As much as the country goes crazy for a celebrity wedding, there is one type of nuptials that gets even more attention: a royal wedding. The British Royal Family are not only known around the world but are also pretty universally liked. The weddings of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren have received great attention in Europe and America.
Of course, social media and the internet make it easier to catch up with the latest affairs of the royal family. However, such events were also the talk of the town before the existence of such easy news outlets. Today, we are looking at three royal weddings which occurred before the modern age of immediate media.
The wedding of Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister was the first royal marriage to be broadcast live on television. 300 million viewers watched worldwide along with over 20,000 guests in attendance. Princess Margaret wore a stunning sophisticated princess ball gown with a tailored bodice.
Princess Margaret has been known in history as the “rebel party girl princess”. This reputation at least partially stemmed from her relationship with RAF officer Peter Townsend, a divorcee. He proposed to her in 1953, but the government convinced Margaret to wait before answering him, and sent him away. Five years later, she met Antony Armstrong-Jones, a photographer and filmmaker.
The pair enjoyed a whirlwind romance and became engaged in October 1959, although didn’t tell the press until the following February. Armstrong-Jones was the first “commoner” to marry into the Royal Family for 400 years. They tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on 6th May 1960. Her niece, nine year old Princess Anne, led seven other bridesmaids.
Princess Margaret chose Norman Hartnell to design her wedding dress, the same designer that her sister used. However, the dresses, thirteen years apart, could not have been much more different. While Elizabeth’s dress was elaborately decorated and a celebration for Britain after the end of World War II, Margaret’s has been described as “a study in simplicity”. This sophisticated gown was created in a delicate silk organza with more than 30 metres of fabric in the skirt alone. It had a wonderful, deep V-neck and long sleeves. She accessorised the dress with a stunning crown (Poltimore Tiara) and an elegant waterfall style veil trimmed with satin.
Funnily enough, her daughter-in-law wore a similar dress to her wedding in 1993. Serena Alleyne Stanhope married David Linley in a dress designed by Bruce Robbins.
They spent their honeymoon on the Royal Yacht Britannia on a six-week Caribbean cruise. They received the titles Earl and Countess of Snowdon a year later. Unfortunately, after 20 years of marriage, they divorced in 1978, however their love story will remain in history.
The Princess Royal married Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey on 14th November 1973. As the queen’s eldest (and only) daughter, Princess Anne had plenty of attention at her wedding.
Anne was born a year and a half before the death of her grandfather, King George VI. Therefore, she was very young when her mother started to have a lot more duties. Growing up, she socialised with a specially formed Girl Guides group, and her first boyfriend was Andrew Parker-Bowles.
In 1968, at a party for horse lovers, Princess Anne met Mark Phillips. They became engaged at Badminton Horse Trials in 1973 and wed later that year, on Prince Charles’ 25th birthday. An estimated 500 million people watched the televised ceremony across the world. Princess Margaret’s daughter, Lady Sarah, was the bridesmaid, and Anne’s brother Andrew was page boy.
Princess Anne wore a stunning and regal Tudor-style wedding dress, with a high collar and billowing medieval sleeves. Created by the British designer Maureen Baker, the modest dress elegantly referenced history yet also looked unusually modern. Anne herself actually worked with Baker to get exactly the dress she wanted. There is something somewhat Star Wars-like about it.
She paired the relatively simple gown with a cascading white bouquet containing roses and lily of the valley. She also borrowed the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara, the same one worn by Elizabeth II, from her grandmother. As Mark was a lieutenant, he wore his cavalry captain uniform to the wedding.
Like her auntie, Princess Anne honeymooned on the Royal Yacht Britannia travelling through the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They had two children, Zara and Peter, and both competed in the Olympics. Zara picked up their love for horse-riding and has also ridden at the Olympics; when she won silver at London 2012, her mother presented her with her medal.
However, the relationship between Anne and Mark was not to last. After struggling for several years, they announced plans to separate in 1989. They divorced in 1992. They have both since remarried.
Lady Diana Spencer
The official engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on 24th February 1981, and subsequent marriage on 29th July, saw the arrival of an era of saturated press and media coverage that the royal family had never seen before.
The pair met when Charles was dating Diana’s older sister in 1977. When they met again in 1980, Charles began to take an interest in her and they started courting. Unusually, she worked as a kindergarten assistant before they married, the first royal bride in British history to have a paid job before engagement. They only met thirteen times before their engagement became known to the British press, and her life would never be the same again.
The royal couple married at St Paul’s Cathedral as it had more seating inside than Westminster Abbey. 600,000 spectators lined the streets and 750 million people watched on television from around the world.
David and Elizabeth Emanuel designed Diana’s dress and it was a pivotal point in their design careers. The dress itself characterised the dramatic flair of 1980s fashion with its puffed sleeves, cinched waist and dramatic skirt.
The ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown contained a 25 foot train with a 153 yard tulle veil. The dress at the time was valued at £151,000 and is one of the most iconic dresses in history. Decorated with embroidery, sequins and 10,000 pearls, this dress encapsulates the fairy-tale princess vision often associated with weddings.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship was heavily scrutinised. They had sons William and Harry before both having affairs. This, combined with plenty of other factors, led to the demise of their relationship and they divorced in 1996. Diana famously died in a car crash in 1997.
The public scandal surrounding their relationship tribulations has created plenty of theories that subsequently remain to this day. However, their relationship certainly fascinated the world, and Diana is remembered as the pure hearted “People’s Princess”.
Which is your favourite of these dresses? What other royal weddings would you like us to cover?