A British Royal Wedding – Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles

Last month in the ongoing British Royal Wedding series I featured a post on the wedding of Princess Victoria, the daughter of Queen Victoria.  This month’s post will be about another daughter of a British Monarch, Princess Mary who was the daughter of King George V.  I will briefly discuss the courtship, engagement and wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Henry Lascelles (later to become the Earl of Harewood).

Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary was born on April 25, 1897 at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate located in Norfolk, England.  Princess Mary (as she was known in the family) was the third child of King George V and Queen Mary; at the time of her birth her parents were then the Duke and Duchess of York.  She was their only daughter among her six brothers – Edward (the future King Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936), Albert (future King George VI), Henry, George and John (known as “the Lost Prince” died as a result of a severe epileptic seizure in 1919).

Princess Mary as a young girl

Princess Mary spent the majority of her privileged childhood years quietly on the Sandringham estate where her family lived a relatively “country” lifestyle despite the fact that her father was the heir to the British throne. Princess Mary’s father was a strict disciplinarian who was often absent due to his royal duties and her mother frequently accompanied her husband in his travels so as a result the Princess and her brothers were generally raised by a governess.

Duke and Duchess of York with their children
(Princess Mary is seen on the left)

Princess Mary at the time of her confirmation

In 1910, with the death of her grandfather King Edward VII, her father ascended to the British throne as King George V.  The Royal family would officially move from the simple and small York Cottage on the Sandringham estate to the grand and large Buckingham Palace in London.

During World War I Princess Mary and Queen Mary visited British soldiers in local hospitals.  Princess Mary had enrolled in a nursing course at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1918 and would eventually work a few days a week in the hospital’s Alexandra Ward named after her grandmother, Queen Alexandra.  The Princess also promoted the Land Girls which was an organization of women started in 1915 to provide manufacturing and agricultural labor in Britain necessitated by the absence of the men fighting in the war.   Princess Mary also actively supported the Girl Guides, a British organization started in 1910 similar to the American Girl Scouts, and she later became the honorary president of the association in 1920 and continued to hold that title for the rest of her life.

Princess Mary worked as a nurse at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

While living in London, Princess Mary met Viscount Henry Lascelles at a dinner party when he was home on leave during the war.  The Viscount was the eldest son of the Earl and Countess of Harewood from Leeds, Yorkshire and he had served with distinction during World War I as a lieutenant colonel with the Grenadier Guards.  Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles met again at several country house parties in the months that followed, he was 38 years old and she was 23 at the time.  The seemingly unlikely couple had a lot in common and both enjoyed the sporting life with hunting, shooting and other activities common with the British upper class.

After a short time, Lord Lascelles was frequently spending time with the Royal family in London, at Balmoral in Scotland and it was while visiting the Sandringham estate that he proposed to Princess Mary.  The King gave his consent for the couple to be married and it was followed by the approval of the Privy Council which was required under the Royal Marriages Act 1772 for members of the British Royal Family. The engagement was officially announced by the Palace on November 22, 1921. 

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary at the time of the engagement

The Royal wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles took place on February 28, 1922 at Westminster Abbey in London, as customary the ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  There were eight bridesmaids – Princess Maud of Fife, Lady Rachel Cavendish, Lady Mary Thyne, Lady Victoria Cambridge, Lady Doris Lennox, Lady Diana Bridgeman, Lady May of Cambridge and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.  Special Note: The last bridesmaid mentioned, Lady Elizabeth, was destined to marry the bride’s brother, Prince Albert George a year later,  The couple would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and they are the parents of the current Queen Elizabeth II.

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary on their wedding day

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary
with the best man, Sir Victor Audley Mackenzie, and the eight bridesmaids

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary with the bride’s parents,
King George VI and Queen Mary

A precedence was set for future Royal weddings when the couple became the first to make an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony as shown in the historical photograph below.  King George, Queen Mary and the Dowager Queen Alexandra, the bride’s grandmother, also joined the Royal couple on the balcony.  Sadly, a few years later the Dowager would become a recluse at her home in Sandringham as her health declined and she died in 1925.

from left to right –
King George, Princess Mary, Viscount Lascelles,
Dowager Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary

Following their appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony, there was a wedding breakfast for several hundred invited guests and the large four-tiered elaborately decorated wedding cake was reportedly cut with a sword.  After the wedding reception the couple left for their brief honeymoon in Paris, France and Florence, Italy.

The wedding cake of Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary

When the couple returned to England they settled into Chesterfield House which was a grand townhouse that would be their London residence for the next nine years; it was bought by Lord Lascelles in 1919.  Later the couple moved to Goldsborough Hall located near Leeds in Yorkshire.

In the years following their marriage the couple had two sons, George born in 1923 and Gerald born in 1924.  Then in 1929 Lascalles’ father died and he became the 6th Earl of Harewood and Princess Mary became the Countess of Harewood and they would move permanently to Harewood House.  The large stately house has a lovely garden and grounds designed by the famous “Capability” Brown.  (Special Note: Today Harewood House, although still the home of the Lascelles family, is owned by the Harewood House Trust which offers tours of both the house and gardens.  For more information, regarding hours and fees, please click on the link to the website, www.harewood.org)

The Countess of Harewood with her two sons, George and Gerald

In addition to becoming the Countess of Harewood, Princess Mary became the Princess Royal in 1932, the title is customarily given to the eldest daughter of the British monarch.  Since there can be only one Princess Royal at a time, upon the death of her Aunt Princess Louise, the Duchess of Fife (the daughter of King Edward VII) the title was given to Princess Mary.  Special Note: Princess Louise in turn received the title in 1905 four years after the death of Princess Victoria, the Dowager German Empress and Queen of Prussia (the daughter of Queen Victoria).  The current Princess Royal is Princess Anne, who is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, and she received the title in 1987 twenty-two years after the death of Princess Mary.

The year of 1936 would bring about drastic changes to the British Royal Family.  Upon the death of her father King George V, her favorite brother became King Edward VIII but before his coronation was held he abdicated and her other brother would become King George VI.  Shunned by the Royal Family, Edward went on to become the Duke of Windsor and in 1937 when he married Wallis Simpson in France and the Earl and Countess of Harewood would be the only members of the Royal Family to attend.  (Special Note: Still upset years later when the Duke of Windsor did not receive an invitation to the wedding of her niece Princess Elizabeth to Phillip Mountbatten in 1947, the Countess declined to attend in protest)

The Earl and Countess of Harewood

In May 1947 the Earl of Harewood died suddenly of a heart attack at Harewood House.  In the years that followed the Countess Harewood seemed to have reconciled with the other members of the Royal family and she did attended the coronation of her niece, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.  In March 1965, the Princess Royal suffered a similar fate as that of her husband and she died suddenly of a heart attack at Harewood House.  After a private family funeral at the All Saints Church, which was attended by several members of the Royal Family including Queen Elizabeth II, she was buried alongside her husband.

A British Royal Wedding – Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer

To continue the ongoing series about the British Royal Weddings, this post will be about the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer which took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.  At the time it was called the “Wedding of the Century” and it seemed to be the fairytale of the Prince and heir to the British throne marrying the beautiful Lady of a noble birth from an aristocratic family that had been a part of English history for centuries. 

Prince Charles was born on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace and he is the eldest son of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip (later to become Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh) He was born during the reign of his maternal grandfather King George VI and he would become very close to his maternal grandmother Queen Elizabeth (later to be known as the Queen Mother).  Upon the death of his grandfather in 1952, his mother became Queen Elizabeth II and he would attend her coronation in 1953 at Westminster Abbey.  Prince Charles was formally given the title of Prince of Wales in 1958 and his investiture would be held in 1969 as a grand televised ceremony from Caernarfon Castle located in north Wales, he holds the record of the longest serving heir apparent to the British throne in the history of England.    

Prince Charles received his formal education at Cheam and Gordonstoun, he then went onto the University of Cambridge and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree.  Later served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy from 1971 to 1976, his naval career followed the Royal family tradition set by his great grandfather, grandfather and father.

Just prior to his military service, Charles took a seat in the House of Lords in 1970 and he would also go on to perform official duties on behalf of the Queen and the Commonwealth.  In 1976 he founded the Prince’s Trust which has become one of the most successful charitable organizations in the United Kingdom.  The Prince is also a dedicated environmentalist promoting organic farming and awareness of climate change.

Lady Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961 and she is the youngest daughter of John Spencer, the 8th Earl Spencer, and Frances Shand Kydd.  Diana received a traditional British education; she struggled academically but showed talent as a pianist, excelled at swimming and diving, and also studied ballet and tap dance.  After attending one term at a finishing school in Switzerland, Diana would later move to London to share a flat with several friends.  She worked numerous minimal jobs and eventually found work as a nanny and then as a nursery teacher’s assistant.

The Spencer ancestral home, Althorp, was located in Norfolk and Diana’s family would occasionally spend time at the Royal estate of Sandringham.  Diana was closer in age to Prince Andrew, Prince Charles’ younger brother, and Lady Sarah, Diana’s older sister, briefly dated Prince Charles in 1977.  But it was on a country weekend in 1980 that Diana came to the attention of Prince Charles when she graciously commented on the death of his favorite Uncle, Lord Mountbatten who had tragically died in an IRA bombing in 1979.  Touched by her acknowledgement of his recent loss, Prince Charles became interested in the charming and rather shy Diana as a potential wife.  Subsequently, the couple began a discreet courtship and Prince Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981.

At Buckingham Palace on February 24, 1981, Prince Charles and Diana appeared before the international press to officially announce their engagement. Diana’s large engagement ring was stunning, it was made by the Crown jewelers Garrard and featured a 12 carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire that was encircled by 14 diamonds and set in 18 carat white gold.  (Special Note: Thirty years later, in 2011, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s son, Prince William, proposed to Catherine Middleton with the same sapphire and diamond engagement ring)

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on their engagement day

With the wedding date set for the summer, the media attention soon turned to Diana and for security reason she moved into Clarence House, the home of the Queen Mother, Prince Charles grandmother.  She stayed there for a short time before moving into Buckingham Palace where it was more convenient during the planning of the wedding.  Later she would return to Clarence House and this is from where she left on the morning of her wedding to travel by carriage to St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Special Note:  In a strange twist of fate, Prince Charles would later move into Clarence House after the death of the Queen Mother in 2002.  Then, in 2011 Prince William left Clarence House on the morning of his own wedding to travel by car to Westminster Abbey)

Since the number of invited wedding guests would be approximately 3,500 it was decided that St. Paul’s Cathedral would be the location for the ceremony instead of the smaller Westminster Abbey which had been the traditional site for previous British Royal weddings.  The location of St. Paul’s Cathedral would also provide a longer procession route, it was reported that approximately 600,000 people lined the streets of London to witness this historical event and security was increased with 4,000 police and 2,200 military officers to control the massive crowds.    

 St. Paul’s Cathedral

On the day of the wedding, notable International heads of state and the Commonwealth, members of the European Royal families and other invited guests had gathered at the Cathedral.  Precisely at the scheduled time members of the British Royal family left Buckingham Palace in a procession of eight carriages and were escorted by several different regiments from the Commonwealth.  The 1902 State Landau was used to transport Prince Charles and his brother Prince Andrew, the groom wore the full dress naval commander uniform, a full dress sword was attached to the uniform and tasseled in gold, a pair of gold Prince of Wales Royal ciphers attached to the epaulettes on both shoulders.  He also wore a trio of stars from the orders of the Garter, Thistle and Bath as well as the Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal.  (Special Note: The 1902 State Landau would also be used by Prince Charles and Princess Diana after the wedding ceremony to travel from the Cathedral back to Buckingham Palace.  Thirty years later the carriage was used for Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding in 2011)         

Diana and her father traveled from Clarence House to the Cathedral in the Glass Coach which was built in 1881 and later purchased by the Crown in 1911 to be used throughout the years for various official events such as the State Opening of Parliament and various Royal Weddings.  Since the inside of the carriage is very small there was very little space for Diana, her father and the voluminous wedding dress and the large train.  So, as a result when Diana emerged from the carriage at the Cathedral the dress appeared to be winkled but was quickly smoothed out before she would proceed down the aisle.  Diana’s much anticipated wedding dress was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and was made of ivory silk which featured a full voluminous skirt, fitted bodice with full 3/4 length sleeves trimmed with antique lace, hand embroidery, sequins and pearls.  The massive 25 foot train, the longest to be worn by a British Royal bride, featured ivory silk taffeta and antique lace.  The 153 yards of silk tulle were used to make the wedding veil that was secured with the Spencer tiara.  (For more information regarding the wedding dress and other items worn on the wedding day, please click on the link to Lady Diana Spencer – A British Royal Bride)    

As Diana took the arm of her father to begin the 31/2 minute walk up the aisle, the choir sang “Trumpet Voluntary” by Jeremiah Clarke.  Following them down the aisle were the bridal couple’s seven attendants: Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (the groom’s cousin), India Hicks (the granddaughter of the Earl of Mountbatten), Catheringe Cemeron, Sarah Jane Gaselee and Clementine Hambro, the two page boys were Lord Nicholas Windsor (son othe Duke and Duchess of Kent) and Edward van Cutsem (godson of the groom).  Waiting at the main altar with Prince Charles were his two younger brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, who were supporters (the English version of a best man).

The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alan Webster, presided over the traditional Church of England wedding service and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, would conduct the marriage ceremony.  In regards to the vows, it was the first time in recent British Royal history that the word “obey” was omitted.  In keeping with a tradition set at the 1923 wedding of Prince George and Lady Elizabeth (the groom’s grandparents), Diana’s wedding ring was made Welsh gold. 

Performing at the wedding service were the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir the Chapel Royal, the Bach Choir, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra with a fanfare performed the Royal Military School.  The musical selection included the “Prince of Denmark’s March”, “I Vow to Thee, My Country”, “Pomp and Circumstance No. 4” and the British National Anthem.  The New Zealand soprano, Kiri te Kanawa sang “Let the Bright Seraphim” by Handel.

At the conclusion of the wedding service, the bridal couple and 120 invited guests returned to Buckingham Palace for a four course wedding luncheon.  The menu included quenelle of brill in lobster sauce, Princess of Wales chicken (an entrée especially created to honor Diana, chicken stuffed with lamb mousse), served with new potatoes, butter beans and cream of corn, also served were strawberries with clotted cream.

As customary at Royal wedding, several wedding cakes were served (there was a total of 27 cakes).  The main wedding cake featured a five foot tall multi-tiered fruitcake weighed 225 pounds and was created by David Avery, the head baker at the Royal Naval cooking school.  The traditional wedding cake was covered with white icing and featured with the coat of arms of Prince Charles, the Spencer family crest and fondant flowers including roses, lilies of the valley and orchids.   

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding cake

During the day Prince Charles and Princess Diana (now known as the Princess of Wales) made the traditional appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.  This was the first time a British Royal Couple would publically kiss on the balcony on their wedding day.  (In 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton also made history when they kissed not once but twice on their wedding day!)

Prince Charles and Princess Diana would travel by train from Waterloo Station in London to the Broadlands, the private estate which was owned by the Earl of Mountbatten.  After spending three days there, the couple flew to Gibraltar to board the Royal Yacht, Britannia, for an eleven day cruise of the Mediterranean Sea.  Later they flew to Scotland to spend time with the Royal family on during their annual holiday at Balmoral Castle.       

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their honeymoon at Balmoral

The couple would go on to have two children, Prince William born in 1982 and Prince Harry born in 1984.  Unfortunately, the future would not be kind to Prince Charles and Princess Diana and they would endure an unhappy marriage that included infidelities on the part of the Prince and Princess as well as malicious and very public gossip involving both of them.  The Royal couple would ultimately divorce in 1996 and sadly the Princess would die in a tragic car accident in Paris in 1997.   

Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry at Highgrove