Queen Victoria’s wedding dress


Queen Victoria in her wedding outfit, Winterhalter, 1847. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria married her handsome first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on the 10th of February 1840 in a relatively intimate ceremony at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace in London. I say ‘relatively intimate’ because this royal wedding was a bit of a contrast to the lavish public events that we have come to know in more recent decades.

Victoria and Albert’s wedding in The Young Victoria.

Of course, public interest in the Queen’s nuptials were still extremely high even before the advent of photography and the British public lapped up the details of Victoria’s 300lb wedding cake, her groom’s cherry red British Field Marshal’s uniform and newly conferred Order of the Garter and, most importantly as ever, her own rather beautiful wedding dress of white satin trimmed with lace and orange blossom.

Reproduction of Prince Albert’s wedding outfit at Kensington Palace. Photo: my own.

Compared to the likes of Marie Antoinette or the late Princess of Wales, Queen Victoria wasn’t much of a trend setter when it came to sartorial affairs but her simple ivory wedding dress was seen as something of a radical step in an era when royal brides tended to step out bedecked in priceless jewels and clad in shimmering cloth of silver or gold (for instance, her ill fated cousin Princess Charlotte would marry in silver lamé over silver tissue) while everyone else wore their best and most colourful frock.

Indeed, in contrast to her later years of unrelieved black and jet embellishments, the young Queen Victoria had a rather magpie like fashion sense as paintings of her in clashing prints and rather tastelessly covered in mountains of jewellery, ribbons, feathers, fuss and furbelow attests to. It was therefore expected that on this most important day she would set out from Buckingham Palace for her wedding in a swathe of diamonds, ermine, glittering fabric and perhaps even her crown. Not so. Perhaps it was in deference to Prince Albert’s rather more simple tastes or perhaps she was keen to symbolically emphasise her virginal qualities as opposed to her Queenly ones for the occasion but instead she opted for something rather less ostentatious although of course it was still a long way off the simple dress that one of her more humble subjects would opt to wear on their big day.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress on display at Kensington Palace. Photo: my own.

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.‘ — Queen Victoria describing her wedding outfit in her journal.

The dress itself was designed by William Dyce and was created from a heavy ivory satin woven in Spitalfields, London while the lace came from Honiton in Devon – both of which were carefully chosen with the aim of promoting English industry to the wider world.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and shoes. Photos: Royal Collection.

There were some glittering touches though – after all this was a royal wedding, albeit one that heralded a very different age to the distinctly shady Georgian ones that had preceded and which Victoria and Albert were very keen to disassociate themselves from and indeed even their wedding was a marked contrast to the rather shambolic and hasty affairs that had marked the nuptials of her disorderly pack of uncles and indeed even her own parents. The bride wore a beautiful ‘Turkish’ necklace and earrings but instead of a tiara she chose instead to wear a wreath of fragrant orange blossom over her long Honiton lace veil, which matched the blooms which decorated the bosom and skirt of her gown. Orange blossom had long been the traditional flower of choice for brides, denoting as it did, both chastity and fertility. In this, Queen Victoria was following in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette who had not only loved to go about smelling of sweet orange blossom but had also added their oil to her morning hot chocolate.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress on display at Kensington Palace. Photo: my own.

This being a royal wedding, there was also the traditional unwieldy train to deal with – in this instance Queen Victoria opted for 18 feet of white satin, which would later be dwarfed by Lady Diana Spencer’s 25 feet but was still a formidable length for her group of bridesmaids, also clad in white satin and lace, to contend with.

Queen Victoria’s wedding, Hayter, 1840. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria was just twenty years old when she married, a few months older than her groom and her diminutive figure, clad in virginal white not only made a stark contrast to the glittering outfits worn by her wedding guests but must also have served as a reminder on her wedding day that not only was she Queen but she was also a young woman.

Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria in her wedding dress.

I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert sat on a footstool by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband.’ — from Queen Victoria’s journal, 10th February 1840.

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6 thoughts on “Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

  • Kara Muller

    The dress is gorgeous!

    I always wondered about the Georgian royals. They’re not mentioned very much and no one seems to like them. What did they do?

    Also, love your blog!

  • Julio Sarmento Lopes

    Dear, madameguillotine.org.uk

    I am Julio Sarmento Lopes, MA candidate of Language, English Literature and Culture Department at Umino University, Braga-Portugal.

    Now I am writing my dissertation on Love, Courtship and Marriage In Victorian England. One of the chapter is about wedding ceremony. Therefore, I need Your permission if you could allow me to use one of your picture in your site for my writing.

    Thank you very much for your attention and good cooperation is highly appreciated

    Regards

    Julio

Comments are closed.