Monday, December 31, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 25): The Royal Dejeuner (Wedding Breakfast)

The Royal Wedding Cake, 1840
C. Ackermann & Co. after W. B. Sarsfield Taylor (1781-1850).
Published by Ackermann & Co.
Her Majesty Elizabeth II
Photo Source: The Royal Collection. Copyright 2008.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


Meanwhile, the rest of the Palace buzzed with the happy sounds of ladies and nobles taking their seats at table for the most elaborate wedding repast they might ever see. Eva Hope reported in 1840 that it was “only necessary to state the table was profusely and appropriately decorated, and all that could be desirable on such an occasion was displayed to tempt the appetite or exhilarate [sic] the spirits…” {p. 789-90}

No doubt the food was exquisite in both taste and presentation, though it seems that their marvelous cake stole the show in the courts of food. The Royal Wedding Cake was “designed and executed in all its parts by Mr. John Chichester Mauditt, chief confectioner to her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.” {Hope, p. 727}

Carried out by four strapping men, the traditional English fruitcake weighed almost 300 pounds. Made with the choicest ingredients, including oranges, raisins, and spices, both the 9-foot round base and the smaller round resting atop it were double-iced, first in marzipan and then with a second layer of what would later be aptly named Royal Icing.

Decorated with miniatures of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as well as a statue of Britannia, several cupids, a dog, and a pair of turtledoves, this culinary work of art was placed before the Queen at the peak of the grand repast. I will allow one fanciful writer to describe his rendition of the cake cutting ceremony:

Long was it not, however, before the sacrificial knives of the confectionary high priests, soon made terrible inroads upon this magnificent pile. It need only be known that out of three hundred pounds composing its specific gravity, no less than two hundred and seventy pounds were eatable, dreamable, and invested with all and every virtue of mystery and morality which tradition attaches to these highly-favoured confections, to account for its speedy demolition. {W.A., p. 123-24}

At the proper time, the Duke of Sussex proposed the health of the Royal Couple, and “happiness reigned throughout the august assemblage.” {Hope, p. 790} Shortly before 4 o’clock, Queen Victoria excused herself and went to her private quarters to change for their departure to Windsor Castle

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 24): The Royal Pair Receive Their Guests

Photography Prints
This is not an associate link.
I simply liked the picture for this topic.
Wood engraving, 19th Century.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


Attended by the royal party, the Queen and her new husband exited St. James’s Palace and entered their carriage for the short jaunt to Buckingham Palace. Alone at last, the new couple exchanged the first of many private conversations as husband and wife. For these happy two, the half mile must have flow by altogether too swiftly.

In no time at all, Prince Albert was lifting his young bride out of their coach and leading her into Buckingham Palace to receive their guests. Charles Morris, writing in 1901, describes the Queen as “no longer pale” with a “glow of happiness and an expression of confidence and comfort in her eyes.” {Morris, p. 117}

After making their rounds through the bustling state rooms, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stole away to share a private moment before the festivities continued. In that brief half hour, she presented him with his wedding ring. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a description of the ring she gave him.

After receiving this precious gift, Albert requested that they hold no secrets between them. As Victoria later wrote in her journal, “There never was.”


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 23): The Signing of the Registry

St. James's Palace, Pall Mall
Painting by Thomas H. Shepherd, date unknown
Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


Rumors of intrigue surround the signing of the registry. There are reports that at least two of the members of the royal party felt it was their right to sign the book first. Gillian Gill, author of the biography We Two, wrote that Bernard Edward Howard, Earl Marshal and Duke of Norfolk, kept everyone waiting while he searched for his eyeglasses. Apparently, his duties as Earl Marshal must have momentarily gone to his head, as he believed it was his right to be the first to sign. {p. 159}

According to another author, Charles Morris, Victoria’s uncle Ernest Augustus I, King of Hanover, wished to sign the registry first. Morris relates that Uncle Ernest positioned himself strategically near Victoria’s side as she stood beside the table. He reports that the minute the Archbishop of Canterbury held out the pen, she stepped away from her uncle toward Prince Albert, took the pen and signed her name, then quickly handed the pen to her husband. {Morris, p. 116}

In truth, according to John Van der Kiste Uncle Ernest was not in attendance at Queen Victoria's Wedding. In 1837, he refused the Queen's request to give up his apartments at St. James's Palace for her mother, the Duchess of Kent. He further offended Her Majesty by supporting the Tories in their efforts to block Prince Albert from being given the title of King Consort.

These members of State, including the King of Hanover, were not invited to the wedding. In fact, the account that Morris describes appears to have taken place three years later, at the wedding of [Princess Augusta of Cambridge], at which time, Van der Kriste reports, Prince Albert "pushed" the King aside and wrote his name so near to his wife's on the registry that there was not room on this occasion for King Ernest to come between them. {Wikipedia}

Despite these rumors, the register itself proves that Her Majesty’s desire to honor her husband above all else prevailed. It is Albert’s name which appears directly after hers. Though I have yet to find a complete list of those who attested to the royal marriage on that day in the Throne Room, one historian reports that it was neither the Duke of Norfolk nor the King of Hanover who signed next. A writer for The Mirror reports that the Duke of Sussex, Victoria’s favored Uncle Augustus Frederick, signed directly after Prince Albert. {W.A., p. 119-120}


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Monday, December 24, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 22): The Throne Room of St. James's Palace

Victoria & Albert in the Throne Room at St. James's Palace
Illustration from The Life and Times of Queen Victoria,
by Robert Wilson (Cassell, 1893).
This is a licensed image, used with permission for this site only.
To purchase your own license for this photo, visit Look and Learn.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

As Prince Albert and Queen Victoria entered the Throne Room of St. James’s Palace, they made their way directly to the attestation table. Prominently positioned in majestic room, the massive table with its claw-footed legs made of Egyptian leonine gold was fashioned expressly for this exalted occasion. {Willmore, p. 67}

Queen Victoria took her place between the table and the fireplace, which featured a white “chimney piece” introduced at some prior date by the Duke of Wellington. Across the front portion hung a simple wood garland, possibly carved by 16th century master wood carver Grinling Gibbons. {Sheppard, p. 131}

Following her lead, the entire royal party assembled themselves around the table in the imposing room decorated entirely in crimson, white, and gold. To the left of the table a single throne of gold and crimson velvet stood regally upon its platform of three steps with a canopy of crimson velvet embroidered in gold lace with the Royal arms and crowns and set with fine pearls. {Sheppard, p. 131}

Edgar Sheppard, writing in 1894, gives some idea of the exquisite pieces that might have been displayed during the reign of Queen Victoria, though some of these may have been added later. He describes “two magnificent red porphyry ovated vases” mounted as tripods in ormolu, an application of finely ground gold and mercury applied to bronze. {p. 131}

Resting upon deep cherry red marble pedestals were two pairs of bronze and ormolu lights. A second pair of serpentine vases made in the 18th century rested upon ormolu mounts. Beneath the enormous red and ormolu chandelier, I can think of no better setting for the august signing of the registry. {Sheppard, p. 131}


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 21): The Archbishop's Pronouncement

Albert & Victoria on their Wedding Day, 1840
Photo Source: ET Online
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


After pledging their marriage, it was time for Albert to present Victoria with the wedding ring. As he gently slipped the plain gold band upon her finger, he pledged to adore her and share with her everything he owned. Upon the Archbishop’s pronouncement of their most happy union, the Earl of Uxbridge was seen giving the signal to the Park guns, whose royal salute set the crowds into a deafening cheer.

At this hearty conclusion, the Royal Family stood and began to file out in much the same order as they had come in, each one stopping to congratulate the Bride in happy celebration. Uncle Augustus grasped Victoria’s hand with great enthusiasm and kissed her on the cheek affectionately. As wee Princess Mary stopped before the Queen, Her Majesty took her up in her arms and kissed her over and over again.

When all but the Queen Dowager and the Duchess of Kent had passed, Queen Victoria stepped across the altar to warmly embrace and kiss Queen Adelaide. It is said that she cordially shook hands with her mother. After the two women departed, Victoria and Albert clasped ungloved hands and made haste to the Throne Room for the signing of the registry.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 20): Who Giveth This Woman?

Left to right: Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, Duke of Sussex
Close-up of painting of Queen Victoria's Wedding
Photo Source: Nineteen Teen
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


The most distinguished guests of the Royal Wedding rose to their feet as the strains of Edward Bairstow’s Psalm 67 announced the Queen’s entry to the Chapel Royal. Though the excited murmuring of the guests in the outer chambers may have created a momentary diversion from Her Majesty’s procession, it would be only moments before the chapel doors were closed and all eyes once again fixed upon the Royal Bride in all her elegance.

On reaching her seat, Queen Victoria knelt upon her hassock to perform her private devotions and then took her seat next to Albert. The Archbishop of Canterbury rose and began his elegant recitation of the wedding ceremony. He soon raised the question, “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?”

Stepping forward, Uncle Augustus (the Duke of Sussex), composed for the moment in his Field Marshal's uniform and his black skullcap, took his beloved niece by the hand. Presenting her to Albert, he responded in earnest, “I do.”

Soon after, it was time for the royal pair to exchange their vows. Her Majesty, quivering so that the wreath of orange blossoms upon her head trembled slightly, took in the words of her beloved Prince with rapt attention, his gallant solemnity capturing the hearts of everyone present.

When it was her turn, Victoria’s crystalline voice resonated clearly throughout the chapel. According to Eva Hope, the Queen made her pledge with “all meekness and sincerity” {Our Queen, p. 65-66}, glancing up at Albert with such an expression that it ‘convinced all who beheld her that her heart was with her words.’ {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 780}

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 19): The Duchess of Kent and the Royal Hanoverian Dukes

Victoria May Louise, Duchess of Kent
Painting by George Henry Harlow, circa 1830-1840
Photo Source: Grand Ladies
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Following the Royal Princesses, the Duchess of Kent and the Royal Hanoverian Dukes, Prince Adolphus of Cambridge and Prince Augustus Frederick of Sussex, made their way into the Chapel to take their seats near the altar.

The Duchess of Kent received a warm welcome from the crowd as she entered the Chapel. Although perhaps appearing “very distressed and disconsolate” {Hope, Our Queen, p. 65}, she made a grand impression in her white satin gown with its three blonde flounces and ornate silver brocade. Behind her trailed a sky-blue velvet train trimmed in ermine and lined with white satin. Her parure, including a diamond necklace, diamond earrings, and a diamond and feather headdress, must have been absolutely dazzling.

As she found her seat to the left of the altar, the Queen's esteemed uncles made their entrance. Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, at the age of 65, cast a striking image in his red and white Field Marshal's uniform. Elizabeth Longford reports that Uncle Adolphus "made loud, good-humoured comments" throughout the ceremony. {Longford, p. 142}

Following his brother, the Queen's affectionate Uncle Augustus Frederick, also wore the red and white uniform of a Field Marshal, decorated in the emblems of the royal orders. In addition, he wore what must have been his signature piece, a black skullcap upon his head. Ms. Longford writes that Uncle Augustus, who had the supreme honor of standing in for Victoria's father, "sobbed throughout the ceremony." {Longford, p. 142}

As the Dukes stood at the front, the choir began to sing Edward Bairstow's Psalm 67. Even then, the Bride was slowly making her way through the state rooms of St. James's Palace toward the Chapel doors.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 18): The Royal Princesses


Princess Mary Adelaide, 1840
Victorian Miniature, British School, 1840
Copyright Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Photo Source: Royal Collection
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


At 12:30 in the afternoon, the roll of the snare drum and the clarion call of the trumpets brought the audience to their feet as the National Anthem announced the procession of the Royal Family.

The women came first, beginning with Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, niece to Victoria's grandfather, King George III. Princess Sophia Matilda is described by J. Bell as "distinguished for the same noble modesty of demeanour, the same benevolence and affability, the same preference of retirement and domestic life" as her Royal cousins (children of King George III) {Bell, p. 122}. According to John Rusk, Princess Sophia wore a dress of lily-white satin and was still very beautiful at the age of 73. {Rusk, p. 143}

The royal women of the House of Cambridge entered the Chapel next. Princess Augusta led the way, followed by her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Mary. The historical record does not address when Prince George of Cambridge made his way to the front, but accounts do place him near his mother and siblings to the left of the altar.

Princess Augusta, at the tender age of 18, made her entrance next wearing a "train of...blue* velvet trimmed with Brussels point lace and tastefully ornamented with aigrettes of diamonds." {Victoriana Magazine} Princess Augusta's mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, followed her daughter into the Chapel. According to Charles Morris, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, dressed regally in white velvet and holding the hand of the wee Princess Mary, was "the mother of all animation and smiles at the applause which greeted her child."

Clearly, it this wee Princess Mary, age 3-1/2, with her “childish but exquisite beauty” {Hope, Anecdotes, p 778}, dressed in white satin and swansdown, would be stiff competition for the Duchess of Kent and the Royal Hanoverian Dukes, who would next make their entrances.

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*Though Victoriana Magazine describes her train as "rich" blue, John Rusk writes that she wore pale blue {p. 143}. Both sources agree that her dress was embellished with blush roses around the train.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 17): Dowager Queen Adelaide

Close-up view of Dowager Queen Adelaide, c. 1840
From painting by Sir George Hayter
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


From the upper galleries, the procession of Queen Adelaide must have been a breathtaking experience. Upon the sound of the first strains of ‘See the Conquering Hero Come,’ hailing the appearance of the Royal Bridegroom, the sacred procession had carried the audience sweetly and gently toward the Queen’s arrival. Once Prince Albert stood at the altar, it was Queen Adelaide’s turn.

As every noble lady and gentleman stood in her honor, the Queen Dowager’s entry through the Dean’s Vestry door struck a fine chord. The late King’s wife curtsied gracefully in her white satin dress, which was exquisitely ornamented with English lace over the bodice, the sleeves, and the deep flounce. Her luxurious velvet train, trimmed in ermine and lined with white satin, cascaded behind her in hues of rich violet.

As she turned to kneel at the altar for her private ministrations, the light would surely have set the little band of brilliants across her forehead to shimmering. This little band featuring aigrettes was part of her demure headdress which featured a small purple cap garnished with ostrich feathers. 

As the Queen Dowager took her seat next to Prince Albert, she encouraged the anxious Bridegroom to take his seat converse pleasantly with her until the Bride arrived. The rest of the guests spoke in low, hushed tones as the procession continued. It would not be long before the Royal Family would make their entrance.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 16): Wilt Thou Give This Woman?

Rupert Friend & Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria
The Wedding Scene
Copyright Unknown.
Photo Source: Madame Guillotine
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


You can be sure that once Queen Victoria stood face to face with her beloved Albert, the crimson velvet, the golden plates, and the rich festoons adorning the majestic Chapel Royal faded away. For a brief window in their very public life, she laid her royalty aside as they exchanged the most solemn of vows:

Albert, wilt thou give this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy state of matrimony? Wilt thou comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and forsake all other, keep thee only unto her, as long as ye both shall live?

In perfect English, the Prince answered ‘in a tone of softened feeling’ {Hope, Anecdotes, pp. 779-80}:

I, Albert, take thee, Victoria, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

When it was her turn, Victoria, in bright and dulcet tones both soft and resounding, emphasized the words, ‘love, cherish, and obey,’ with her eyes locked on his in rapt affection. {Gillian}

Though she was enraptured by the experience of being called by their first names, it would be the next moment which would most captivate her in the days to follow. As he slipped the plain gold wedding band onto her left fourth finger, he repeated these words with heartfelt solemnity:

With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I do thee endow; in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 781-82}

The Archbishop of Canterbury finished the liturgy and then pronounced them man and wife. After receiving the felicitations of the Royal Family, Victoria and Albert grasped hands and walked among their peers for the first time as husband and wife.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 15): Sitting in the Chapel Royal

Front Row at Victoria & Albert's Wedding
Painting by Sir George Hayter, 1840
Copyright Unknown.
Photo Source: HallFive
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

At noon on February 10, 1840, some of the most important people in the western world could be found sitting in the Chapel Royal awaiting the wedding of the century. Some were seated in the royal gallery abutting the Chapel’s main entrance, while others graced the pews on the floor. Still others viewed the proceedings from the east and west galleries, which flanked both sides of the altar. There were also seats just below and to the right of the choir, and still more in the two upper galleries which stretched across the full length of the chapel supported upon two Gothic pillars made of gilded cast iron.

Though the Chapel was decked out in highest fashion, according to Eva Hope the overall effect was one of ‘simplicity and elegance.’ In every direction the oaken panels and wooden cornices were covered in a thin layer of gold, and in front of the communion table, about six feet outside the crimson-lined railing, sat four unique chairs of state, gilt and upholstered in crimson velvet. The four chairs of state were reserved for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert Victoria’s mother (Princess Victoire, Duchess of Kent), and the Queen Dowager (Queen Adelaide).

The largest and tallest was of exquisite workmanship and was set just to the right of center for Her Majesty the Queen. Beneath her chair and Prince Albert’s to her left were hassocks on which their Royal Highnesses could kneel at the altar for their private devotions.

To the Queen’s immediate left, another of the state chairs was reserved for her mother, the Duchess of Kent. The fourth one to Albert’s immediate right was placed for the Queen Dowager, Queen Adelaide.

To Queen Adelaide’s right a row of guest chairs accommodated Ernest I (Albert’s father), Prince Ernest II (Albert’s brother), Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel (Duchess of Cambridge/Victoria’s aunt by marriage), Prince George of Cambridge (Victoria’s cousin), Princess Augusta Sophia (Victoria’s paternal aunt), and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (Victoria’s cousin).

To the Duchess of Kent’s left two guest chairs accommodated Queen Victoria’s paternal uncles, Prince Augustus Frederick (Duke of Sussex) and Prince Adolphus Frederick (Duke of Cambridge). In the above painting, it appears that Ernest II (Prince Albert's brother) is actually at the end of the row next to Princess Mary Adelaide, and the Duke of Sussex is standing in position to give the Bride away, rather than standing at his seat beside Victoria's mother.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 14): Standing in the Chapel Royal

Chapel Royal, St. James Palace
Engraved by W Radclyffe, circa 1841-44
Published by J Mead in Gough Square, Fleet Street London
Copyright
Photo Source: Maritime Gallery
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

It was a spectacle of the grandest nature for those guests fortunate enough to be standing in the Chapel Royal as Queen Victoria made her way to the altar to pledge her vows as a Bride. Having arrived two hours early, these most distinguished guests thoroughly enjoyed the hushed quiet in the richly arranged cathedral.

Lined entirely in crimson velvet, the altar and raised floor exuded a rich and regal feel. From their seats, stuffed with horse hair and covered in fine yellow-fringed crimson cloth, there was plenty to arouse the senses of those privileged witnesses to this celebrated event.

Beneath their feet lay a rich indigo carpet patterned with golden Norman roses. Festoons of crimson velvet edged with gold laced decorated the wall above the communion table, which shone brilliantly with the handiwork of Messr. Garrard. Among the new additions to the altar were six salvers, two gigantic vases, four flagons with four cups, and two splendid candelabra, all made of pure gold. {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 749-50}

Filled to the brim with Britain’s most distinguished nobles wearing their most elaborate finery, the 62’ x 25’ rectangular room was customized to accommodate the 300 most prestigious wedding guests who presented tickets for the privilege of sitting this close to the wedding of their Queen.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 13): An Ordinary Woman

Queen Victoria, 1843
Painting commissioned by Queen Victoria as a gift for Prince Albert
Painter: William Essex
Copyright Royal Collection.
Photo Source: The Whitterings of Vix
by Angela Magnotti Andrews


For the next forty minutes, the Queen of the Empire would enjoy the rarest and most precious experience of being treated like an ordinary woman. Up until now, her every appearance revolved around her sovereignty. On this, the 10th of February, 1840, one can almost imagine the giddy butterflies dancing in her belly as the Archbishop addressed her by her given name, Victoria, rather than by the customary royal title, Your Majesty.

This would be the first of many Mondays in which Victoria would enjoy the privilege of being a woman first and a Queen second. In truth, this would not be an easy transition for her. However, it was a challenge she embraced with everything she had, and on this day she pledged herself to a man who would do his best to encourage her to balance the two with grace and aplomb.

Even the poets understood the sacred nature of these precious, nearly ordinary moments for the Queen.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote of the occasion:

She vows to love who vowed to rule (the chosen at her side),
Let none say, God preserve the Queen! but rather, Bless the Bride!
None blow the trump, none bend the knee, none violate the dream,
Wherein no monarch, but a wife, she to herself may seem.
Or, if ye say, Preserve the Queen! oh, breathe it inward low--
She is a
woman, and beloved! and ‘tis enough but so. {Weintraub}

And Charles Sheridan Brown wrote:
A diadem thou wearest now,
Of gems and jewels rare.
But love shall deck thy sunny brow,
And wreathe his chapel there;
Too oft, alas! the golden ring
A monarch’s cares betide—
Affections wreath its charms shall fling
Round England’s Royal Bride. {A Lady}

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 12): Victoria's Bouquet and Wedding Shoes

A Posy of White Snowdrops
Photo Credit: Wallpaper Million

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

It’s likely that the Prince never allowed his eyes to stray from her lovely face, but the Queen Dowager Adelaide, standing to the left of the altar, must have followed the lines of Victoria’s dress to her hands.

Clothed in white kid gloves, likely with a slit in the left finger to facilitate donning the ring, her demure hands held a lace-edged handkerchief  and a simple posy of white snowdrops. Though February is the prime season for snowdrops, Victoria likely chose them because they were Albert’s favorite flowers.

Queen Victoria's Wedding Shoes
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
As Prince Albert stepped forward to escort Victoria to her seat on the right side of the altar, one might have caught a brief glimpse of her demure wedding shoes. Made of a creamy-white satin and trimmed with bands of ribbon, the flat ballet-like slippers featured ribbons at the instep which were worn tied around the ankles, a popular custom of the time. {Wikipedia}

Affixed inside the sole of each shoe is a label, perhaps you might call it a calling card, from Gundry & Sons. As the owner of the Silk Damask blog states, “the label is a proud ‘brand’ of the company, listing (cramming, actually) as many royal clientele as possible into the oval.”

The Queen and her Bridegroom now stand beside each other awaiting the commencement of the ceremony.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 11): The Collar of the Garter

Queen Victoria on her Wedding Day
Draping from her arms to the center of her abdomen,
she wears the "small" Collar of the Garter.
Photo is cropped from a photo featured elsewhere on this blog.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Every British Monarch is appointed Sovereign over the six British orders of chivalry. When Queen Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837, Rundell, Bridge, & Co, the Royal Jewelers, were commissioned to fashion for the Queen a new set of insignia for all six orders. One of these emblems, the Garter collar, was custom-made for her small stature. The usual “large” collar made of 30 oz of standard gold or gilt metal would have been far too heavy for her, especially on the occasion that she would need to wear the collars of several orders at one time.

In order to accommodate her smaller frame and the fashion of the times for off-the-shoulder dresses, the jewelers designed Victoria’s collar so that it would be long enough to drape from her arms rather than hanging suspended from her shoulders. It also featured smaller clasps and links. She wore it on the occasion of her wedding draping from her upper arms across the front-middle section of the bodice of her gown.

Still made entirely of solid gold, the Queen’s collar features an enamelled gold pendant of St. George slaying a dragon astride his stallion. The pendant hangs suspended from one of 12 enamelled gold medallions consisting of a red rose on a white background surrounded by the dark blue garter. The collar also features 12 enamelled medallions featuring white roses on a red background, also surrounded by the dark blue garter. (This was also a deviation from the previous style, in which all 24 medallions featured a red rose on a white background.)

Each of the enameled garters surrounding the flowers have inscribed upon them the motto of the order: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks ill of it). Alternating with the beautiful medallions are 24 gold knots. Of note, in some of the portraits of her wedding day, it appears that the Queen might also have worn the George III star, which is also an emblem of the Noble Order of the Garter.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 10): Victoria's Turkish Jewels

Queen Victoria in her Court Dress in 1854.
She wears the Turkish Necklace.
Photo Credit: LaModeIllustree
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

As mentioned previously, Victoria’s Turkish Jewels started out as a handful of loose diamonds given to her by the Sultan of Turkey in 1838. Prior to the occasion of her wedding, the Queen sent them along with a Royal Commission to Rundell, Bridge, & Rundell to be fashioned into the stunning jewels you see in the above photo.

Resting at the back of her neck, the  necklace begins with a large round brilliant paved in diamonds. On either side, linked by silver or platinum, rests a medium-sized round brilliant. Descending from these round diamonds are two sets of double-stranded diamond chains separated in the middle by even larger brilliant diamonds.

Queen Victoria, again in her Court dress on May 11, 1854.
In this photo she wears her Turkish earrings.
Photo Credit: Pinterest
These double strands terminate on both sides with a diamond rosette consisting of 9 round brilliant stones, the center stone being slightly larger than the “petal” diamonds. From these rosettes, again symmetrically on either side, a pair of triple-strand diamond chains cascade down the neck, culminating in a larger diamond rosette consisting of one large center stone surrounding by eight petals. Four of these petal diamonds are the same size as the center stone, and they alternate with four slightly smaller diamond petals. It appears that a pear-shaped drop diamond was attached to the central rosette as a pendant.

The current whereabouts of the Turkish Jewels is not known. However, Heinrich Butschal reports in Royal Magazin that the necklace sold for 23,000 pounds at an auction in London “from the collection of his Grace the Duke of Fife,” on July 30, 1970. It is believed that His Grace, Prince Arthur of Connaught, inherited the necklace from his father Prince Arthur of Connaught and Strathearn, who inherited it from his mother, Queen Victoria.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 9): Prince Albert's Sapphire Brooch

Prince Albert's Sapphire Brooch
Photo Credit: Barton Cottage

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Moving down toward her elegant scooped neckline, she has fastened her new sapphire brooch centered over her heart, creating a v-line with the Honiton lace. The royal couple spent an hour together the night before their wedding, at which Prince Albert presented his Bride with one of her most cherished gifts, this sapphire and diamond cluster brooch* which she wore often until [that fateful day in 1861]. At the center of this splendid piece rests a large oblong blue sapphire surrounded by twelve round diamonds.

The origins of the brooch are not known for certain. The folks at the Royal Collection surmise that Prince Albert may have purchased it from Kitching & Abud or Mortimer & Hunt. He was known to frequently patronize both London jewelers during the early years of their marriage. The experts also leave room for the possibility that he purchased it in Germany, perhaps in Hanau, a 250 km trip from his home in Coburg. {Royal Post}

Competing fiercely with the elegant brooch are the Queen’s dazzling “Turkish jewels,” a pair of diamond earrings and a necklace comprised of strands of diamonds and diamond rosettes. Given to the Queen as loose stones in 1838 by Sultan Mahmud of Turkey, these stones were fashioned by Rundell, Bridge, & Rundell (the Royal Jewelers) into what became her wedding jewelry suite. The earrings, made entirely of diamonds are at least 4” in length and dangle past her hairline so that they appear to touch her equally stunning necklace.

*Now known as Prince Albert’s Sapphire Brooch, this piece was gifted to the Crown by the Queen upon her death in 1901.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 8): Victoria's Wreath & Veil

Queen Victoria on her Wedding Day
Painting by Winterhalter
Photo Credit: Versailles and More

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

On the afternoon of February 10, 1840, Queen Victoria steps into the Chapel Royal with eyes fixed upon her Beloved. Every other eye in the chapel is fixed upon her. From head to toe, she is a vision in white.

Her hair appears to have been styled in the fashionable coiled chignon, with sections of her hair loosely twisted into drop curls and likely pinned underneath a loose bun or ponytail. {Olcott} Heinrich Butschal reports that “a very few diamonds were studded in her hair behind which fastened the veil.” {Royal Magazin}

Resting delicately atop her head is a wreath of orange blossoms (purity) interlaced with myrtle (love and domestic happiness). Affixed atop her bun is the first piece of the beautiful white Honiton lacework edging her 4-1/2-foot square veil of machine-made cotton net that trails demurely down her back.

The second piece of Honiton to draw the eye is a wide Bertha collar, measuring 7-1/2” in length, which extends over the shoulders to provide a double puff to the sleeves of her dress. From here, the third piece of lace is secured as a 2-1/2” frill, which trails down her arm just beneath her elbow. The fourth and final piece of lace is found on the dramatic train of her dress. Intricately embroidered with exotic flowers and leaves, the 25-1/2”-deep flounce of lace backed by cotton net provides four (some accounts say six) yards of luxurious white satin for her beautiful bridesmaids to bear behind her.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 7): Spitalfields Silk

Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress
Made in Spitalfields
Photo Credit: East End Gems

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Though once a majestic outpost for the silk trade in London’s East End, by 1840 Spitalfields was well known as a slum. As Henry Hetherington wrote in 1832, “The low houses are all huddled together in close and dark lanes and alleys, presenting at first sight an appearance of non-habitation, so dilapidated are the doors and windows:--in every room of the houses, whole families, parents, children and aged grandfathers swarm together.” {Wikipedia}

It was Queen Victoria’s custom to dote upon the poor and to use her Royal position to aide in their plight. It is no surprise, then, that she chose to purchase her gown from Spitalfields. While she succeed in establishing a continuing trend for Royals and Nobles to purchase subsequent bridal gowns from Spitalfields, even in the late 1800s the area remained horribly oppressed. Writer Jerry White calls it “perhaps the foulest and most dangerous street in the metropolis.” {Wikipedia}

Queen Victoria’s choice to have her simple, but elegant dress made in Spitalfields did afford an economic impact in the area, but it would take several decades for the region to make a full recovery. Thanks to Robert Horner, who completed construction of a new market in 1893, and to the City of London which expanded the market in 1920, popular interest began to swell over the next 40 years, and today Spitalfields continues to be a center for textiles as well as a booming hub for craftsman of all types. {Spitalfields}

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 6): Honiton Lace

Section of Flounce made of Honiton Lace
Photo Credit: The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor


by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Imagine the celebration the village must have thrown when Miss Jane Bidney, a native of Beer, brought the Royal Commission home and hired 200 tailoresses to begin work on the lace required for the Queen’s wedding dress. Working for nine months, these dedicated women made four individual pieces of lace, which held the place of prominence in the Queen’s wedding attire in 1840. {Duffy}

Indeed, it was this exquisite lace that inspired the Queen to choose an ivory-white dress rather than the customary silver for her Royal wedding gown. She felt it would serve as the most stunning background for the lace. She was most certainly using her position as fashion icon to further the cause of her publicans, a most noble act indeed. {Oakes}

Kay Staniland and Santina Levy, who wrote the book Queen Victoria’s Wedding Dress and Lace, credit design of the pattern the women followed to the influential artist William Dyce, a Pre-Raphaelite painter. {Duffy} The painter’s drawings were used only for Queen Victoria’s gown and were destroyed upon completion of the lace, most likely by Miss Bidney, to ensure that the Queen’s gown would remain one of a kind {Victoriana}.

The gown itself, made according to the fashion of the day, was actually quite simple. It featured a bone-seamed bodice with a low, wide neckline and a pointed waist with puffed sleeves terminating just above the elbows. The pleated skirt, made separately of seven widths of Spitalfields silk, measured 25” around the waist and 139” around the hem. {Duffy}

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 5): Spitalfields Silk & Honiton Lace

A Vision in White
Queen Victoria in Her Wedding Dress, 1840
Photo Credit: Tuppence Ha'penny

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

At half past one, as his Bride steps over the threshold into the Chapel, Prince Albert may just catch a first glimpse of her behind Lord Melbourne. One wonders whether he smiles as he catches sight of her pale beauty. She must have been a vision in her elegant satin dress made of creamy white silk, her wreath of white orange blossoms, and layer upon layer of white Honiton lace (pronounced “Huniton”).

Her dress and veil were masterpieces made entirely in England under Her Majesty’s strict orders. During a time when the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of European trade routes were enticing many wealthy brides to import their dresses from France and their lace from Brussels, the dressmakers and textile workers in England were enduring great hardship.

The Queen, ever aware of her duty as Mother of her nation and quite possibly inspired by the novels of Charles Dickens, attempted to remedy this hardship on the advent of her wedding. {Duffy} Her Royal Majesty insisted upon purchasing the heavy white silk for her gown from Spitalfields and yards and yards of handmade Honiton lace from needleworkers in Beer, Devon.

Both Spitalfields and Devon had long been home to those famed weavers, the Huguenots, Protestant refugees who settled in South England in the 1600s after fleeing religious persecution in France. These skilled weavers diligently passed their secrets on to subsequent generations, but two hundred years later their kin were struggling to make ends meet.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 4): Victoria Enters St. James's Palace

Queen Victoria's Bridesmaids
Photo Credit: Port Elizabeth Times

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Prince Albert remains standing, possibly trembling just a bit, until the Queen Dowager (Queen Adelaide) shows some empathy and invites him to sit and chat while they await the Queen’s arrival.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., the organ and the trumpets resound with the strains of the British National Anthem as the Royal Bride floats regally through the lavishly adorned apartments St. James’s Palace, parading past all of her 2,100 invited wedding guests.* She is escorted in her father’s absence by her uncle, Prince Augustus Frederick, who is reported to have cried throughout the entire ceremony. {Longford, 142}

Her 12-foot white satin train (flounce) is held aloft somewhat clumsily by her twelve bridesmaids, the oldest daughters of chosen peers. These beautiful young maidens wear all-white dresses featuring long, off-the-shoulder sleeves. Sprays of white roses adorn their hair, the bodice of their gowns, and an upswept portion of their long white skirts. 

Painted in watercolor by the Queen, the design for these dresses was passed on to Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland, Mistress of the Robes. Supervising the dressmaking, the Mistress of the Robes ensured that each dress was made to perfection.

*The following rooms in St. James’s Palace were handsomely decorated to accommodate the 2,100 guests who would not fit in the 300-seat Chapel Royal: the Throne Room, the Ante Throne Room, Queen Anne’s Drawing Room, the Guard Chamber, the Armory, the Grand Staircase, and the Colonnade.


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Friday, November 9, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 3): The Noble Order of the Garter

Prince Albert's Garter
All rights reserved. The Royal Collection.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

As Prince Albert faces the intimate crowd, the glittering gold emblems of the Noble Order of the Garter surely draw much attention. Snug around his calf just below his left knee glimmers a dark-blue velvet band studded with diamonds and gold. Though the basic design of his garter bears resemblance to its predecessors, this particular band was custom made for the Prince.

Featuring the Order’s motto (Honi soit qui mal y pense: “Shame on him who thinks ill of it”) rendered in diamonds down the center of the band and an ornate diamond flourish at the endpoint of the belt, the length of the garter is also lined in glittering white diamonds.

In January, when the Queen dispatched a courier to Coburg to deliver the Garter, the Collar, the Star, and the Lesser George (badge) to her intended, it’s quite possible that Shakespeare’s lofty words regarding the Noble Order of the Garter filled her mind:

When first this order was ordain’d, my lords,
Knights of the garter were of noble birth,
Valiant and virtuous, full of haughty courage,
Such as were grown to credit by the wars;
Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress,
But always resolute in most extremes.
He then that is not furnish’d in this sort
Doth but usurp the sacred name of knight,
Profaning this most honourable order,
And should, if I were worthy to be judge,
Be quite degraded, like a hedge-born swain
That doth presume to boast of gentle blood.
(from Henry VI)
                                                                                                                                                                                   
In her eyes, “dear Albert” forever remained the pinnacle of nobility and honor. Now, standing regally at the front of the Chapel Royal, he wore not only the garter, but also the collar of The Order draped elegantly over his shoulders, with the St. George pendant resting just beneath the center of his ribcage. Prince Albert’s collar was made just for him by Rundell, Bridge & Co., commissioned in 1840 by Queen Victoria. It would have been fashioned after the same standards as Queen Victoria’s collar, which was made by Rundell, Bridge & Co. in 1837. 


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