In researching this post, I found several photos that were labeled as the wedding photos of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  This is misleading because at the time of their wedding they were both 20 years old and on closer examination of the photographs the couple is noticeably older.  In fact, there were no photographs taken on the day of the wedding in 1840 the reason being that photography was a relatively new technology and camera techniques were still being developed.  (Special Note: As photography methods improved over the following years Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became increasingly interested and felt that the relatively new photographic technology should be included in the Great Exhibition of 1851)

The Queen felt that the new medium was important and from a historical perspective her reign should be recorded in photographs  On May 11, 1854 a series of photographs were taken by Roger Fenton at Buckingham Palace.  By that time the Queen and Prince had been married almost fifteen years and the photographs would be used to mark the occasion.  The Queen was dress in flowing white dress with a small train which were embellished with orange blossoms, she also wore her bridal veil and a wreath of orange blossoms.  The Prince was dressed in military uniform.  (Special Note: These are the photographs most often referred to incorrectly as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wedding photographs)

One of the photographs of a series taken on May 11, 1854

For more detailed information about the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, please click on the links.