Tuesday, February 1, 2011
RWR: V & A
The marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert was one that was essentially arranged for them by family, seen as a means to ensure friendly relations with great nations. However, it is also abundantly clear that the two had a true, genuine, and passionate love for one another (this is the subject of the 2009 film The Young Victoria)
Despite their implicit betrothal, it was essentially the Queen who proposed to Albert. Of course, her offer was accepted and the Prince gifted her with an unusual engagement ring fashioned to look like a snake which was symbolic of eternal love, encrusted with emeralds. It was the fashion at the time to give a woman an engagement ring that featured her birthstone. She loved the ring so much that it is believed she was buried wearing it.
The wedding took place nearly two years after her coronation on February 11, 1840 at the Royal Chapel of St. James' Palace. Despite the rain on Her Majesty's wedding day, crowds of subjects thronged the processional route from Buckingham Palace to St. James', eager to catch a glimpse of their Sovereign and her Consort in their finery. The ceremony was attended by 2100 guests.
Although Victoria was not the first Royal to wear white to her wedding, it was her doing so that set the de riguer trend that continues even to this day. In this way, she is perhaps the Royal who has had the greatest influence on bridal fashion.
She purportedly chose the color because she wished to use some fine lace that she particularly liked that she believed looked best with the rich white satin she selected for the gown. The lace, completely hand made, was four yards in length and three-quarters of a yard wide and reportedly took eight months to make. The pattern for the lace was destroyed after its completion so that it could never be replicated for another client.
In order to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion, Victoria chose to rely more on adornments of orange blossoms than on her Royal jewelry collection, although she did wear large diamond earrings and a diamond necklace. Her veil, which did not conceal her face, was of hand made Honiton lace and took six weeks to complete.
She had twelve bridesmaids, who all dressed in a similar fashion to the Queen, wearing primarily white with accents of light blue and many floral embellishments.
Victoria and Albert, by all accounts, enjoyed a rich married life, producing nine children in the twenty years that they were married. After his death in 1861, the Queen wore only black for the rest of her life to pay homage to the mourning she felt at his loss. She continued to reign dutifully over the largest empire the world has ever seen until her own death in 1901.