Friday, 10 February 2017

Royal Wedding Dresses: Queen Victoria


This famous portrait of Queen Victoria in her wedding dress by Franz Xaver Winthalter was actually painted in 1847 as an anniversary present for Prince Albert
(picture Wiki Commons)

It's one of the most famous royal wedding dresses of all but very hard to define. The gown worn by Queen Victoria on February 10th 1840 at St James' Palace to marry her already beloved Albert is credited with making white weddings top of every stylish bride's wish list but try and describe it and you might just come a cropper. Of course, there are no photos (well, possibly but that's a whole other great big royal row) and many of the images we have are of the dress on mannequins in exhibitions. But it is a truly beautiful gown and a part of a royal story integral to the history of the British Monarchy. On the anniversary of that famous marriage, here's a look at Queen Victoria's wedding gown.




The dress itself is really a deep cream colour rather than pure white although some of the depth we see in it today has been the effects of time on the delicate material. Victoria herself described her wedding gown as being ''an imitation of an old design'' and it does have the air of Austen about it. The waist is high, although not quite Empire line, and the neck is low with just a hint of shoulder going on there - very Regency indeed.  The skirt is full with a lot of volume round the hips but what you really remember about this gown is the sleeves.



It's here that the Honiton lace for which the dress is so well known really comes into play. The sleeves finish just below the elbow in flounces of the pretty lace which was famously made for Victoria in Devon and credited for helping to boost the cottage industries there and across the country.  Victoria summed her outfit up as ''a white satin dress with a deep flounce of Honiton lace'' and so committed one of the most famous royal wedding gowns in history to her diary in a fabulous example of royal understatement.  


There was a train. Of course there was a train. All royal weddings have a train and when a queen regnant says 'I do' it's a big train. Victoria's measured around 18 feet and was covered by a lace veil. But there was no tiara. Instead, the young queen added a band of orange blossom flowers to the top of her veil and let a present from her new husband, a sapphire and diamond brooch, do all the sparkling in this royal wedding outfit.



Victoria's wedding dress was an inspiration to thousands and helped cement the idea of a bride in white in modern marriage lore. The romantic queen wore some of the lace to her own children's christenings while her youngest daughter, Beatrice, was allowed to use it in her own wedding outfit - when mama finally agreed to her getting married. Victoria's wedding gown was a national event, with its focus on helping local industry (as well as lace from Honiton, the satin of the gown was made in another area in need of a boost, Spitalfeilds in London) as well as a moment of epic royal romance. It has its place in history and is well worth enjoying even today.

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