A British Royal Bride – Princess Elizabeth

Last week, in the another post on the ongoing series on British Royal Weddings, I featured the wedding of Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Philip Mountbatten (the Duke of Edinburgh); they were married on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.  In this post, I will discuss the bridal dress and accessories which Princess Elizabeth wore on her wedding day and I will also discuss some of the jewelry that she received as wedding gifts from Prince Philip as well as other members of the Royal family.

Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding Dress and Bridal Accessories 

It has been said that Norman Hartnell, the designer of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress, took inspiration from the Italian Renaissance painting “La Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli. The painting was created to commemorate the 1482 wedding of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, a cousin of Lorenzo Medici and depicts the coming of Spring.  It features several mythical characters such as Venus, Zephyrus, Mercury, Flora, the Three Graces and even Cupid.  (The “La Primavera” painting is currently on display in the Uffizi Art Museum located in Florence, Italy)

“La Primavera” painting by Sandro Botticelli

At the time of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding England was still recovering from World War II with rationing still enforced due to shortages and import restrictions.  It has been noted that many people sent in their own clothing ration coupons so that Princess Elizabeth could purchase the material for a wedding gown but because it was illegal to use rations issued to another person the coupons were returned.  To make a wedding dress which was appropriate for the heir to the throne, the British government issued Princess Elizabeth 200 extra coupons to help defray the cost.

Because of the lingering hostilities toward Germany, Japan and Italy, Hartnell made sure that no materials were used from those countries when he created Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.  He designed a beautiful ivory silk satin dress embellished with embroidery and thousands of crystals and pearls imported from the United States.  Known for incorporating elaborate embroidery, Hartnell’s dress design featured jasmine, smilax, lilac, wheat and roses.  The silk tulle 15 feet train was embellished with embroidered and a beaded pattern of wheat and roses with appliqué duchess satin stars, the train was attached to the shoulders.  (Special Note: Hartnell would later design the dress for Queen Elizabeth II Coronation dress in 1953)

Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress on display

The embroidered and beaded details of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress

The embroidered and beaded details of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding veil

Special Note: Unfortunately in the decades that followed, the silk material used to make Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress has deteriorated from the weight of the embroidery and beading.  Special care is taken by the curators of the British Royal Collection to preserve the wedding dress and occasionally it will go on display for the public to view.

On her wedding day Princess Elizabeth completed her bridal ensemble by wearing shoes made by Rayne.  The company was originally founded in 1899 as a theatrical costumier and later in the 1920s they created a line of couture shoes.  The wedding shoes made for Princess Elizabeth featured a sling back, open toe, medium high heel sandal made of ivory duchess satin with silver buckles and pearl accents.

Princess Elizabeth’s wedding veil 

Princess Elizabeth wore a silk tulle 13 foot veil that was slightly shorten in length then the dress train which created a beautiful yet soft effect.  The veil was attached to her head by the diamond Fringe Tiara that was the “something borrowed” and had originally belonged to her grandmother Queen Mary.  Just before leaving Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey the tiara unfortunately broke but luckily the court jeweler was able to repair the damage.

Princess Elizabeth’s wedding veil and the Fringe Tiara

The Queen Mary Fringe Tiara

Speical Note:  The Queen Mary Fringe Tiara was made by Garrard & Co. in 1919 from the diamonds of a necklace previously given to then Princess May of Teck (later Queen Mary) as a wedding present from Queen Victoria.  The tiara has 47 bars of diamonds with smaller diamond spikes.  In 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law Princess Elizabeth the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother).

Princess Elizabeth’s wedding bouquet

The wedding bouquet that Princess Elizabeth carried on her wedding day was created by Martin Longman, a British florist (Longman would later create the Coronation bouquet for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953).  Princess Elizabeth’s wedding bouquet was made of white orchids and a sprig of myrtle, a royal custom started during the time of Queen Victoria.  The day after the wedding, according to the royal wedding tradition set by the bride’s mother in 1923, the bouquet was placed upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.  (Special Note:  Many years later an identical copy of the bridal bouquet was made and presented to Queen Elizabeth II at the time of her Golden wedding anniversary in 1997)

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth on their wedding day

Princess Elizabeth’s bridal bouquet placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Princess Elizabeth’s bridal jewelry

On her wedding day, Princess Elizabeth wore two pearl necklaces. The shorter one was known as the Queen Anne necklace, possibly belonging to the last Stuart Queen of England.  The longer one was known as the Queen Caroline necklace which had belonged to the wife of King George II.  Both necklaces became the possession of Queen Victoria and upon her death they were left them to the Crown.  Prior to the wedding day King George VI, the bride’s father, gave them to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present.

Princess Elizabeth’s pearl necklaces

The pearl and diamond earrings that Princess Elizabeth wore on her wedding day were a 20th birthday present from her grandmother, Queen Mary, who had originally inherited them from her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of (Cambridge) Teck.

Princess Elizabeth’s pearl and diamond earrings

Prince Philip’s wedding gift for his bride was a beautiful diamond bracelet.  Like the engagement ring he had previously commissioned, the bracelet was created from diamonds from a tiara that had once belonged to his mother, the Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark.  The bracelet featured several links design in a geometric pattern with three large center diamonds set in platinum.

Princess Elizabeth’s diamond bracelet

In the years that followed Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) wore the sentimental bracelet for many formal occasions including for the official Diamond Jubilee photographs take in 2012 to commemorate that significant event.  Most recently, the queen has loaned the bracelet to the Duchess of Cambridge who wore it when she attended her first state banquet in 2015.

Official Diamond Jubilee portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip taken in 2012

Princess Elizabeth’s bridesmaids

The bridesmaids’ dresses were also made by Norman Hartnell, they were a tulle gown with an embroidered and beaded floral design and a matching tulle wrap fastened with a bow.  The bridesmaids wore hair wreaths of white wheat sheaves and lilies made of white satin and silver lame, they also carried bouquets of white orchids similar in style to the bride’s bouquet.  The two young pages that carried the train of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress wore Royal Stewart tartan kilts.

   Princess Margaret – the principal bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding