A British Royal Bride – Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Previously on this blog I featured a post about the British Royal wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra which took place on March 10, 1863 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.    Princess Alexandra of Denmark was statuesque in height, slim in weight and very beautiful with an outward dignified appearance.  Later, as Princess of Wales and then Queen Alexandra, she would ultimately influence the fashion style for England during the late Victorian and Edwardian period.  This week’s post will be about Princess Alexandra as a Royal bride and I will discuss what she wore on her wedding day including all the items of her bridal ensemble and jewelry.

Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress and bridal accessories

At the time of the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra, the Royal court was still in mourning after the unexpected death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert the Prince Consort, in December 1861. Although the wedding of the heir apparent to the English throne was a grand occasion that normally called for colorful and elaborate dresses to be wore by the women in attendance, the invited guests wore somber clothing.  The strict rules that dictated the mourning customs of the time meant that the royal court was initially required to wear black and then after a period of time shades of grey, lilac or mauve.  Queen Victoria wore a black dress for the wedding and she continued to wear black for the remainder of her life to honor her deceased husband.

One exception to the mourning custom would be the elaborate white wedding gown worn by the eighteen year old bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, which was made by Mrs. James of Belgravia from the finest Spitafields silk satin.  The full skirt had an overlay of four Honiton lace flounces that featured a design that incorporated the symbols of England (roses), Ireland (shamrocks) and Scotland (thistles).  The lace was designed and manufactured by John Tucker and Company of Branscombe near Sidmouth.  Attached to the skirt was a 21 foot train of antique silver moiré which was carried by the bridesmaids on the wedding day.  The dress was also trimmed with orange blossoms and the Princess also wore a white Honiton lace veil that was secured on her head by a wreath of additional orange blossoms and myrtle.  The bridegroom, Prince Albert, wore the uniform of an army general under his Order of the Garter robe on the wedding day.  (Special Note:  Princess Alexandra had originally received a gift of Belgium lace from King Leopold of Belgium which was intended to be used for her wedding dress but Queen Victoria preferred that all the materials for the future bride of the Prince of Wales should be manufactured in Britain)


Princess Alexandra and Prince Albert

Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress

Princess Alexandra’s eight bridesmaids wore white silk dresses trimmed with tulle and floral roses; they also wore floral wreaths of roses in their hair.  The British novelist William Thackeray, who attended the wedding, later remarked that the Princess and her bridesmaids reminded him of a fairy tale in which a group of beautiful young ladies were changed into graceful swans.

Princess Alexandra’s eight bridesmaids

Princess Alexandra’s wedding bouquet holder

On her wedding day Princess Alexandra carried a bridal bouquet of white roses, lilies of the valley, orchids and the traditional sprig of myrtle.  The elaborate bouquet holder 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 trio of white feathers for the Prince of Wales 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 Alexandra’s wedding jewelry

Princess of Wales diamond and pearl wedding set –

Prince Albert gave his bride a spectacular jewelry set that was presented to the Princess Alexandra on the wedding day.  The wedding set made by Garrard the Royal Jewelers included the diamond Rundell tiara, a diamond and pearl necklace with a matching set of earrings and brooch. The lovely Princess of Wales pearl and diamond necklace features seven medallions featuring large pearls surrounded by diamonds with another pearl and diamond medallion used as a clasp, the three center medallions with pearl drop pendants can be detached and wore as brooches.  The necklace medallions are connected with double rows of diamonds that gently drape when wore around the neck.  After the death of Princess Alexandra (later known as Queen Alexandra) the necklace was inherited by Queen Mary, who passed it onto Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and then Queen Elizabeth II. The matching earrings of the wedding set featured two large pearls surrounded by diamonds, the earrings are currently known as Queen Alexander’s Cluster Earrings.   The matching brooch features one large pearl in the center and two smaller pearls on either side, diamonds surrounded the pearls and three pearl pendants accented with large diamonds can be detached.  The brooch is now known as the Queen Alexandra Triple-drop Brooch and it was passed onto Queen Mary and then later to Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess of Wales diamond and pearl wedding set

The final item in the wedding set is the diamond Rundell Tiara.  The name is something of a curiosity because despite the fact that it was made by Garrard, the Royal Jewelers, Rundell was the name of a former jewelry company that had a Royal Warrant but closed in 1843 twenty years before the Royal wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales.  The other misnomer is that the piece is not a tiara but by definition a coronet because it forms a closed circle.  The base of the piece has two rows of diamonds with ten large pear-shaped diamonds connected with smaller diamonds forming a scroll pattern.  The different components of the piece can be removed, the large diamonds can be worn as brooches, the base can be worn alone or Queen Alexandra sometimes added several diamond star brooches.  After the death of the Queen, the Rundell Tiara was passed to her daughter Princess Victoria and it is possible that the jewels were removed and repurposed into other pieces of jewelry.

Princess Alexandra wearing the complete Rundell Tiara
in a Jubilee portrait by Bassano dated 1887

Princess Alexandra wearing the Rundell Tiara without the diamond scrolls

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond set –

Queen Victoria gave her new daughter-in-law, Princess Alexandra, an opal and diamond set as a wedding gift.  The set was made by Garrard and included a cross pendant with three oval-shaped opals, three matching brooches, earrings and a bracelet.  The Princess wore the opal and diamond bracelet on her left arm on her wedding day and on her right arm she wore another opal and diamond bracelet which was a wedding gift from the ladies of Manchester.  (Special Note: During the Victorian Era, opals were thought to be a symbol of bad luck and later the Princess possibly had the set repurposed into other pieces of jewelry but the fate of those items is unknown)

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond set
received as a wedding gift from Queen Victoria

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond bracelet wore on her wedding day

Princess Alexandra’s bridesmaids bracelet –

Another item that Princess Alexandra received as a wedding gift was a lovely gold bracelet from her bridesmaids that performed as her train bearers.  The bracelet, made by Garrard, featured eight linked blue enameled hinged lockets set with diamond initials for the first name of each bridesmaid.  The lockets opened to reveal hand-painted miniature portraits of each of the eight bridesmaids. (Special Note: Later, on the silver wedding anniversary of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the bridesmaids presented a beautiful silver box to hold the bracelet when it was not being worn)

Princess Alexandra’s Dagmar necklace –

The last item of jewelry that I will discuss was actually one of the first gifts that Princess Alexandra had received shortly after the official announcement of the engagement and before the wedding day.  The Dragmar necklace was a gift from King Frederick VII, the Princess’ grandfather, that she received before leaving Denmark to travel to England.  The magnificent necklace made by the Danish court jeweler, Julius Dideriksen, featured 118 pearls and 2000 diamonds set in gold and arranged in medallions with a large diamond in the center surrounded by scroll work created with more diamonds and connected with jeweled swags.  The Dagmar cross was placed in the center of the necklace and two large pearls on either side of the cross were so valuable they were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace in 1851.(Historical Note: King Frederick who gave Princess Alexandra the Dragmar necklace would later die in November 1863 a few months after her wedding and Princess Alexandra’s father would become King Christian IX)

The source of the necklace’s name and the most remarkable element of the elaborate necklace is the Dagmar Cross.  The story behind the necklace is that Queen Dagmar was the wife of King Waldermar of Denmark and when she died in 1212 she was buried with a pectoral cross on her chest.  When the tomb was opened in 1690, the cross was removed and is now one of the most precious relics of Denmark.  For centuries it had become a tradition that when a Danish Princess is married she is given a duplicate of the Dagmar Cross.

The centerpiece of the necklace created for Prince Alexandra is a cloisonné enameled Byzantine gold cross that is a duplicate of Queen Dagmar’s cross and it has been documented that the cross held a small piece from the original cross and a piece of silk fabric from King Canute’s grave.

Princess Alexandra’s Dagmar Necklace

The Dagmar Cross

The Dagmar necklace was a very difficult piece of jewelry to wear because the diamond and pearl swags did not always lay flat.  Princess Alexandra (later Queen Alexandra) was known for layering on her jewelry and more was … well, more!!  Shown in the photo below Queen Alexandra dressed on the coronation day of her husband in 1902, who became known as King Edward VII.  The Dagmar necklace is seen attached to the lower portion of the bodice’s dress.

After the death of Queen Alexandra in 1925, the necklace was passed onto Queen Mary, then Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and eventually to Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.  After it had been passed to Queen Elizabeth II she wore it on a handful of occasions in the 1950s and early 1960s, including during her 1957 state visit to Denmark, each time using it with the two largest pearl pendants and the Dagmar Cross removed.

For more information regarding Princess Alexandra – A Fashion Icon, Please click on the link.


A British Royal Wedding – Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra

I mentioned that I would be writing posts on this blog regarding the various weddings of the members of European royalty.  The first post  was about the British Royal wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, click on the link for more information.  This month I would like to feature the wedding of her son and the heir apparent to the English throne, Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

Wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra
Date and location: March 10, 1863 at St. George Chapel, Windsor Castle

Many years prior to the wedding, Queen Victoria had started the search for a proper bride to calm her mischievous and troublesome son, Prince Albert Edward the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne. With the aid of her daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, they focused their search for a suitable European princess and eventually settled on Alexandra of Denmark.  Princess Alexandra was the eldest daughter of Prince Christian (soon to be King of Denmark in 1863) and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel.  She was a very timid and humble girl who had led a relatively normal life in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Albert and Alexandra first met in September 1861, but unfortunately Albert was only mildly interested.  At the time, he had been training with the Grenadier Guard in Ireland and he had become romantically involved with an Irish actress, he later went onto finish his studies at Cambridge University.  When the very scandalous news regarding the actress reached Queen Victoria and Prince Albert his father eventually confronted him about his improper behavior.  Soon after taking a long walk in the rain along the streets of Cambridge to privately discuss the situation, his father became gravely ill and died a short time later from what was thought to be typhoid fever.  For this reason Queen Victoria in her profound state of grief mistakenly placed the blame on her son for causing the death of her beloved husband. (Historical Note: Much later it was proven that Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, he had been suffering from chronic long term stomach problems, possibly abdominal cancer, for years)

After a brief period of mourning, the Queen’s son, Prince Albert finally proposed to Princess Alexandra in September 1862.  She gladly accepted and, after negotiating a marriage contract, the wedding date was set for March 1863.

Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra at the time of their engagement

At the end of February 1863, Princess Alexandra departed from Copenhagen, Denmark to travel to England.  There was a grand procession witnessed by thousands of people lining the streets of Copenhagen to see Princess Alexandra and her family departure, the railway station was festively decorated with flags from both Denmark and England. In a bittersweet farewell, the Princess boarded the train to travel across Denmark to the seaport of Korsor.  After a spectacular fireworks display the Princess boarded a boat named the Schleswig which would take her across the Baltic Sea to Kiel, Germany.

Princess Alexandra and her family leaving Copenhagen

Princess Alexandra’s trip to England took several days to complete with several stops in major cities across Denmark, Germany and France for various celebrations along the route before crossing the North Sea to England.  Once arriving at Gravesend, England located at the mouth of the River Thames, the Princess was finally met by Prince Albert.  As the Princess moved onto the pier, sixty young girls from Kent greeted her wearing the red and white colors of Denmark and tossed flower petals at her feet.

Princess Alexandra arrival at Gravesend on March 7, 1863
painting by Henry Nelson O’Neil

From Gravesend, the Prince joined the Princess and her family; they took several carriages for the ride into London.  Throughout the streets of London large crowds had gathered despite the inclement weather to see the procession, the people carried flags and gave a resounding cheer as the carriages passed by.  Then the Prince, Princess and the other members of the Royal group boarded the train destined for Windsor Castle which would be the site of the wedding ceremony.

Princess Alexandra procession through the streets of London

Princess Alexandra arrival at Windsor Castle

The wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra took place on March 10, 1863 at St. George Chapel located at Windsor Castle.  When the Queen took her place in the Catherine of Aragon balcony high above the floor of the Chapel to view the ceremony the people solemnly bowed to pay their respect.  Among those gathered for the wedding ceremony were members of the English and Danish Royal family as well as other European royalty.  Also assembled were several former Prime Ministers of England; including Palmerston, Gladstone and Disraeli and other members of Parliament.  Other illustrious English notables were in attendance and included the famous authors Dickens, Tennyson and Kingsley.

Interior of St George’s Chapel

Prince Albert arrived just before the start of the ceremony and he was dressed in his Garter robes, he had become a Knight of the Order of the Garter in December 1841 and received the title of Prince of Wales the same year.  The Prince was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, who was serving as his best man.

When Princess Alexandra entered the Chapel with her eight bridesmaids, the people duly noted the remarkable beauty of the 18 year old bride.  The Princess wore an elaborate ivory silk taffeta wedding gown which featured a separate bodice top and a full skirt that had an overlay of Honiton lace and the skirt featured a 21 foot train of silver moiré, the dress was trimmed with orange blossoms.  The Princess wore a white Honiton lace veil that was secured on her head by a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle.  To complete her bridal ensemble, Princess Alexandra wore the pearl and diamond necklace and matching earrings and brooch that she received as a gift from her husband and an opal and diamond bracelet which was a gift from Queen Victoria.  The bouquet that she carried on her wedding day was made of white rosebuds, lilies of the valley, rare orchids and the traditional sprig of myrtle.  (For more information on A British Royal Bride – Princess Alexandra, please click on the link)

Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra

At one point in the wedding ceremony the famous opera singer Jenny Lind performed a solemn piece of music written by the Prince Consort, the late husband of Queen Victoria, that had been specifically chosen for the occasion and the Queen was seen withdrawing from view in her secluded box and was heard to be quietly weeping.  (Historical Note: Sadly, St George Chapel was where the funeral service for Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, took place a little over a year before the wedding and no doubt the Queen was remembering the loss of her beloved husband)

Queen Victoria sits in the Catherine of Aragon balcony at the St. George’s Chapel
in which she viewed the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra

With the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the bridal party and their five hundred invited guests returned to Windsor Castle for a grand wedding reception.  Like Queen Victoria did in 1840, several wedding cakes were made for the reception with the main wedding cake described as follows: “it was a three-tiered cake with white icing, at the base were rose, thistle and shamrock festoons intertwined with the British and Denmark coat of arms.  On the tiers were reflectors and figures of cupids with harps and near the top of the cake were two sating flags painted with the images of the Prince and Princess.  At the very top were a Prince coronet with three ostrich feathers”, the symbol of the Prince of Wales.  The wedding cake, which stood almost five feet in height was prepared by Mr. Bolland of Cheste.

The wedding cake of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra

After the wedding reception, the bridal couple changed into their traveling clothes and left Windsor Castle for Osborne House on the Isle of Wight where they would spend several days on their honeymoon.

The Prince and Princess of Wales went onto to have five children, two boys and three girls.  They were Prince Albert Victor born in 1864, Prince George born in 1865, Princess Louise born in 1867, Princess Victoria born in 1868 and Princess Maud in 1869.  The Royal couple had a home in London, Marlborough House, and a country home in Norfolk, Sandringham.  In 1901, Queen Victoria died and the Prince ascended to the British throne as King Edward VII with Queen Alexandra as the Queen Consort.

The Prince and Princess of Wales with their children