Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and the wedding was a memorable occasion.
The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was solemnized on the 10th of February 1840, at the Chapel Royal, St. James's. Queen Victoria's wedding day was inauspicious, a heavy rain falling; but immense multitudes assembled to gaze upon the processions.
At daybreak crowds of anxious and loyal subjects were seen hastening from all parts of the city in the direction of the royal palaces and the whole city exhibited the most extensive preparations for the proper celebration of Queen Victoria's wedding. In St. James's Park, the area in front of Buckingham Palace, and the avenue leading from thence to the garden entrance of St. James's was densely thronged before eight o'clock, and the rain which fell after that time caused no sensible diminution of the crowds, for as fast as the endeavor of one body of the eager visitors gave way their places were filled by the fresh numbers which were every minute arriving.
Her Royal highness the Duchess of Kent and the twelve Bridesmaids were in attendance upon her Majesty at an early hour in preparation for Queen Victoria's wedding. The Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Mary, and the Princess Augusta of Cambridge, and the Duchess Gloucester also arrived early at the Palace and were admitted to Queen Victoria's private apartments.
The Royal Bride's Procession
The bridal procession from Buckingham Palace to St. James's, where the ceremony for Queen Victoria's wedding was to be performed, begun to move through the triumphal arch at 12 o'clock. A royal salute of 21 guns announced that Queen Victoria was entering her carriage. Every accessible part of St. James's Park which lies between the palaces had been crowded from an early hour, and Queen Victoria was received in the most enthusiastic manner by those who were so fortunate as to command a view of this procession.
St. James's Palace
The procession for Queen Victoria's wedding passed on to the Garden Entrance of St. James's Palace by which Her Majesty entered and proceeded to the Queen's Closet, or Privy Council Chamber, where she remained for half an hour till the procession was formed in front of the Throne. During all this time the cheering continued in front of the Palace with uninterrupted vehemence.
Prince Albert's portion of the procession moved first, preceded by the Lord and Deputy Chamberlains, who conducted His Royal Highness to the chapel where he remained on the right hand side, or left of the altar. He was attended by his Gentleman of Honor, and the Reigning Duke and Hereditary Prince of Saxe Coburg (his father and elder brother) and their suites, and preceded by drums and trumpets.
His Serene Highness wore a field marshal's uniform, with large rosettes of white satin on his shoulders. There was a flush on his brow as he entered the chapel to begin Queen Victoria's wedding. His manly and dignified bearing, and the cordial and unaffected manner with which he greeted those of the Peers and Peeresses around him, won all hearts. Many of those around pronounced that Prince Albert was a consort worthy of Queen Victoria.
On reaching his chair, Prince Albert advanced gracefully to the Queen Dowager and respectfully kissed her hand. He afterwards bowed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Church Dignitaries and remained for some time standing and casting many anxious glances towards the Chapel entrance. The Queen Dowager at length requested him to be seated and he entered into conversation with her.
The Lord Chamberlain and Deputy Chamberlain returned to Queen Victoria, and having their prescribed positions, her Majesty's procession advanced preceded by music, and guided by the Officers of the Earl Marshal. The procession passed through the Throne Room, the Ante Throne Room, Queen Anne's Drawing Room, the Guard Chamber, the Armory, the Grand Staircase, and the Colonnade leading to the Chapel. All these apartments were sumptuously adorned, and in all of them seats had been prepared for spectators, which crowded with an array of beauty and fashion. Twenty-one hundred tickets had been issued for the accommodation of spectators in these places.
In the procession, Queen Victoria was preceded by the usual display of heralds and trumpeters, by the various officers of the household, by the different members of the royal family, each with an attendant from their households, by the Chamberlains, and Lord Melbourne bearing the sword of state. Her Majesty's train was borne by her twelve bridesmaids, who were followed by the ladies of the bed chamber, the maids of honor, the women of the bed chamber, the gold stick, and six gentlemen of arms, and as many yeomen of the guard to close the procession.
The procession arrived at the chapel at half past one. The chapel itself had been crowded from an early hour. The galleries presented a magnificent display of nobility and beauty. In the Ambassador's gallery, facing the altar, among the first arrivals, were the American Minister and Mrs. Stevenson, the Turkish Ambassador, the Princess Esterhazy, Mr. and Mrs. Van de Weyhr, the Swedish Ambassador, Russian Ambassador, and Count Sebastiani. A number of others arrived in rapid succession, and the south gallery soon presented a very magnificent display of costly diamonds, stars, and decorations. At 10 o'clock one of the bands marching into the Palace yard passed the chapel window playing "Haste to the Wedding." While a smile mantled on the faces of the ladies, the Archbishop of Canterbury most appropriately entered the chapel and proceeded up to the altar.
The Queen Dowager entered immediately after eleven, and took her seat on the right of the state chair appropriated to Prince Albert - all the spectators rose on her entrance, and Queen Adelaide curtsied at this mark of respect.
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. The altar was magnificently decorated. The pillars supporting the galleries were gilt, as was the communion table and the gothic railing which surrounded it.
Queen Victoria's dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange flower blossoms. The headdress was a wreath of orange flower blossoms, and over this a beautiful veil of Honiton lace, worn down. The bridesmaids or train-bearers were also attired in white. The cost of the lace alone on the dress was ?1,000. The satin, which was of a pure white, was manufactured in Spitalfields. Queen Victoria wore an armlet having the motto of the Order of the Garter: "Honi soit qui mal y pense," inscribed. She also wore the star of the Order.
The lace of Queen Victoria's bridal dress, though popularly called Honiton lace, was really worked at the village of Beer, which is situated near the sea coast, about ten miles from Honiton. It was executed under the direction of Miss Bidney, a native of the village, who went from London, at the command of her Majesty, for the express purpose of superintending the work. More than two hundred persons were employed upon it from March to November, during the past year.
The lace which formed the flounce of the dress, measured four yards, and was three quarters of a yard in depth. The pattern was a rich and exquisitely tasteful design, drawn expressly for the purpose, and surpasses anything that has ever been executed either in England or in Brussels. So anxious was the manufacturer that Queen Victoria should have a dress perfectly unique, that she has since the completion of the lace destroyed all the designs. The veil, which was of the same material, and was made to correspond, afforded employment to the poor lace workers for more than six weeks. It was a yard and a half square.
The Queen Dowager's dress was of English lace with a rich deep flounce over white satin; the body and sleeves trimmed with the same material. The train was of rich violet velvet lined with white satin and trimmed with ermine. The whole of this dress was entirely composed of articles of British manufacture. Queen Adelaide wore a diamond necklace and earrings, a head dress, feathers, and diamonds.
The dress worn by her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent, was of white satin splendidly brocaded with silver and trimmed with three flounces of blonde. It was trimmed with net and silver. The train was of sky-blue velvet lined with white satin and trimmed with ermine. The body and sleeves were tastefully ornamented with ermine and silver with blonde ruffles. The head dress was of diamonds and feathers with a necklace and earrings en suite. The articles in the dress were wholly of British manufacture.
H.R.H. Princess Augusta wore a corsage and train of rich blue velvet trimmed with Brussels point lace and tastefully ornamented with aigrettes of diamonds. There was a rich white satin petticoat with volants and heading of Brussels point lace. The head dress was of Brussels point lace with superb lappets to correspond and a magnificent spray of diamonds.
The Duchess of Sutherland wore a dress of white satin trimmed with barbs of Spanish point lace and white roses. Included was a stomacher of brilliants, point ruffles and berth?; plus a train of white moir? magnificently embroidered in coral and gold. The head dress was of feathers and point lappets with splendid diamonds.
The Countess of Carlisle had a dress of sapphire blue velvet with a Brussels point tucker and ruffles. Her head dress was a toque of velvet and Brussels point lappets.
Prince Albert met Queen Victoria and conducted her to her seat on the right hand side of the altar. The Archbishop of Canterbury advanced to the rails; next her Majesty and Prince Albert approached him and the service commenced. While the service was proceeding, her Majesty was observed looking frequently at Prince Albert, who was standing at her side. In fact she scarcely ever took her eyes off him till she left the chapel.
As the service concluded, the several members of the Royal Family who had occupied places around the altar returned to take up their positions in the procession. After all had passed, with the exception of the Royal bride and bridegroom, Queen Victoria stepped hastily across to the other side of the altar, where the Queen Dowager was standing and kissed her. Prince Albert then took her Majesty's hand, and the Royal pair left the chapel, all the spectators standing.
Having remained a short time in the Royal Closet, Queen Victoria and the Prince returned in the same carriage from the Royal Garden of St. James's to Buckingham Palace.
A wedding repast was prepared, at which several of the illustrious participators in the previous ceremony, and the officers of the household and ministers of state were present. It is needless to say that the taste and ingenuity of the confectioners and table-deckers were prominently displayed at the festival, a splendid wedding cake forming a prominent object of attraction.
On her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria's own wedding cake was a sight to behold. The cake had a circumference of nine feet (2.75 meters) and weighed over 300 pounds (136 kilos). The cake is reported to have been about 14" high (35.6 cm), of a two-tier design with the second tier rising from the centre of the base. A pure white icing background was decorated with cupids and on the top a sculpture of the mythical Britannia and the marrying couple.
Since white wasn't generally chosen as the color in which to be married, Victoria's dress came as quite the surprise. It wasn't an unpleasant surprise, however, because soon after women all over Europe and America began wearing white wedding dresses as well. There were still those who chose to get married in other colors, but it was the trend among those of an elevated social status to wear a glamorous white dress.