8 things we learned from 'A Very Royal Wedding'

You just can't beat a royal wedding. Even when you think you know one like the back of your hand, there is still plenty to find out about these moments of magic that fill royal history books. That was proved and then some by the fabulous documentary shown on ITV on October 30th 2017 as the countdown to the 70th anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip's wedding gathers pace. The programme, made by Oxford Films and presented by Alexander Armstrong, told the story of the big day in minute detail with never before seen footage and interviews with some of those who turned this dynastic love match into the wedding of the century. Here are eight things we learned from 'A Very Royal Wedding'....

1. It really was the People's Wedding

Sticking ''people's'' in front of a major event is a bit of a cliche and, let's face it, the House of Windsor hasn't had the happiest associations with the phrase. A Very Royal Wedding was based on the principle that the marriage of the then Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten on November 20th 1947 really was the ''People's Wedding'' and it kind of proved the point. We heard about the contributions sent from around the world to make the big day happen - from the already well told story of the clothing coupons that had to be sent back to the less well known tales of sugar and fruit winging their way from as far away as Australia to help make the cake. But what really came alive in this programme was the way the wedding turned into a focal point of celebration for a nation still recovering from World War Two. The minor objections to the cost of the match were well handled at the start and the documentary really gave a feel of how this one day became a beacon of hope for so many still mourning and rebuilding. 

2. Those Mountbatten genes are strong

While the Queen's dress and bouquet might have got plenty of attention in the programme, Prince Philip's cheekbones also came in for plenty of scrutiny as many of the contributors spent the first part of the show talking about just how downright handsome the groom was. The archive footage showed they were right but it also proved just how strong those Mountbatten genes really are as both William and Harry bear more than a passing resemblence to that dashing prince of 1947. In fact, the Duke of Cambridge might be granddad all over again.

3. A wedding gift list like no other

Alexander Armstrong in John Lewis might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to royal history but the man had a point. As he wandered through the shop zapping random items, we learned that the Queen and Prince Philip were the first senior royal couple to accept wedding gifts from anyone and everyone rather than keeping the list just for the rellies. They ended up with 2,583 presents in total including a washing machine from the people of Leamington Spa and a bath sponge from an odd vicar and his wife. So far, so very People's Wedding. Then Queen Mary turned up with a shed load of diamonds that could sink a ship. You have to keep it regal sometimes.

4. The Queen is a trend setter

Kate fans might disagree with the fashion expert who said that the Queen's wedding dress inspired the one worn by the Duchess of Cambridge but the epic amount of colour film from the time showed that the bride's whole look really did set trends. I could quite happily have listened to Betty Foster, the seamstress who worked on the gown, and Barbara Unwin who helped wave the silk for the frock all day. These two women, both 19 at the time, helped create a frock whose silhouette really did inspire brides for years to come. And what's not to love about hearing designer, Norman Hartnell, employ typical British understatement in an archive clip where he described the frock as having a ''simple line but rather elaborate working''.

5. Sleep, sleep and more sleep

Sleep featured quite a lot in this programme. We learned that Norman Hartnell made his manager sleep in the design studio where the wedding dress was being created, allegedly armed with a gun, to stop anyone trying to steal the design. We heard that Jim Allen of McVitie's slept in the factory where the cake was being made to protect it. We heard that the florist, Martin Longman, got precisely zero z's the night before the wedding when he had to be up just after midnight to start making the bouquet so it was fresh for the wedding. And even the bride herself missed out on some snoozing as the crowds outside Buckingham Palace were cheering for her so loudly the night before the wedding that she made an impromptu balcony appearance. There were no photos so presumably it wasn't a pyjamas and dressing gown moment.

6. Everyone loves a baking show right now

Just as Bake Off comes to an end on Channel 4, ITV showed that everyone loves to watch cakes on television right now. To bring to life just how complex the Queen's cake was (all 9 feet and 500lbs of it), top chef Judy Walsh and her team spent really quite a long time recreating it. When you see a cook wearing jumbo blue gloves to mix rum into raisins and then use a huge saucepan to get the cake mix into the tin, you know you're onto a major bake.

7. Weddings are all about family

The Queen might have had 200 million people listening to her wedding on the radio around the world but when all was said and done, she was still a young woman making the biggest move of her life so far with her family around her to support her. We were treated to some never before seen cinefilm of what went on behind the Buck House doors and it was all rather sweet and pretty much like every other wedding you've been to. There was 5 year old page boy, Prince Michael, running down a corridor and almost taking uncle Bertie (King George VI to you and me) out at the knees. There was the bride's granny strolling arm in arm with a cousin she'd not seen in ages (Queen Mary and Queen Frederica of Greece if you need a clue). But best of all, we got a glimpse of a bride's aunt doing what they all do and sneaking a cheeky cig when she thinks no one is looking. Yep, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent caught on camera making it a real, proper family wedding.

8. It really was a happy ever after

Seeing this wedding brought to life in the colour film all these years on wasn't just a huge treat, it really underlined just how into each other the happy couple were. You can't watch this programme and not realise just how much love there was and is between Elizabeth and Philip. As John McNaughton, who took part in the bride's escort to Westminster Abbey, said ''she really was as happy as Larry''. As we all were, watching this treat of a programme. Happy every after.


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