Queen Victoria was the most powerful monarch in her age. Actually, an entire age was named after her: the Victorian Age, such was her power. The Queen was also something of a fashion icon like other Royals in the 19th century. Her marriage to Prince Albert was one of the most important of all time as it inspired current trends in wedding style. Victoria and Albert’s Wedding in ways was to inspire the modern wedding.
The Background to Victoria and Albert’s Wedding
Queen Victoria after she became Queen was expected to marry this was the social convention of the time. Apparently, Victoria was not too happy about this, but it was her Royal Duty and she wanted to escape from her overbearing mother. She agreed to a possible match with Price Albert of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha a German principality. Fortunately, it was love at first sight and the young couple were extremely willing to get married. Marrying for love was not that common in Early 19th century Europe.
Victoria and Albert’s Wedding Day
Victoria and Albert’s wedding took place on the 10 February 1840 at Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, in London. Victoria and Albert made their way to the chapel by coach and as they did, throngs of onlookers cheered them. The entire British nation and Empire was focused on the Royal couple’s Big Day. There was a festive atmosphere in London and there was bunting, triumphal arches and pictures of the Queen and future Prince Consort everywhere. The Queen was happy to see the public celebrations which was a first as usually the Royals distrusted large public gatherings as they were associated with disorder.
Breaking with tradition
Victoria and Albert‘s wedding took place in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace. This had been the main Royal residence in London for over a century. Victoria and Albert’s wedding was held there because it was a tradition. In fact, the Queen never liked St James’s Palace. Traditionally Royal weddings were small and intimate affairs, but this was not for Victoria. She wanted her wedding to be a public event and invited more guests than previous Royal Marriages. In a sense Victoria and Albert’s Wedding was the first modern Royal wedding.
Victoria’s Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses were typically fringed with white lace. The Queen’s wedding dress had lace trimmings made from lace designed by William Dyce who was head of what is now the London Royal College of Art. The dress was a rich white satin, and it was designed and made by the famous Mary Bettans. The dress was trimmed by orange flower blossoms, symbols of fertility, which had to be imported especially for the occasion. She wore the blossoms over her veil instead of a tiara. The young Queen carried a bouquet of myrtle and many of the guests took some of the myrtle
The cream-colored dress was made from material woven in Spitalfields East London. Spitalfields was famous for its traditional weaving industry and Victoria chose to have her dress made her to support local handicraft-persons who were coming under pressure because of the Industrial Revolution and steam-powered looms. Victoria’s veil was four meters long and almost one meter in width and was carried by her bridesmaids and not her ladies-in-waiting. This was most unusual another break from tradition.
Victoria’s headdress was unpretentious, and this was a very personal choice of the Queen. Typically, the headdress of a bride and especially a Royal Bride was ostentatious and a splendid affair. Many had diamonds and jewels embroidered onto their head dress. The Queen wanted only a simple headdress. The headdress was a simple but intricate wreath of small orange blossoms and over this an exquisite veil of Honiton lace. This is a bobbin lace and had floral motifs upon a net background. This lace is considered to be simpler and more naturalistic than Belgian lace for example. The headdress only covered the top and back of her head and allowed Victoria to display her luscious reddish hair which was the symbol of her virtue.
The headdress and her wedding dress were based on an older design. This was not just a fashion statement but also a political statement. Her wedding style was a rejection of the fashion and morality of the Regency period, which was notorious for its debauchery and excess. The wedding dress of Victoria was a statement that her reign would be more sober and moral.
A simple wedding?
Victoria and Albert’s Wedding were not as elaborate as often supposed. Indeed, the simplicity of the style of the Queen’s headdress was a talking point in the press who praised Victoria for her sense of style. It has been claimed that the headdress was based on Chinese headwear, but others claim that it was based on an old English design.
Victoria and Albert’s wedding also broke with tradition by not wearing a wedding coronet. The wearing of these jewel encrusted crowns was the norm at Royal or aristocratic weddings. Noblewomen and peers wore examples of this headgear when they were getting married. They are still worn, and they are decorated to indicate the rank of the wearer. Interestingly Prince Albert designed a wedding coronet for his wife after they were married in 1840. It was made of sapphire and diamonds and today is valued at five million British pounds and is on display at a museum. Some believe that the Queen came to regret not wearing a coronet on the day of her wedding.
The headdress worn by Victoria on her wedding day started a new fashion trend, one that continues to this day. She inspired brides after her to wear floral headwear.
Victoria and Albert‘s Wedding jewellery
As this was a Royal Wedding one would have expected diamonds and gold everywhere. This was not the case as we have seen there were no jewels sewed into the Queen’s headdress. Victoria only wore a ‘Turkish diamond necklace and accompanying earrings. These had been given to her as a present by the Ottoman Sultan. Above all she wore the prized sapphire cluster brooch that her Prince had given her. Victoria treasured her wedding jewels until her death.
The Wedding Ring of Queen Victoria is made of gold and set with a large fifteen carat diamond. It was made by Garrard, the famous jeweller. The ring was passed to the children of the Queen and her descendants and was once worn by Princess Diana.
The groom and the guests at Victoria and Albert’s Wedding
The bride is of course the centre of attention on every wedding day. The groom also cut an impressive figure. Prince Albert was dressed in his military uniform as he was a commander in his princedom’s army. He wore a number of decorations some of them encrusted with diamonds. All the males in attendance were peers and wore their military uniforms that were adorned with medals and decorations. The many churchmen in attendance wore sombre robes.
We have a good idea of what the ladies wore and their headdresses because of the painting by George Hayter that is now on display in London. The women were dressed in gowns usually made of expensive silks. Many wore brooches and pearl necklaces which at the time were extremely popular.
The female guests wore a wide range of headdresses. It is important to note that a woman was expected to have her head covered in the 19th century if she was to be regarded as respectable. The headdresses were made of lace or velvet. Some of then were adorned with diamonds and semiprecious stones. Many of the ladies wore headdresses with birds’ feathers many of them were taken from exotic birds which would have been expensive as they had to be brought from Africa and South Africa. The bridesmaid wore floral tiaras while several of the more distinguished guests had hairnets that glittered with jewels or pearls.
Many of the women wore white gloves that were embroidered with symbols relating to the Royal Couple’s Happy Day.
Victoria and Albert’s Wedding- laughter and tears
Everyone loves a good wedding and Victoria, and Albert’s wedding was no exception. There were of course plenty of tears of joy. The high-born women who attended the wedding would have had handkerchiefs which were seen as status symbols. They were particularly important in Victorian society. There were, handkerchiefs for all occasions including funerals and weddings. Queen Victoria had a wedding lace handkerchief specially made for her. Victoria had one that was monogrammed. It is likely that many of the noble ladies who attended the wedding had special handkerchiefs made to mark the day.
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