After months of waiting, the most anticipated wedding of the year is almost upon us. Come Friday all eyes will be on Kate Middleton as she prepares to marry the future King of England.
For the vast majority of us it is chance to finally lay eyes on her wedding dress. Ever since her engagement to Prince William was announced late last year speculation has been rife about what her dress will look like and who the lucky designer will be.
For every bride her wedding dress is the most important item of clothing she will ever own, but for a future Queen of England it symbolises so much more. Looking back on previous royal brides the dress has a lot to say about the woman wearing it and the mood in Britain at the time.
When Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who would later become the Queen Mother, became engaged to the Duke of York they were set to become the first royal couple to marry in public. This was, therefore, a very significant moment in the history of Britain and its royal family.
At the time when the wedding took place, 1923, Britain was still recovering from the devastation that was the First World War and the country was undergoing some serious economic, political and social changes. The soviet revolution was being carried out across Europe, and many of its Royal families were being overthrown in a violent and bloody manner. Keen to avoid that happening in Britain, the Royal Family saw the desperate need to modernise.
The dress was designed by Madame Handley Seymour, who had previously been a dressmaker for the Dowager Queen Mary, and has since been described as one of the simplest Royal Wedding dresses in history.
The style was very in keeping with what was in fashion in the 1920’s; it was very chic, elegant and beautiful without being extravagant. With revolution happening across the continent it would have been a mistake for Elizabeth to be seen in a dress that embodied royalty and wealth. The same could not be said about her daughter’s wedding dress.
Princess Elizabeth Windsor:
Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Phillip Mountbatten in 1947 was, like her mother and father’s wedding, on the back of another world war.
The country was once more facing dire economic times for the foreseeable future and it was assumed that a Royal Wedding was exactly what was needed to lift people’s spirits.
At this time the Royal family had become more integrated with the British public than in previous years and the threat of revolution was no longer a major one. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and both the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret had refused to be evacuated out of the country during the Blitz thus there was a real sense of comradery between the Royals and their subjects.
Although the whole country, including the Royal Family, were subjected to rationing, the wedding was by all accounts very grand. Britain was after all victorious in the war against Germany and there is nothing like a Royal Wedding to bring people together and celebrate. Ordinary British women sent the Princess their clothing ration coupons as it was a grave concern that she may not have enough material in order to make a dress fit for a future Queen.
The dress itself was designed by Norman Hartnell, whose inspiration for the dress came from Botticelli’s painting of Primavera symbolising rebirth by the use of flowers. The ivory dress was encrusted with crystals and births with intricate floral designs and was made with silk and duchess satin along with a 13ft train. This dress was clearly fit for a Princess and indeed a future Queen.
The dress encompassed everything that was needed at the time. It was indeed beautiful, majestic and regal. It was also a powerful symbol to the commonwealth, and indeed the rest of the world that there were brighter times ahead.
Lady Diana Spencer:
The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 has been the most watched and indeed talked about wedding in history with a global audience of 800 million viewers, and as a result the dress is instantly recognisable.
The wedding was described as a fairytale what with him being a Prince and the heir to the throne of England, and her being a commoner. It was just like something out of a Disney film; at least that was people’s perception of it.
The dress, famously designed by husband and wife team David and Elizabeth Emanuel, was to all intents and purposes a giant meringue. The train was famously 25ft long, so long in fact that it became creased on the carriage ride to St. Pauls Cathedral. The dress itself was made of silk taffeta, lace and was hand embroidered with over 10,000 pearls. The shoulders of the dress were made so large in order to make Diana’s waist look even smaller.
This was, by far, the largest and most extravagant Royal Wedding Britain had ever witnessed, yet as we all know the fairytale did not last for long and the Prince and Princess of Wales’ turbulent marriage has been well documented. The dress was a symbol of just how much was expected of the young bride and how much of a spectacle their lives were about to become.
We virtually know nothing about what Kate plans to wear down the aisle and quite frankly the suspense is killing us. It is a safe bet to say, however, that it would be nothing like Princess Diana’s.
Diana was only 19 when she had married Prince Charles and she had not known him for very long. Kate is nearly 30 and has been dating Prince William for around seven years.
As it is not a state wedding the ceremony is going to be a lot smaller than Charles and Diana’s, and a lot more personal and intimate; well as intimate as you can be with the whole world watching you anyway.
Kate’s sense of style has been applauded for being very elegant and sophisticated, albeit slightly boring and predictable. Due to not taking very many risks with her style it can be assumed that Kate will probably play it safe; at least we can trust her not to wear anything hideous to Westminster Abbey.
Whatever she wears it will no doubt become a symbol of a modern royal couple who will one day become King and Queen of England.