In this post I will discuss several of the British Royal wedding bouquets throughout the years, starting with the bridal bouquet Queen Victoria carried when she married Prince Albert in 1840 and concluding with Markle’s bridal bouquet that she carried when she married Prince Harry in 2018 . Often the wedding bouquets carried by a British Royal Bride set the trend for future Royal brides, such as tradition of a sprig of myrtle used in bouquets which started during the reign of Queen Victoria to the tradition of lying the bouquet on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey which was started by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother).
Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on February 10, 1840 in the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace in London, England. On her wedding day she carried a small bouquet of snowdrops which were said to be Prince Albert’s favorite flower. She also choose to wear a simple wreath of orange blossoms atop her head instead of wearing a crown as would befit her status as Queen, in addition her wedding dress was decorate with even more orange blossoms. Orange blossoms were often worn by brides to symbolize chastity and fertility. (For more information about the wedding tradition of the orange blossoms, please click on the link)
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day
The tradition of the myrtle used in British Royal bridal bouquets, which is credited to Queen Victoria, was not a sprig from her bridal bouquet. In fact the myrtle planted during Queen Victoria’s time, that still grows in the garden at Osborne House, did not come from her bouquet but from a nosegay presented by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Prince Albert’s homeland of Germany several years later. When the Princess Royal Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1958 and she carried a sprig of the Osborne myrtle in her bridal bouquet. The tradition continued thereafter for Queen Victoria’s other four daughters on their wedding days. Since the time of Queen Victoria every Royal Bride has carried a sprig of the Osborne myrtle in their wedding bouquets.
The gardens of Osborne House
where the myrtle for British Royal bridal bouquets is grown
Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Prince Albert Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark (later to become King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) on March 10, 1863 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Princess wore a ivory silk taffeta wedding dress which featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt, the 21 foot train was made of antique silver moiré. Like Queen Victoria, the Princess trimmed her wedding dress with orange blossoms and she wore a white veil secured upon her head with a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle. She carried a bridal bouquet of white roses, lilies of the valley, a few orchids and the traditional sprig of Osborne myrtle.
Prince Albert Edward and Princess Alexandra on their wedding day
Unlike other British Royal brides, Princess Alexandra carried an elaborate bouquet holder which featured an upper section of rock crystal carved into a cone shape to hold the flowers. The crystal cone was embellished with diamonds, emeralds, pink coral and pearls. In honor of the Princess’ royal status, the middle section featured a coronet with a gold chain decorated with pearls and a gold and pearl studded ring to wear on the hand. Below the coronet is the symbolic Prince of Wales feathers created in diamonds and a monogram “A” for Alexandra made of rubies. At the bottom of the holder was a small crystal sphere set with more rubies.
The wedding bouquet holder of Princess Alexandra
Princess May of Teck
Prince Albert George married May of Teck (later to become King George V and Queen Mary) on July 6, 1893 in the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace in London, England. Much like the British Royal brides before her, Princess May trimmed the bodice and the front of her wedding dress with orange blossoms. For the wedding ceremony, the she carried a large bridal bouquet made entirely of white flowers which included “York” roses, orchids, lilies of the valley, carnations, orange blossoms and of course the traditional sprig of Osborne myrtle.
Prince George and Princess May on their wedding day
Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, also carried large bouquets on the wedding day of Prince George and Princess May (it has not been reported if the bride’s mother, the Duchess of Teck, carried a bouquet on her daughter’s wedding day)
Princess May’s bridal bouquet is shown in the middle photo,
Queen Victoria’s on the left and Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, on the right
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons
Prince Albert George married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons (later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) on April 26, 1923 in Westminster Abbey in London, England. In addition to her medieval style dress of ivory chiffon moiré dress with horizontal silver lame panels embroidered with silver thread and accented with pearl beads she wore a wreath of myrtle leaves, white heather and white York roses; the veil was a gift from Queen Mary.
Prince George and Lady Elizabeth on their wedding day
When looking at the formal wedding portraits taken at Buckingham Palace, it is noticeable that Lady Elizabeth is without her bridal bouquet and there is a very good reason for this omission. The story goes that on the day of the wedding, as tradition usually dictates the bride and her father were the last to arrive at Westminster Abbey and they entered through the Great West Door. Then, as the bride, her father and her eight bridesmaids assembled for the processional there was a slight delay. In those few minutes, Lady Elizabeth spontaneously laid her bridal bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor her brother Fergus who had died a few years earlier in World War I . Special Note: Since 1923, British Royal brides have also laid their bouquets on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the one exception that instead of it being placed prior to the start of the ceremony, the bouquet is laid on the sacred spot afterwards. This is a lovely tradition most recently done in 2011 by Catherine Middleton at her wedding to Prince William and again in 2018 when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry.
Lady Elizabeth’s bouquet which was placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten (later to become Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh) on November 20, 1947 in Westminster Abbey. Norman Hartnell designed a lovely gown of ivory satin for the Princess Elizabeth and upon her head she wore the diamond King George III Tiara. She carried a bouquet which comprised of three different kinds of British-grown orchids, cattleya, odontoglossum and cypripedium. As per the British Royal wedding tradition, a sprig of myrtle was picked from the garden at Osborne house and added to Princess Elizabeth’s bridal bouquet.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on their wedding day
Lady Diana Spencer
Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer (the Prince and Princess of Wales ) on July 29, 1981 in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England. Known at the time as the “Wedding of the Century” it was a grand occasion watched by 600,000 people lined along the streets of London and watched by 750 million on television. Lady Diana wore a wedding dress made of ivory silk taffeta designed by the relatively unknown David and Elizabeth Emanuel; the dress was trimmed with antique lace and featured a rather long 25 foot train.
To balance the rather voluminous dress, Lady Diana carried a large cascading bouquet of Earl of Mountbatten roses, gardenias, stephanotis, fressia, odontoglossum orchid, lily of the valley, ivy and of course the traditional Osborne myrtle. The bouquet measured 42” long and 15” wide, there were in fact three bouquets made that included one for the rehearsal the night before the wedding, another that Lady Diana carried on her wedding day to Westminster Abbey and a third was used for photographs at Buckingham Palace after the wedding. Special Note: The Earl of Mountbatten roses were chosen as a tribute to Lord Louis Mountbatten, a special Uncle of Prince Charles, who had died in 1979. According to British Royal tradition, one of the bouquets was taken to Westminster Abbey to be placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana on their wedding day
Sadly, the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana which had started out as a fairytale later turned out to be a very unhappy union. The couple’s formal separation was officially announced in 1992 and in 1996 the divorce was finalized. Princess Diana died a year later in 1997 in a car crash in Paris, France.
Camilla Parker- Bowles
Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles (later known as the Duchess of Cornwall) on April 9, 2005 in the Windsor Guildhall, later that same day in St. George’s Chapel there was a religious blessing followed by a formal reception at Windsor Castle. For the civil ceremony, Camilla wore a cream silk chiffon dress with a matching coat and she wore a Prince of Wales feather brooch attached to the coat lapel. She also wore a large Philip Treacy cream wide-brimmed straw hat covered with ivory French lace and accented with feathers. To complete her civil ceremony outfit, Camilla choose to wear L.K. Bennett shoes in an almond shade and a Launer purse made of embossed leather and lined in suede.
Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall at the Windsor Guildhall
For the Church of England blessing in St. George’s Chapel, Camilla wore a Robinson Valentine long pale blue and gold embroidered damask coat over a matching chiffon gown. To complete her bridal ensemble, she wore an impressive spray of golden feathers also created by Treacy in her perfectly coiffured hair instead of a tiara. For the Church blessing, Camilla carried a small bouquet of yellow, purple and white primroses mixed with lily of the valley and the traditional Osborne myrtle.
Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall at St. George’s Chapel
Prince William married Catherine Middleton (later known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) were married on April 29, 2011 in Westminster Abbey. The bride’s floral request for her wedding bouquet would be to incorporate the “language of the flowers”, an old custom popular during the Victorian era in which flowers and plants would be selected for their special meanings to convey hidden messages.
Catherine’s dress was designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and was made of satin gathered gently at the waist with slightly padded hips that formed a bustle in the back and a 9 foot train. In keeping with the elegant but simple style of the stunning dress, Catherine carried a small all white bridal bouquet designed by florist Shane Connolly. The bouquet featured lily of the valley (happiness), Sweet William (gallantry and also an unspoken tribute to her new husband), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity) and myrtle (love and marriage).
Prince William and Catherine Middleton on their wedding day
(For more information about the Wedding Flowers of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, please click on the link)
Prince Harry married Meghan Markle (later known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) were married on May 19, 2018 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. On her wedding day Meghan carried a bouquet made of sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine, astrantia and forget-me-nots, said to be Princess Diana (the groom’s late mother’) favorite flower. It has also been reported that as a very romantic gesture, Prince Harry hand-picked several of the flowers from the couple’s private garden at Kensington Palace.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day
Although the Royal couple had been married at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the tradition of a British Royal Bride leaving her bridal bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was honored when the bouquet was specially transported to London.
Meghan Markle’s bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier