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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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 2): Prince Albert Takes His Place

Close-up of Prince Albert on his Wedding Day
Photo Credit: The Dreamstress

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Upon their arrival, the Queen, her mother (the Duchess of Kent), and the Mistress of the Robes retreat to the Queen’s Closet (the Privy Council Chamber). Her attendants have awaited their Royal Mistress for an hour-and-a-half in this “closet” (really a huge stately meeting room with a warm fireplace and a stunning chandelier). 

Finally released from their confinement, they most certainly descend upon her gaily to make any last-minute adjustments. The Queen's final half hour of waiting must have flown by with the giddy laughter and female attentions characteristic of bridal parties everywhere.
While her attendants dote upon the Royal Bride, the Dignitaries and Officials, dressed in full regalia, proceed to their places inside the quaint chapel. Following gracefully behind them, Prince Albert immediately wins the allegiance of the most prestigious guests filling the mere 300 seats within the chapel.

With his dignified bearing and his cordial greeting of every person in the room, all eyes follow him to his position at the right of the altar. There he stands regally, and somewhat nervously, in the red swallow-tailed tunic enhanced by two white satin bows resting upon his shoulders and the white knee breeches indicative of a field marshal in the British Army.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 1): The Procession

Queen Victoria's Wedding
Photo Credit: Versailles and More
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

It begins with a bang—a 21-gun royal salute announces that Her Majesty has entered a carriage to begin her procession to the Chapel Royal. Earlier that morning, while the Queen slept “well” in her bed, throngs of adoring subjects lined the streets of London, filling St. James Park well before eight. {Longford, 142} By the time the Queen’s carriage wends its way down the avenue through the triumphal arch at twelve noon, this cheering crowd has been waiting for hours in heavy rain, hoping to catch a glimpse of their beloved Queen on this, her wedding day. 

As the Queen’s carriage neared the Garden Entrance to St. James’ Palace, the deafening cheer of the crowds must have alerted the thousands of guests within the palace that the day’s ceremonies were about to begin. One  can imagine the glittering fans waving in excited fingers, the whispering from one bonneted head to another, the glistening of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires off the hairpieces, necks, and arms of the most beautifully outfitted women and men in all of England.

As one writer for Victoriana Magazine expressed, “The appearance of the large body of spectators was brilliant in the extreme. Bridal favors were universally worn, and the profusion of diamonds and other gems, the glittering state robes and costly decorations, formed a display of the most magnificent character.” It would surely take a truly regal bride to upstage all the glitz and glitter filling the magnificent halls of St. James’s Palace.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Buddhist Prayer Beads: An Introduction

Japa Mala Thiksey Ladakh
Photo Copyright Poras Chaudhary. All rights reserved.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

It is widely believed that the Buddhist practice of praying with prayer beads was inherited from Hinduism. While this may be the case, it’s also possible that using pebbles, fingers, beads, or notches on a stick to keep track of many things, including counting prayers, is a fairly universal custom. For those who recite many prayers or mantras on a regular basis, devising some way to keep track of these prayers makes all kinds of sense.

It is true, though, that in the case of Buddhism and Hinduism there are many common elements in the use of prayer beads. For instance, Buddhists call their sets of beads malas (“chaplets”), and Hindus call them japa-malas (“muttering chaplets”). Both malas and japa-malas traditionally have 108 beads, and both are used to count mantras, sacred sounds, syllables, or words.

Buddhism was first established in India, and it eventually spread throughout Asia, becoming the main religion of Tibet, Korea, Japan, and China. Each country uses malas in a slightly different way. Tibetan Buddhists use strands of 108 beads, 100 of which are used to count mantras and eight of which are dedicated to all sentient beings.

Korean Buddhists used malas with 110 beads. Two of the beads were larger than the rest, one with a swastika and one plain one in the middle. In Japan, different Buddhist sects adopted different styles of malas, with the most common being the shozoiki jiduzu. Not only were these strands of 112 beads used for prayer and invocation, they also provided a sense of safety. {onmarkprodcutions} Though the use of prayer beads by Chinese Buddhists was few and far between, during Manchu rule (1644-1912 AD), “court chains,” fashioned after Tibetan malas, were worn as a symbol of status among the nobility.

Coming soon: More about Tibetan Malas, Korean Malas, and Japanese Malas.

1. Dubin, Lois Sherr. The History of Beads: From 100,000 B.C. to the Present. New York: Abrams Publishers, Inc., 2009.
2. Museum of Anthropology. University of Missouri. “Prayer Beads: A Cultural Experience.” Copyright 2011. Last updated October 22, 2012.
3. Prayer Beads World (website). “Prayer Beads in Islam.” Copyright 2008. Accessed October 22, 2012.
4. Schumacher, Mark. “A to Z Photo Dictionary Japanese Buddhist Statuary.” OnMarkProductions (website). Accessed October 29, 2012.
5. Winston, Kimberly.  Bead One, Pray Too. New York: Moorehouse Publishing, 2008.

*Clip-art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy