Monday, 20 November 2017

Queen's 70th Wedding Anniversary: the bridal party

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary today. They are marking the event privately, with a dinner at Windsor Castle, and one of the reasons for the lack of public celebration hinted at is that the couple feel it would remind them too much of all those they have lost. The passing of time and the fading of friends is perhaps best seen in the official photo with their wedding party. For of the eight bridesmaids who attended the Queen, just two are still alive while only one of her two cheeky pageboys is still here to celebrate with the couple he attended seventy years ago. The Duke of Edinburgh's best man, David, Marquess of Milford Haven, has also sadly passed away. The official photo of the wedding party is a reminder of those who were so loved and so important. On this special anniversary, here's a look back at the bridal party of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh....

The bridesmaids

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The eight bridesmaids who attended the Queen at her royal wedding all had a special place in her life. All brides want their sister at their side and heading the list of attendants was seventeen year old Princess Margaret, then second in line to the throne.

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The Queen also chose several cousins as bridesmaids. Ten year old Princess Alexandra of Kent was the daughter of George VI's brother, the late Duke of Kent, and his wife, Princess Marina of Greece. Another cousin, Diana Bowes Lyon, then 24, was also in attendance - her father, John, was a brother of the bride's mother. Margaret Elphinstone was the 22 year old daughter of Mary, a sister of Queen Elizabeth, later Queen Mother, and another bridesmaid. In later years, she was better known as Margaret Rhodes.

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One of the bride's second cousins was also included as a bridesmaid. Lady Mary Cambridge was 23 years old at the time of the wedding and related to Princess Elizabeth through Queen Mary. Another more distant relation to perform the role of attendant was Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott. The 20 year old was the daughter of Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott whose sister, Alice, was married to the bride's paternal uncle, Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

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The groom's first cousin, Pamela Mountbatten, was also in the bridal party. The eighteen year old had been living in India with her parents, the Earl and Countess of Mountbatten. The final bridesmaid was 23 year old Lady Elizabeth Lambart whose father, the Earl of Cavan, had been Chief of the Imperial Staff.

The bridesmaids' outfits

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Like the bride, her mother and grandmother, the bridesmaids were dressed by Norman Hartnell. The British designer took inspiration from some of the paintings on display at Buckingham Palace by Winterhalter, Sit George Hayter and Tuxen. They were made of ivory silk tulle with fitted waists and skirts embroidered with a star design similar to that on the bride's dress. The eight bridesmaids wore wreaths in their hair but these were fake rather than real flowers. The creation of Jac Ltd, they consister of silver lame and white satin lilies, white sheaves and London Pride. Their bouquets contained flowers including white orchids, lily of the valley and white roses and they were made by Moyses Stevens.

The pageboys

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 There were two pageboys, both cousins of the bride. Prince William of Gloucester, the elder son of the Duke of Gloucester, was approaching his sixth birthday when he took on the role of pageboy and train bearer. He was accompanied by Prince Michael of Kent who had just turned five. Big cousin Lillibet did what all relations should do to the cute kids they ask to be pageboy - she stuck them in outfits they clearly didn't want to wear. Enter young princes in frilly shirts and Royal Stewart tartan kilts. That's a bride on form.

The best man

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Forget all that talk about the Duke of Cambridge breaking with royal tradition and naming brother, Prince Harry, as his best man rather than supporter. The Duke of Edinburgh had a best man and he picked him in the way many a groom does, falling back on the help of an old friend who had already seen him through thick and thin. There was a family connection, too. David Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven was also Philip's cousin and the two men attended Dartmouth Naval College together. 
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Seventy years on, those bright and beautiful faces stare back at us from history but most of them are gone. Two had died before the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's Silver Wedding Anniversary. Best man David, Marquess of Milford Haven, died in 1970 at the age of just 50. Pageboy Prince William of Gloucester died in August 1972 in a plane crash. He was 30 years old. Bridesmaid Diana Bowes-Lyon died in 1986 aged 62 while Lady Mary Cambridge passed away in 1999 at the age of 75. The Queen lost her sister, Princess Margaret, in 2002. 
In 2004, Caroline Montagu Douglas Scott died aged 76. Last year, the Queen lost two of her bridesmaids with Margaret Rhodes passing away at the age of 91, Lady Elizabeth Lambart died at the end of 2016 aged 92.
Just three of the wedding party remain. Princess Alexandra will be 81 on Christmas Day this year while her little brother, Prince Michael of Kent, turned 75 this summer. Pamela Mountbatten is the last of her glamourous family remaining. She was 88 earlier this year. The three may well be among those invited to celebrate the 70th wedding anniversary at Windsor today. After all, being part of a wedding party is a special honour and a bond that lasts forever.

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