A British Royal Wedding – Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William

This blog has featured several British Royal Brides in recent months and this post will be about Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.   I will briefly discuss the courtship, engagement and wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William with details about her wedding dress and bridal accessories worn on her wedding day.

Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa was born on November 21, 1840 to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace in London.  Although the Royal couple would have preferred their first born to be a boy, despite this fact Prince Albert was absolutely delighted with his daughter.  While she was still only one year old, the young Victoria was created the Princess Royal in 1841; the title is customarily given to the eldest daughter of the British sovereign.

Princess Victoria 1842 by Franz Winterhalter

Princess Victoria and her siblings received a proper education which was closely followed by their father and overseen by Baron Stockmar.  The Princess would prove to be an excellent student that thrived in her studies while her brother Prince Albert Edward, who was born a year after her, struggled with his lessons.  Throughout the years, Princess Victoria and her father shared a special bond enjoying common interests and later similar political views.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had carefully planned that their children would be joined in marriage into some of the most prominent European Royal families in the hopes of forming political alliances that would greatly benefit England.  The Queen and her husband had a long standing friendship with Prince William (later William I the King of Prussia and German Emperor) and his wife, Princess Augusta.  So to further strengthen the bond between England, Prussia and eventually a unified Germany it was decided that a marriage would be arranged between Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick, the eldest son of Prince William.

Princess Victoria 1851 by Franz Winterhalter

Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick would meet in London for the first time during the Great Exhibition of 1851, she was only 11 years old and he was nineteen.  The Princess made a great impression on the Prince who found her to be very mature and intelligent despite her young age and after returning to his homeland he began regularly writing letters to her.  Back in Prussia the idea of the Prince marrying the daughter of the Queen of England was met with much resistance and also great apprehension.  Then, in 1855 Prince Frederick planned a trip to see Princess Victoria again to make a final decision about a marriage.  He visited her in Balmoral Castle in Scotland and within a few days he was asking the Queen’s approval and also her permission before proposing to the Princess.  Several conditions had been set by the Queen, the first being that the marriage would not take place until the Princess was 17 years old and that the wedding would be in England not in Prussia.  Special Note: This last stipulation was an unusual request because customarily the wedding of an heir (Prince Frederick) would take place in his country and not the bride’s homeland.

Lithograph showing Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick (center)
and their parents – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (left) and
Princess Augusta and Prince William (later King of Prussia and German Emperor)

Once the engagement of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick was officially announced on May 17, 1856 there was general disapproval not only in Prussia but also in England.  The public was very critical of the Prussian neutrality during the Crimean War and also disapproved of the Prussian government association with Russia.  Meanwhile Prince Albert took the opportunity between the engagement and the wedding to prepare his daughter for her future life in Prussia.  He spent many hours teaching her his liberal ideals promoting a unified Germany but unfortunately this would ultimately cause the Princess immense problems later with the conservative government of Prussia.

The Marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick painting by John Phillip
(Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family are shown on the right in the painting)

The Royal wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick took place on January 25, 1858 at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace in London, England.  On the morning of the wedding thousands of people lined the procession route that led from Buckingham Palace to St James Palace to witness eighteen carriages which carried the Royal Family and other dignitaries plus hundreds of soldiers and horses.

The bride’s brothers rode in one carriage wearing Highland kilts while in another carriage her sisters were wearing pink satin and white lace dresses. In the final carriage Princess Victoria rode with her mother, Queen Victoria.  Arriving at St James Palace to a fanfare of trumpets and drums they were joined by the bride’s father, Prince Albert.  Then the wedding procession entered the Palace it included the bride’s brothers and sisters, the young bridesmaids, the bride’s grandmother and lastly the Queen.   The groom, Prince Frederick, stood at the railing near the front of the Chapel dressed in the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guard uniform; he also held a silver helmet in his hand. Finally, Princess Victoria walked into the Chapel accompanied by her father and her Great Uncle Leopold positioned on either side. (Special Note: Leopold, the King of Belgium, was the uncle to both the bride’s parents since the Queen and Prince Albert were first cousins).

Lithograph showing Queen Victoria and Princess Victoria
arriving at St James Palace for the wedding ceremony

After the wedding ceremony concluded the bride and groom walked out of the Chapel to a song which had been written in 1842 by the German composer, Felix Mendelssohn.  It was originally written to accompany the Shakespeare play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  Referred in the commemorative souvenir printed material at the time as the “Bride’s Song” it would be the first time that the song would be performed at a Royal Wedding.  (Special Note: As with most customs set during the Victorian Era, it proved to be very popular with the public for wedding ceremonies as a recessional song, it later became known as the “Wedding March”)

Shown above is a page from a special Royal Wedding printing
referring the Mendelssohn composition as “A Bride’s Song”

As tradition dictates, following the ceremony the wedding register was signed and a reception was held later at Buckingham Palace where a large and ornate wedding cake was cut and served to the invited guests.

Lithograph showing Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick
signing the marriage register after the wedding

Lithograph showing the wedding cake of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick

Princess Victoria’s wedding dress and accessories

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she popularized the style of the white wedding dress and her daughter, Princess Victoria followed this new tradition.  A dress was specially created for the Royal Princess and was made of white silk moiré accented with three layers of Honiton lace; the lace featured a design incorporating roses, shamrocks and thistles which were symbols of England, Ireland and Scotland.   The dress had a rather long train that measured more than three yards and was trimmed with lace and satin ribbon.  Orange blossoms and sprigs of myrtle were used to decorate the bodice and the various tiers of the dress.  (Special Note: in the “language of flowers”, the orange blossom was used to represent purity and fertility while the myrtle was commonly used as a bridal flower in Germany, a sweet gesture to honor the groom)

A photograph of Princess Victoria’s wedding dress,
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

To complete Princess Victoria’s wedding ensemble a long Honiton lace veil was attached to her head with a wreath made of orange blossoms and myrtle.  She also wore a diamond necklace, earrings and a brooch.  (Special Note:  Queen Victoria was regally dressed for her daughter’s wedding and she wore a lilac silk moiré dress with a velvet train and she also wore a diamond crown with a royal diadem of diamonds and pearls)

A photograph of Princess Victoria’s wedding veil,
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

Princess Victoria’s wedding gifts

On the occasion of Princess Victoria’s wedding to Prince Frederick many wedding gifts were received and displayed in one of the State rooms at Buckingham Palace.  The items were labeled with a brief description and the name of the person presenting the wedding gift.  From the groom, Prince Frederick, the Princess Royal received a lovely diamond and turquoise necklace.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the bride’s parents, had given their daughter a necklace made of 36 large pearls and an opal and Diamond demi-parure which included a necklace, earrings and brooch.  The Queen also gave her a diamond brooch which could also be worn as a necklace pendant and Prince Albert gave her an emerald and diamond bracelet.  The groom’s parents, Prince William and Princess Augusta, gave her a wonderful diamond diadem (a coronet often worn as a symbol of sovereignty)

The lithograph shown above depicts the diamond and opal demi-parure which was a gift from the Princess Royal’s parents and also the diamond brooch from the Queen and emerald and diamond bracelet which was a gift from Prince Albert.

Many years after the wedding, in 1875 the Royal Princess Victoria now known as the Crown Princess of Germany, commissioned a special painting as a gift for her mother, Queen Victoria.  Shown below is the formal portrait by Heinrich von Angeli which is significant because she is wearing the Indian necklace that Queen Victoria had originally received from Queen Oude and then given to her daughter as a wedding gift.  (Special Note:The Crown Princess is also shown wearing the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert badge and the Order of Louise badge pinned to the left sleeve of her dress)

Formal portrait of the Crown Princess of Germany by Heinrich von Angeli
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

Despite the fact that the marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick was basically an arranged marriage it had turned into a true love.  The Royal couple had eight children: Wilhelm (1859-1941), Charlotte (1860-1919), Heinrich (1862-1929), Sigismund (1864-1866), Viktoria (1866-1929), Waldemar (1868-1879), Sophia (1870-1932), Margaret (1872-1954).

Prince Frederick and Princess Victoria with five of their eight children

Frederick became the King of Prussia and German Emperor upon the death of his father in March 1888.  Sadly, Frederick III died on June 15 from cancer of the larynx only 99 days after his accession and was succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II.

After the death of her husband the Dowager Empress relocated to Friedrichshof, a castle she had built in Kronberg im Taunus located in Hesse, Germany.  There she lived a very isolated life until she died of breast cancer on August 5, 1901 only a few months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria.  The Empress Dowager Victoria was laid to rest alongside her husband at Friedenskirche, the Royal mausoleum located in Postsdam, Germany.