Friday, 20 January 2017

10 royal venues for weddings


Kensington Palace is a wedding venue with very royal links
(photo JR P via Flickr)

There's much excitement about the realisation that Kensington Palace is licensed for civil marriages - maybe it's all this talk of Harry and Meghan stepping up their romance with a lovebird trip to Norway and a cuppa with Kate and Charlotte on their return. But KP isn't the only grand building with royal links where happy couples can say 'I do'. Here are ten right royal locations for a civil wedding...curtsies to the groom's granny on the way out are optional.


Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire




With plenty of royal love stories linked to its ancient walls, it's no wonder Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds has won prizes as a romantic wedding venue. It's most famous for its links with Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, who came to live here in the year after the king's death with her fourth husband. Yep, Henry met his match in her. Her grave is in St Mary's Church in the grounds which offers Church of England weddings as well as blessings. The civil marriage ceremonies usually take place in the panelled library of Sudeley. History's best known royal bridegroom, Henry VIII, also brought wife number two, Anne Boleyn, here while their daughter, Elizabeth I, dined in its banqueting hall - its ruins are among the most spectacular spots for wedding photos at the castle. Richard III spent time here and it was also an early home of Eleanor Butler, the woman he claimed had secretly married his big brother, Edward IV. That claim led to a famous battle and the start of the Tudor dynasty. Sudeley packs a real royal punch.


Hever Castle, Kent



Did someone say Henry VIII? Let's face it, the king of catching queens was always going to play a large part in any run down of royal wedding venues and he's got a link to a very pretty castle in Kent which is one of the most popular wedding venues in the south east. Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, arguably Henry's best known queen. Anne grew up amidst its stone walls and her family's coat of arms sits above the Dining Hall at Hever - it's here, or in the smaller Inner Hall, that weddings are held in the castle. There's also the option to say 'I do' in the Tudor style surrounds of the 1903 wing built by William Waldorf Astor or in the Italian Garden designed for his collection of sculptures. Anne of Cleves also owned the castle, briefly, following her divorce from Henry VIII. A treat for Tudor brides and grooms all round.


Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire


The spectacular palace in Oxfordshire is actually the home of the Dukes of Marlbrough but it was given to the family by the Crown following the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 with Queen Anne contributing some of the funds for its construction herself and that's just for royal starters. It is also one of the most famous buildings in the world and a UNESCO heritage site. Couples can say 'I do' in its Orangery or the Marlborough Room and receptions are also held in the Saloon and the Great Hall. It's built on the ancient royal manor of Woodstock where Henry II's lover, Fair Rosamund, is said to have lived while Elizabeth I spent several scary months in the area during the reign of her sister, Mary I. And unless the Marlboroughs send a standard to the Queen every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim, she can take the land back. That's a pretty impressive royal pedigree.

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire



home of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who decided where the crown went in the 15th century, this castle has a pretty impressive royal pedigree. The Kingmaker held one of his kings, Edward IV, prisoner here while Neville's daughter, Anne, became Queen of England through her marriage to Edward's brother, Richard III. Civil wedding ceremonies can now be held in the State Rooms or in the Great Hall - all of which have hosted royalty at some point in the past. And if you're really feeling historical and regal, you can even opt for a medieval wedding banquet as a reception. Crowns are optional.

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey



Henry VIII's famous palace was the setting for his last marriage when he married Katherine Parr on July 12th 1543 in a small ceremony. They said their vows in the Queen's Closet which isn't quite as poky as it sounds but isn't anywhere near as spectacular as the settings for civil marriages here now. Wedding ceremonies take place in the Little Banqueting Hall which was constructed by William III or the Garden Room with the world famous Great Hall available for receptions. Or if you're feeling really Tudor, you can also host your celebration in the Undercroft which started life as Henry VIII's beer cellar. Now that is a right royal invitation to party if ever there was one.


Osborne House, Isle of Wight



Theirs is among the greatest of all royal love stories so a wedding at Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's home on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House, is all set for romance. The Italianate house was designed by Albert himself and it was a favourite residence for him, Victoria and their nine children. Weddings are held in the Duchess of Kent Suite where George V and Queen Mary honeymooned or on the terrace where Victoria liked to take her bacon and eggs of a morning. There's also the option to say 'I do' on the private beach beloved of the second longest reigning monarch in British history. A right royal romantic setting.

Kew Palace, London



If Georgian royalty is more your cup of chocolate, then Kew Palace provides plenty of regal links. Once a complex of royal buildings, Kew was home to the Hanoverians for a century with a famous and the future William IV married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen here in 1818. This is about as intimate a royal wedding venue as you'll find with civil marriages taking place in the King's Dining Room with space for 40 guests and only available between April and September. But then you need summer weather for this one - after all, the gardens at Kew are pretty famous in their own right and might just look rather splendid in the wedding photos.
Kensington Palace, London



If Harry and Meghan do provide us with a royal wedding in 2017 then they don't even need to get the carriages out of the mews, they can just pop downstairs. Kensington Palace is licensed for civil ceremonies and the Orangery, where the weddings take place, can set up to 150 so it will make the invite list a lot simpler. The palace has so much royal history that your guests could spend the whole reception just talking about that. It was built by William III and Mary II, became the childhood home of Queen Victoria and in the late 20th century was the residence of many royals including Diana, Princess of Wales. Now home to William, Harry, Kate, George and Charlotte, this is a royal wedding venue with something for everyone.

Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire



Let's get all dramatic, shall we? Berkeley Castle is beautiful, can trace its roots back to the Norman Conquest and was the scene of one of the greatest royal mysteries ever. Edward II was held here after his deposition by his wife, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, and died at the castle in mysterious circumstances- rumours of murder have persisted for centuries. Civil weddings can now take place in the 14th century Great Hall, filled with stained glass windows, or in the Long Drawing Room while if the weather is good, the gardens are ready for drinks and nibbles before the reception. Just keep an eye out for any pale chaps called Edward asking for seconds....

Great Hall, Oakham Castle, Rutland

 
 
Oakham Castle was once a rather impressive manor house but its royal links are rather more unusual. There is a centuries old tradition that any peer of the realm visiting for the first time must leave a horseshoe there. The oldest surviving one was given by Edward IV in 1470 and there are around 240 now including one presented by Queen Victoria while she was still a princess. The newest royal additions include the horseshoe of the Prince of Wales, given in 2003, and that of the Duchess of Cornwall which Camilla handed over in 2014. You've got just about every part of regal history covered in the Great Hall, which is licensed for civil ceremonies, and you're surrounded by lucky horseshoes. A right royal wedding venue indeed.

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