Monday, 1 June 2015

Sweden's royal brides

It's finally here - the month of the Royal Wedding of 2015 has dawned and from here on in it's a huge feast of regal nuptials with dresses, tiaras, cakes, flowers, music and kisses everywhere but, let's face it, mostly dresses.

Sweden's last royal bride, Madeleine, who wed Chris O'Neill in June 2013

We all want to know everything already about the wedding dress of the soon to be Duchess of Varmland and in less than two weeks' time we will have pored over every detail. Sofia Hellqvist has had a year to plan it so we're expecting something stunning and she's got a lot to live up to because Swedish royal wedding gowns tend to be stunners. A look back at the frocks donned by Silvia, Victoria and Madeleine reveals not just a series of hits but a string of dresses so lovely they dominate all time top tens. As Sofia Hellqvist prepares to become (yet another) June royal bride in Sweden, here's a look back at the gallery of gowns this princess in waiting will soon be adding to. And here's your sweetness warning - they're all just lovely.

Queen Silvia of Sweden, June 19th 1976


When Silvia Renate Sommerlath walked down the aisle to say 'I do' to Carl XVI Gustaf on June 19th 1976 she instantly became a queen - this royal wedding was the first time a reigning king of Sweden had married since 1797. So Silvia had to wear something spectacular, a gown quite literally fit for a queen as it would be the first thing she wore as a consort. Her gown was designed by Dior and Marc Bohan and was simple, sleek and stunning. It's quite clearly a 1970s dress but all the better for that. Perhaps one of the most fitted of all royal wedding gowns it had a high neck, long sleeved without a hint of a flare anywhere and a smooth bodice that ran into a straight floor length skirt. All queens need a train and Silvia's wedding dress had one attached at the shoulders. The colour was cream, rather than white, and close up and from a distance it looked regal and rather lovely.

As she married into the Swedish Royal Family, Silvia Sommerlath continued one of their traditions and wore an eye catching veil that had been used by generations of royal women including her husband's mother, Princess Sybilla. But perhaps the most striking part of this outfit is the tiara which was more than fitting for a new queen. The Cameo Tiara was originally made for that most romantic but ultimately tragic of royal wives, the Empress Josephine, and her granddaughter - another Josephine - acquired it ahead of her marriage to King Oscar I of Sweden hence its place in the Stockholm royal jewellery box. It's made up of seven cameos and is impressive, unusual and just downright glittery to be perfect for a queen about to step in front of the world with a new royal husband on her arm. And it's been a bit of a regular at royal weddings so will we see it again in twelve days time?

Crown Princess Victoria, June 19th 2010

Silvia and Carl Gustaf's eldest child wrote her name into the royal history books before she could even actually write herself when the country's laws were changed allowing her to succeed ahead of the baby brother who had been born Crown Prince after her. Victoria of Sweden will be queen one day and when she married Daniel Westling on her parents' 34th wedding anniversary the event was one of the biggest royal gatherings on the continent for decades. So again, there was a lot of pressure on this dress - let's face it, when isn't there for a royal wedding gown - but Victoria's is one of those frocks that is held up time and again as an example of perfection. And it's easy to see why.

A future queen of Sweden can't really go wedding dress shopping anywhere other than at home and Victoria chose Par Engsheden to create her gown. It's almost the same shade of cream as the one worn by her mum and in many ways is reminiscent of that dress being made of the same heavy duchess satin. But it's very different at the same time. But the first big difference is the neckline. Among royal wedding gowns this is perhaps as close as it gets to off the shoulder but there are two short sleeves and the top is made of a double fold of material giving a glimpse of neck but keeping it modest enough for a future queen. There is very little embellishment on the dress but plenty to notice including the waist which was accented with a thick sash. The princess's train was attached at this point and then the dress swept away into a full skirt with mini train all of its own at the back.


It's beyond regal but there was still that family touch as Victoria wore the same veil and tiara as he mother had exactly 34 years before hand in another wedding that wrote a new chapter in the history of queens. The wedding dress of Victoria of Sweden is perfect from every angle and again the solid block of cream was eye catching even from huge distances. It stayed perfect to the very end (unlike mum's which did end up a bit creased, it has to be admitted) and remains perfect to this day. Sofia may well have taken inspiration from it for her own gown.

Princess Madeleine, June 8th 2013

Another June, another royal bride in Sweden and this time round it was the baby of the Royal Family. Princess Madeleine married Chris O'Neill on June 8th 2013 in yet another dress that regularly tops all time favourite polls. But then we always knew Madeleine's outfit would be stunning. Since turning teenager she has hit best dressed royal lists on a regular basis and a wedding gown was never going to pose a problem to this princess. She went to Valentino and came back with a cracker. Like her mum and sister before her, Madeleine went for cream rather than stark white although her dress was a lighter shade of it. And unlike the queen and crown princess, this royal went for more embellishment with her gown covered in Chantilly lace. The top was very similar in shape to Victoria's with little lace sleeves just stopping it becoming an off the shoulder dress and there was another statement waist with the train attached at that point. But one of the loveliest details on Madeleine's gown was the way the lace at the bottom of her full skirt fell into gentle, flowing pleats. It was beyond pretty and there is something new to see everytime you look at this dress.


We also got a different tiara for this one. Madeleine chose the Modern Fringe Tiara which is much smaller and more delicate but which gave the effect of lace at the top of the outfit as well as at its end. And the family veil stayed in the chest - there was a new adornment for this princess which was perhaps the best choice as the lace of the dress didn't match the heirloom. Instead Madeleine gave us a fresh twist on royal wedding dresses and won. It's again up there with the all time greats, just getting better with time. Sofia has plenty to inspire her for her big day.


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