Saturday, February 17, 2018

Royal Wedding of the Weekend

Hello, everyone!  We continue our celebration of all things royal wedding (since 2018 will bring is not one but two royal nuptials in England!) with a look at one of the most famous royal unions of all time, Victoria and Albert, who celebrated an anniversary this week (178 years!), and also because I am avidly watching "Victoria" on PBS. :)

Queen Victoria married her Prince Albert on February 10, 1840.  When she first met her cousin (her mother was his father's sister, and the match was long schemed about amongst the Coburgs), in April 1836, Victoria wrote to her Uncle Leopold to thank him for "the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me in the person of dear Albert!"  But she became busy being queen, and the match didn't happen until 1839, when Albert was summoned to England and Victoria proposed (as per protocol).  In her diary, she declared "To feel I was, and am, loved by such an Angel as Albert was too great a delight to describe!  How I love and adore him I cannot say."  Preparations were not all smooth, as not everyone wanted a foreign prince, and there was wrangling over incomes, titles, and precedence.  But at last the day was set--February 10.

The wedding was the first marriage of a queen regnant since Mary I, and the country was soon caught up in wedding fever.  The day was a cold, rainy one, but it didn't stop crowds from gathering to watch the royal carriages go by on their way to the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace.  The queen wore a gown of white English satin (an unusual but not unique choice, which set a new trend that lasts to this day) trimmed with Honiton lace flounces, a matching lace veil (which she would later be buried with) held with a wreath of orange blossoms, a diamond necklace and earrings, and a sapphire brooch that was Albert's gift.  (She described it as "I wore a white satin dress with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, in imitation of an old design").  Albert wore an English field marshal's uniform, and walked down the aisle to Handel.  Victoria was given away by her uncle, the Duke of Sussex, and 12 bridesmaids carried her 18 foot train.

A wedding breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace, the queen's newly renovated home, complete with a 300 pound cake iced in white.  "The happiest day of my life," she declared, and after the wedding night sighed, "I never, never spent such an evening."  Two months later she was pregnant with the first of 9.

The very happy, if sometimes stormy, marriage, a true partnership, sadly only lasted 21 years, when Albert died at age 42 in 1861.

A couple of great sources about the royal marriage are:
Julia Baird, Victoria: The Queen (2016)
Gillian Gill, We Two: Victoria and Albert (2009)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Royal Wedding of the Weekend

And, back from a winter hiatus of holiday festivity followed by "fun" illness, we have another look at a royal wedding in history!  (to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and now Princess Eugenie and her beau!  TWO royal weddings in one year!  I am much too excited)

Today's wedding was neither fun nor very festive.  On June 3, 1937, the ex-King Edward VIII turned Duke of Windsor finally married his longtime love, American divorcee and fashionista Wallis Simpson.  It had been a rocky road of illicit romance and a shocking abdication, a match that nearly ran off the rails several times, but Edward couldn't live his life without "the woman I love."  (Luckily for England, facing a grueling war, they got the exemplary King Georve VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother).

The wedding was completely lacking in royal pomp, and was short and simple.  It took place at the Chateau de Cande in Monts, France, performed by the mayor of Monts for the required civil ceremony, and Reverend R. Anderson Jardine for the Anglican rites.  (It was very hard for them to find a priest to perform the marriage, and poor Jardine paid the price in his career thereafter).  There were only a few guests, including Randolph Churchill (whose father secretly liked and supported the prince, until it became impossible), and best man "Fruity" Metcalfe.  Herman Rogers, husband of one of Wallis's old friend, a couple who gave her shelter during the abdication, walked her down the aisle to Handel.  The ceremony was held in the music room, with a makeshift altar of an oak chest covered with a tablecloth and laid with a gold cross and candles.

The bride's gown was from Mainbocher, described by Time magazine as "soft blue crepe with a tight, buttoned bodice, a halo-shaped hat of the same color, shoes and gloves to match.  At her throat was a tremendous diamond and sapphire brooch."  It's an elegant, clean-lined gown, free of any of the usual bridal fripperies of the time--a serious gown for a serious third marriage.  (Cecil Beaton hated the hat, and I can't say I think he was wrong)

The short ceremony was followed by champagne toasts, some photos on the terrace, and a ride to their honeymoon at Wasserloenberg Castle in Austria, where he carried his bride over the threshold.  They were married until his death in 1972, long years of scandal, wandering, and cafe society.  Maybe a sort of HEA for them.

For a romanticized view of the couple, I enjoy the duchess's own book, The Heart Has Its Reasons, and Diana, Lady Mosley's The Duchess of Windsor: A Memoir.  I also liked Anna Sebba's recent bio That Woman