Monday, December 31, 2012

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

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.

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…” {18, p. 789-90}

No doubt the food was exquisite in both taste and presentation, though it seems that their marvelous cake stole the show. 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.” {18, 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. {59, 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.” {18, 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

Private Moments: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 24)

Image result for wedding of queen victoria granger
Queen Victoria's Wedding, 1840
Photo Source: Fine Art America

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.” {31, p. 117}

After making their rounds through the bustling state rooms, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stole away to share another 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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Antique Clip Art - Carriage fit for a Princess //  The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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

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

Rumors of intrigue surround the signing of the registry. Some say 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 (the 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. {14, 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 next to 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. {31, p. 116}

Interestingly, 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.

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. {59, p. 119-120}

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Monday, December 24, 2012

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

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.

As the Bride and Groom entered the Throne Room of St. James’s Palace, they made their way directly to the attestation table. Prominently positioned in the majestic room, the massive table with its claw-footed legs made of Egyptian leonine gold was fashioned expressly for this exalted occasion. {62, 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. {47, 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. A canopy of crimson velvet embroidered in gold lace with the Royal arms and crowns and set with fine pearls hung above the throne. {47, 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. {47, 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. {47, p. 131}

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Friday, December 21, 2012

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

Albert & Victoria on their Wedding Day, 1840
Photo Source: ET Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury finished the liturgy, 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.

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

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

To Have and To Hold: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 20)

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

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 must have faded from her mind. 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’:

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. {17, pp. 779-80}

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. {14}

She was enraptured by the experience of being called by their first names. However, 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, Albert 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. {17, p. 781-82}

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Who Giveth This Woman?: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 19)

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

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 closed and all eyes once again fixed upon the Royal Bride.

On reaching her seat, Queen Victoria knelt upon her hassock to perform her private devotions before taking 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, 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,” glancing up at Albert with such an expression that it ‘convinced all who beheld her that her heart was with her words.’ {18, p. 65-66; 17, p. 780}

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Duchess of Kent and the Royal Hanoverian Dukes: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 18)

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

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 she appeared “very distressed and disconsolate,” she made a grand impression in her white satin gown with its three blonde flounces and ornate silver brocade. {13, p. 65}

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. {26, 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." {26, p. 142}

As the Dukes stood at the front, the choir began to sing Edward Bairstow's Psalm 67. At this point, the Bride slowly moved through the state rooms of St. James's Palace toward the Chapel doors.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Royal Princesses: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 17)

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

At 12:30 in the afternoon, the roll of the snare drum, accompanied by 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. According to John Rusk, Princess Sophia wore a dress of lily-white satin and was still very beautiful at the age of 73. {46, p. 143} 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) {3, p. 122}.

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* velvet trimmed with Brussels point lace and tastefully ornamented with aigrettes of diamonds." {58}

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." {31}

Clearly, wee Princess Mary, age 3-1/2, with her “childish but exquisite beauty” {17, p 778}, dressed in white satin and swansdown, proved stiff competition for the Duchess of Kent and the Royal Hanoverian Dukes, who would next make their entrances.

*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.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dowager Queen Adelaide: Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 16)

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

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 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 and 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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Friday, December 7, 2012

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

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

At noon on February 10, 1840, some of the most important people in the western world were seated 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.’ {17, 18} 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 largest and tallest was of exquisite workmanship. It sat just to the right of center for Her Majesty the Queen. Next to hers, Prince Albert's state chair awaited him. Beneath their chairs, to Queen Victoria's 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, Princess Victoire, the Duchess of Kent. The fourth one, set to Albert’s immediate right, was placed for the Queen Dowager, Queen Adelaide.

To Queen Adelaide’s right a row of guest chairs accommodated Albert's father, Ernest I; 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, another of Victoria’s cousins.

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 Prince Albert's brother, Ernest II is seated at the end of the row next to Princess Mary Adelaide, and the Duke of Sussex stands to give the Bride away.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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

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

It was the grandest spectacle for those guests fortunate enough to stand 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 majesty. 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 gold pieces crafted by 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. {17, p. 749-50}

The 62’ x 25’ rectangular room was customized to accommodate the 300 of Britain's most distinguished 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

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

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

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. All prior public appearances 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 on which Victoria would enjoy the privilege of being a woman first and a Queen second. In truth, becoming Albert's wife would not be an easy transition for her.

It was, however, a challenge she embraced with everything she had. On this auspicious day she pledged herself to a man who would do his best to encourage her to balance both roles with grace and aplomb.

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. {51}

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. {17}

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

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