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