This post will continue an ongoing series of British Royal Weddings; the first post was about the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This post will be about the wedding of her great- grandson Prince Albert George and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), they were the parents of the current Queen Elizabeth II.
Wedding of Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth
Date and location: April 26, 1923 at Westminster Abbey in London, England
In July 1920, Prince Albert George (the second son of King George V and Queen Mary) reacquainted himself with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore). They had known each other since childhood and had a memorable meeting (at least for Prince Albert) at the Royal Air Force Ball which took place at the Ritz Hotel in London. At that time, the Prince became instantly smitten with the vivacious Lady Elizabeth. He proposed in 1921 but she respectfully declined because she was reluctant to marry the Prince because she felt it would be too restrictive to her carefree lifestyle. Lady Elizabeth was the daughter of an English nobleman having grown up at Glamis Castle in Scotland and was currently spending time living in London and weekends at her parent’s country home in Hertfordshire. In February 1922 the Prince proposed again after the wedding of his sister, Princess Mary, Lady Elizabeth had been a bridesmaid. She still had no interest in becoming a member of the royal family but the Prince was very persistent in his quest.
In January 1923 Prince Albert proposed for a third time while on a theater and dinner date at the Claridge’s. A few days later, Lady Elizabeth finally accepted and the engagement was formally announced. She selected a platinum engagement ring with a large Kashmir sapphire that featured two diamonds on either side. After the engagement, the people of Wales gave the Royal couple a large nugget of Welsh gold from which Lady Elizabeth’s wedding ring would be made. Special Note: The same piece of Welsh gold had been traditionally used to make the wedding rings for several other British Royal brides; including the couple’s two daughters – Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) in 1947 and Princess Margaret in 1960, also for Princess Diana who married Prince Charles (their grandson) in 1981 and most recently for Catherine Middleton who married Prince William (their great-grandson) in 2011.
Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth at the time of their engagement
Until this time British Royal weddings were considered strictly private events in which the bridal party would occasionally be seen by the public either coming or going from the ceremony or reception sites. An exception to this rule happened in 1922 when Princess Mary and her husband, Viscount Lascelles became the first royal couple to make an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony to acknowledge the crowds that had gathered on the occasion of their wedding. So, it was unusual that the wedding of Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth would be considered a public event to be held at Westminster Abbey instead one of the royal chapels, this decision was made to boost the morale of the country after World War I. In addition, a request was made by the new British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to broadcast the wedding live on the radio which was declined by the couple and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been concerned about a sacred religious ceremony being listened to in public houses or pubs with men drinking. The wedding was ultimately filmed and portions of the footage were shown later in theaters throughout the country which proved to be very popular with the general public.
Westminster Abbey – exterior and interior
On the morning of the wedding, Lady Elizabeth departed from the Bowes-Lyon family home located on Burton Street near Berkeley Square in London. An enthusiastic crowd had gathered to get a glimpse of the bride and she emerged from the house wearing not a typical 1920s style but an unusual medieval style dress designed by Madame Handley Seymour. The ivory chiffon moiré dress featured a square neckline with a bodice decorated with horizontal silver lame panels embroidered with silver thread and accented with pearl beads. Lady Elizabeth wore an antique ivory veil made of Flanders lace and secured to her head with a wreath of myrtle leaves, white heather and white York roses; the veil was a gift from Queen Mary. (For more detailed information about Lady Elizabeth’s wedding dress and other items worn on her wedding day, please click on the link to A Royal Bride – Lady Elizabeth)
Due to the inclement weather, the bride wore a fur coat trimmed with ermine to walk a few short steps to the maroon and gold State landau which would be pulled by four matched grey horses to take her to the Abbey. As Lady Elizabeth, who was accompanied by her father the Earl of Strathmore, arrived at the site of the wedding ceremony, the sky magically cleared and the sun came out to beautifully shine its light through the Abbey’s lovely stained-glass windows.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon leaving her family’s London home
Meanwhile, the wedding guests in attendence at Westminster Abbey included members of the Royal family; such as the groom’s sister Princess Mary and her husband Viscount Lascelles and the groom’s grandmother Queen Alexandra accompanied by her sister Marie, the Dowager Empress of Russia. By precedence the last to arrive, aside from the bridal party, were the groom’s parents King George V and Queen Mary (he was dressed in an admiral uniform for him and she was dressed in a lovely silver and aquamarine gown).
Next, Prince Albert arrived with his brothers, Prince Edward and Prince Henry. The groom wore his Royal Air Force Captain uniform while Prince Edward wore a Welsh Guard uniform and Prince Henry wore a Hussar uniform. As the groom and his brothers reached the altar area, Queen Alexandra rose from her seat to embrace all three of her grandsons.
Finally, Lady Elizabeth and her father arrived at the Abbey and entered through the Great West Door. As the bride and her eight bridesmaids assembled for the processional there was a slight delay. In those few minutes, to honor her brother Fergus who had died in World War I, Lady Elizabeth spontaneously laid her bridal bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The wedding service started with the bridal processional as the Abbey’s boy choir sang “Lead Us, Heavenly Father”. Upon the bride reaching the altar to join the groom, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York preceded with the wedding ceremony. After the vows, the choir sang another musical selection, “Beloved, Let Us Love One Another”, which had originally been composed for the wedding of Princess Mary the year before. Then, at the conclusion of the service the bridal couple moved down the long aisle of the Abbey to sounds Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”.
Following the wedding ceremony, Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth returned to Buckingham Palace where formal wedding photographs were taken in the Throne Room. Shown below are a series of photographs featuring Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth in the first one, the bridal couple with their parents in the second and then the couple with their bridesmaids.
At Buckingham Palace, the invited guests attended a multi-course wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace. Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth had fourteen wedding cakes for the wedding celebration and the main one featured a four-tier cake which reached almost 10 feet in height and weighted over 700 pounds, the cake was made by McVitie and Price with ingredients supplied by the Girls Guide of Australia.
The main wedding cake of Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth
After the wedding reception, the bridal couple appeared briefly on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the King and Queen as well as other members of the Royal family. Afterwards, the new Duke and Duchess of York changed from their wedding clothes for traveling to their honeymoon destination. The Duchess wore another Madame Handley Seymour designed dress and matching embroidered coat of grey crepe which she accessorized with a fur stole and a small brown hat. The couple left London by train to spend a few days in Surrey at Polesden Lacey, the home of Mrs. Ronald Greville. Then the couple moved on to Scotland to stay at the ancestral home of the Strathmore family, Glamis Castle. Unfortunately while there the Duchess came down with whooping cough. After she recuperated the couple concluded their honeymoon at Frogmore House at Windsor.