Queen Victorias wedding broke some rules and undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows on February 10, 1840. Like so many famous women in history, (including Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland) Queen Victoria did it her way.
A headstrong woman, Queen Victoria redefined Britains monarchy. Her values, interests and ideas also shaped domestic life. From welcoming pets into her home as part of her family, to decorating Christmas trees, to becoming the Empress of India, Victoria was forever breaking new ground.
In 1840, Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Despite her volatile temper and their ongoing battle for power, she was very much in love with him and he became the dominant influence in her life. In one of her many diaries, she wrote: Without him everything loses its interest.
By todays standards, Queen Victoria was not exactly Bridezilla. Still, she called all the shots.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #1 She proposed to her future husband. Granted, he could not propose to her because she was the Queen. Still, it was a bold move in the Victorian Era, as in any era– queen or no queen.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #2Albert was her first cousin. She led a sheltered childhood and was not allowed to get out much to meet other young people. Victoria met Prince Albert, the son of her mothers brother, when she was only 16. Their mutual uncle Leopold arranged their meeting with hopes that they would marry. According to he diaries, Queen Victoria fell for Albert from the beginning. With encouragement from Uncle Leopold, it wasn’t long before she proposed to Albert.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #3Victoria wore white. She wasnt the first monarch to do this, but in her day, most women wore fashionable colors. Prior to the Victorian Era, royal brides wore elaborate dresses made especially for the occasion from gold or silver fabric.
Queen Victoria made her vows as Alberts future wife, not as the monarch. This allowed her to wear a white satin court train, bordered with orange blossoms, instead of the traditional crimson velvet robe of state.
Royal brides before Victoria did not typically wear white. More commonly, they wore heavily brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread. Red was a particularly popular color in Western Europe. Both European and American brides wore colors including blue, yellow, black, brown and gray.
Ordinary brides of the working class wore their best dress usually made in a dark and durable material.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #4 Victorias dress was restrained by royal standards. Most royal gowns were embroidered with silken threads and embellished with semi-precious stones to show the wealthy status of its owner.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #5Queen Victoria designed her own dress. In support of English industries, she chose small workshops to create the various pieces of her wedding costume.
She chose lace designed by Wiliam Dyce of the Government School of Design. It was sewn on a white satin dress made by Mary Bettans. The fabric was woven in east London and trimmed with lace hand-made in Honiton and Beer in Devon. She wore flat shoes of white satin trimmed with bands of ribbon. Long ribbon ties around the ankles held the shoes in place. They were made by Gundry and Son.
Queen Victoria’s Bridal Rebellion #6Instead of the traditional tiara, Queen Victoria wore a wreath of orange flower blossoms, which also trimmed her dress. This idea prompted the resurgence of the bridal veil, even when it wasnt required by the brides religion. The veil became a sign of the well-behaved brides modesty and unwillingness to show her face in public until married.
As a side note, orange flower blossoms were considered a sign of fertility. Victoria had nine children by Albert. Their marriages — and those of their children successfully allied the British royal house with those of Russia, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Romania, and several of the German states.
Print media and newspapers proliferated during the Victorian Era. Stories about society weddings, including illustrated fashion plates and advertisements sold the public the image of Queen Victorias lifestyle, including her white wedding dress, lace veil and orange blossom sprig.
White soon became the fashionable color for brides. A decade after Queen Victorias wedding the Godeys Ladys Book wrote:
“Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”
As accounts of Queen Victoria’s wedding spread throughout Europe, elites followed her lead. Eventually, the trend flowed across the Atlantic to America like a long wedding veil. It remains with us to this day, for better or worse.
According to BBC.com, paintings and photographs of the couple and their growing family depicted scenes of marital bliss. While Victoria and Albert were devoted to each other and mutually infatuated, there was trouble in paradise.
“There were terrible rows and Albert was terrified by Victoria’s temper tantrums. Always at the back of his mind was the fear she might have inherited the madness of George III. While she stormed around the palace, he was reduced to putting notes under her door.”
In spite of the problems, Queen Victoria went into a prolonged state of mourning when Albert died suddenly, probably of typhoid, at the age of 42. For the next 40 years – the rest of her life – Victoria wore black mourning and only appeared in public rarely and reluctantly.
According to Barbara Jones of The Enchanted Manor, Victoria did, however, wear her wedding veil on several important occasions including the christenings of her nine children and at the weddings of at least two of her children.
The power of Queen Victorias white wedding gown lives on today even if it has taken some interesting twists and turns. Please share your favorite wedding photos with us!
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