We’ve talked about our favourite royal wedding dresses, and though Queen Victoria’s dress dress didn’t make it on the list, it is certainly a significant gown with lots of fun history attached to it so we thought we’d dive into a discussion about it today.
For lucky readers who are in London this spring, don’t forget that the Victoria Revealed exhibition at Kensington Palace opens in March and will include the wedding dress! This will be the first time Queen Victoria’s wedding dress has been displayed in a decade. Just imagine that in 160 years, there very well could be an exhibition on Kate’s dress. It’s been put into storage so that it can be preserved as long as possible…but we digress.
According to the book Royal Wedding Dresses by Nigel Arch & Joanna Marschner, when Princess Victoria and Prince Albert were babies the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Prince Albert’s grandmother) remarked, “what a charming pendant he would be to his charming cousin.” Well, that certainly turned out to be the case. Queen Victoria first met Albert in 1836 when he came to England for the first time. On October 15, 1839 the Queen and Prince Albert were engaged during his second trip.
As the sovereign, Queen Victoria had to be the one to propose – rather awkward! Of her proposal she wrote in her journal, “I said to him that I thought he must be aware why I wished him to come here – and that it would make me happy if he would consent to what I wished.” Not a bad way of putting it! Clearly, Prince Albert got the hint as to what she was talking about.
The wedding day was set for February 10, 1840 to take place at the Chapel Royal in St. James’ Palace. So, the next order of business was to look back at history to see how the last Queen of England’s wedding was handled. Turned out the last wedding of a reigning Queen was in 1554 so there wasn’t much helpful information. Queen Victoria’s journal gives us a hint as to how the plans for her dress went. She wrote, “Talked of wearing my robes at the wedding, which I wished not.” Instead, Queen Victoria wore a white, silk satin court dress which was highly fashionable at that time.
The dress was made entirely of British materials: The silk satin came from Spitalfields in London and the Queen’s dresser, a lady by the name of Mrs. Bettans, created the dress. The English Honiton lace trim was made in Devon by more than 200 lace workers and took eight months to complete. The dress also had a train measuring 6 yards that was trimmed in orange blossoms to match the Queen’s orange blossom headdress.
This picture shows the dress laid out in preparation for conservation work.
Here is a close up look at the sleeve. Rather like Lady Diana’s wedding dress sleeves:
The idea that Queen Victoria started the trend towards white wedding dresses isn’t exactly accurate; white wedding dresses had been worn by the nobility for decades prior. White was considered a sign of status since it is hard to maintain and therefore was not a practical for poorer brides who would wear the dress they wore for their weddings for many future occasions. It is perhaps more accurate to say that she helped this trend gain popularity.
Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes matched the dress and are now held by the Northampton Borough Council. The ribbons were meant to be tied around the ankles much like ballet slippers:
They were made by Gundry and Son, 1 Soho Square, Boot and Shoemakers to the Queen. Here’s a look at the inside of the shoe:
Rain poured down on the wedding day and the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace was filled with guests (for this reason ladies had been requested to not wear court trains). The ceremony began shortly before one and took about 15 minutes. The ceremony was followed by a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace, and by four o’clock the Queen and Prince Albert were on their way to Windsor Castle for their honeymoon.
Queen Victoria loved to reminisce about her wedding day, and wore her wedding dress again several times after the wedding. For example, Queen Victoria commissioned the portrait below as an anniversary gift for Prince Albert in 1847, seven years after their wedding. This portrait is held in the Royal Collection was done by artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 18. More information about this portrait can be found on the official website of the Royal Collection. Click here to access that website.
Several years after that, she and Albert recreated it later in life wearing their wedding apparel. Check out the photograph of this below.
Tomorrow. we will discuss the gorgeous jewelry that Queen Victoria wore on her wedding day. See you then! In the meantime, let us know what you think of Queen Victoria’s dress.