Fashion History: A Look Back on Past Royal Weddings

By: Beverly Abellanosa

As we look forward to the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and his fiancé, American actress, Meghan Markle, we're taking a look at past royal weddings that have greatly influenced popular culture and the United Kingdom. Royal weddings have long been extravagant ceremonies of pageantry used to raise the nation's morale after wars or to mark the rebirth of the United Kingdom through highlighting the modernization of the country or simply by introducing a new generation of royals. Here's a look at some of the most iconic royal weddings in fashion history, in which the brides' dresses encompass the styles of the time as well as mark an era of British monarchy. 

Prince Charles of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer


Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana Spencer were married on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul's Cathedral. The wedding was most notable for being "The Wedding of the Century." The grand event was watched by a global television audience of 750 million. Lady Diana's wedding dress was made of ivory silk taffeta, decorated with lace and hand-embroidered with sequins and 10,000 pearls. The dress was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and had a 25 foot train made of ivory taffeta and antique lace. The wedding marked the beginning of Lady Diana'a extraordinary transformation into one of the most famous women in the world. 


Prince Albert, Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon


Prince Albert, Duke of York (later crowned King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (later crowned Queen Elizabeth) were married on April 26, 1923 in Westminster Abbey. The wedding was most notable for the dress Lady Elizabeth wore. The dress was designed by Queen Mary's dressmaker, Madame Handley-Seymour and consisted of deep ivory chiffon moire, silver thread and pearl embroidery. The dress followed the Coco Chanel trend at the time which dropped waists and shapeless silhouettes. Lady Elizabeth's dress mirrored the jazz craze that circulated through Europe during the 1920's.


Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh


Princess Elizabeth (later crowned Queen Elizabeth II) and the Duke of Edinburgh were married on November 20, 1947 in Westminster Abbey. The wedding was noted for marking the rebirth of the nation after World War II. The wedding was broadcasted by BBC radio to 200 million people around the world. Princess Elizabeth's dress was designed by Normal Hartnell, and made from ivory silk and decorated with 10,000 seed pearls. Paired with the dress was a 15 foot train embroidered with various floral designs inspired by Botticelli's Primavera. 


Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones


Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones were married on May 6, 1960 in Westminster Abbey.  The wedding is most notable for being the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television, approximately 300 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the wedding. It drew so much attention due to the fact that Mr. Armstron-Jones was the first British commoner to marry a king's daughter in 400 years. Princess Margaret's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and made form silk organza. Hartnell specifically kept the adornments and embellishments of the dress to a minimum to suit Princess Margaret's petite frame. Life magazine described the dress as "the simplest royal wedding gown in history." The dress has also been hailed as one of Hartnell's most beautiful and sophisticated pieces. 


Prince Willian, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton


Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton were married on April 29, 2011 in Westminster Abbey. The satin dress was designed by Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, and had an overlaid lace bodice and appliquéd skirt. Floral motifs were cut from lace and then appliquéd by hand onto tulle. The wedding was broadcast on TV, radio and online in more than 180 countries. An estimated 2 bullion viewers tuned in to the wedding. The event was listed in the 2012 Guinness Book  of World Records for the record of "Most Live Streams for a Single Event." The wedding drew much attention due to the fact that Catherine was a commoner Prince William met while studying at St. Andrews in Scotland. Their wedding marked the beginning of a new generation of royals.