Updated: Mar 14
This is the first of my Wedding Brides features 'Victorian Brides', as requested, starting with Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (later Prince Consort) on 10 February 1840 at Chapel Royal, St. JJames'sames's Palace, in London.
The love-struck Queen wrote in her diary;
"I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!"
The Wedding Dress;
The young Queen chose a white dress, which at the time was considered unusual as colours were more widely used. It was made from heavy silk satin.
The Honiton lace used for her wedding dress proved an important boost to Devon lace-making. Queen Victoria has been credited with starting the tradition of white weddings & white bridal gowns, although she was not the first royal bride to be married in white. The lace was designed by William Dyce, head of the then Government School of Design (later known as the Royal College of Art), & mounted on a white satin dress made by Mary Bettans.
The plain, cream-coloured satin gown was made from fabric woven in Spitalfields, east London, & trimmed with a deep flounce & trimmings of lace hand-made in Honiton & Beer, in Devon.
This support for English industry, particularly the cottage industry for lace, was a timely boost for their business. The handmade lace motifs were appliquéd (to decorate (a garment or larger piece of fabric) with pieces of fabric to form pictures or patterns.) onto cotton machine-made net.
Orange flower blossoms, a symbol of fertility, also trimmed the dress & made up Victoria's wreath, which she wore instead of a tiara over her veil. The veil, which matched the flounce of the dress, was four yards in length & 0.75 yards wide. The Queens jewellery consisted of diamond earrings & necklace, & a sapphire brooch given to her by Albert.
The slippers she wore matched the white colour of the dress.
Flat shoes of white satin trimmed with bands of ribbon. Long ribbon ties fastening round the ankles held the shoes in place. They were made by Gundry and Son, 1 Soho Square, Boot & Shoemakers to the Queen. Current location - Northampton Museum & Art Gallery
The train of the dress, carried by her bridesmaids, measured 18 feet (5.5 m) long.
In her journal she wrote:
"I wore a white satin dress, with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, an imitation of an old design. My jewels were my Turkish diamond necklace & earrings & dear Albert's beautiful sapphire brooch."
In 1840 photography was still in it's infancy & techniques were not then fully developed.
However a series of photographs were taken by Roger Fenton on 11 May 1854 of Victoria & Albert are often described as wedding or reenactment photographs, with the dress identified as her wedding dress. The Royal Collection has refuted these interpretations, stating that the images are the first photographs to show Victoria as a queen, rather than as a wife or mother, & that she & Albert are wearing court dress.
In 1847, Victoria commissioned Franz Xaver Winterhalter to paint a portrait of her wearing her wedding clothes as an anniversary present for Prince Albert. The portrait was also copied as an enamel miniature by John Haslem. It is pictured at the top of the page.
Victoria later used the lace-makers to create the christening gown worn by her children, including Albert Edward, the future Edward VII. This gown was worn for the christening of all subsequent Royal babies until the baptism of James, Viscount Severn in 2008, when a replica was used for the first time.
As a mark of support for the Honiton industry, in addition to often wearing their lace on her & her children's clothes, Victoria insisted her daughters also order Honiton lace for their wedding dresses
DID YOU KNOW? Queen Victoria had twelve bridesmaids at her wedding.
The Queen also wore her wedding lace mounted on the dresses she wore to the christenings of her nine children (except for Albert Edward's, for which she wore her Garter robes). She also wore it to the weddings of two of her children, her eldest daughter, Victoria, in 1858, & her youngest son, Leopold, in 1882. Her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, was permitted to wear it as part of her wedding gown in 1885. Victoria also wore the lace to the wedding of her grandson George (the future George V) to Mary of Teck in 1893, & for her Diamond Jubilee official photograph in 1897.
When Victoria died, she was buried with her wedding veil over her face. In 2012 it was reported that while the dress itself had been conserved & displayed at Kensington Palace that year, the lace was now too fragile to move from storage.
Wearing white was quickly became the fashion, especially by the wealthy, fashionable brides. The 'white' wedding dress had been an uncommon choice for bridal gowns before Victoria's wedding & it was not chosen by a majority of brides until decades later.
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