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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal- The Wedding of Prince Leopold and Princess Helen of Waldeck Pyrmont 27th April 1888

On this day, 27th April 1882, Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria, married Princess Helen of Waldeck Pyrmont at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The couple had a brief, but happy marriage, ending in the hemophiliac Leopold's death from a fall in Cannes, France, in March 1884.

Queen Victoria recalls the day in her journal -

"A fine day. All bustle & excitement, the Castle Hill already filling with people. — Dear Leopold breakfasted alone with me. Gave him a pin, which had belonged to dearest Albert, & he gave me a very pretty chain bracelet, with his & Helen's monograms in diamonds. Helen came in for a moment, & I gave her a Prayer Book. Went to her room to see her dress laid out, & then began dressing myself. Wore for the first time my own wedding lace over black satin, & my own wedding veil, which I had not worn since my wedding day in 1840, surmounted by my small diamond crown. — Beatrice went with me as well as Victoria of Hesse, in the carriage to the Chapel. The Duchesses of Bedford & Roxburghe were with us, the Pages being young Byng, & little Arthur Ponsonby,

who carried my train. -

Queen Victoria and her page, Arthur Ponsonby. The Queen is dressed for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Albany 1882 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

The Duke of Westminster was also in attendance on me. Had the usual Sovereign's Escort. Drove down the Castle Hill, where the crowds were enormous. A Guard of Honour of the Duke of Albany's own Highlanders, was mounted in front of the Chapel. The cheering, hands playing, the numbers of people, troops, carriages, &c, produced the most brilliant effect. Arrived at the door of the Chapel, it was no easy task, getting out with our trains & veils. The Groom of the Chambers & Pages carried my train, Beatrice, & Victoria of Hesse followed me, their trains being carried by Jane Churchill & Wilhelmine von Grancy. The Procession was headed by the Heralds, all my Gentlemen following, the Ld Chamberlain & Ld Steward immediately preceded me, the trumpets sounded, then the organ pealed forth. It was a thrilling & affecting moment. My anxiety naturally was great, as to how Leopold would get though the ceremony. As usual all the English family were on the right of the altar, Alix with her 3 girls behind her, nearest to me, then Lenchen, Louise, Beatrice Affie, Marie, Arthur & Louischen.

The Bride's family, Augusta & Fritz Strelitz, & Philip & Louise Coburg, on the left side. We waited but a short time, when another flourish of trumpets announced the Bridegroom's procession, & contrary to my expectation, dear Leopold walked the whole way up the Nave. He was supported on either side by Bertie & Louis. I felt nervous, for he still looked so pulled down & weak. Had as usual, to wait a long time for the Bride. After 10 minutes, a flourish of trumpets again sounded, & Helen appeared. A lovely sight she was, her white satin dress & train, embroidered with silver lilies, & trimmed with Brusselslace. She wore on her head a diamond diadem, in the shape of flowers (a Waldeck family jewel), surrounded by a bridal wreath & a long tulle veil. Her Father, & the King of the Netherlands led her in. Her train was borne by 8 Bridesmaids: Ladies Ermyntrude Russell, Mary Campbell, Blanche Butler, Feodore Yorke, Florence Anson, Anne Lindsay, Florence Wilbraham, & Eva Greville. They were dressed in white, with sprays of primroses & violets. Helen's manner was perfect, & she spoke her answers loud & distinctly. Instead of the long Exhortation, the Arch Bishop made a short & appropriate address, then Beethoven's Hallelujah Chorus was sung, after which Leopold & Helen turned to me, & I embraced them warmly. They then moved off, with their supporters following them, Mendelssohn's wedding march being played, which was continued till I left the Chapel.

During the service, a ray of sunshine, poured through the stained glass windows, on to the young Couple, which had a beautiful effect. On returning to the Castle, I found the Bridal Party, in the Green Drawingroom, where gradually all the Royal Family & Guests assembled, & the Register was signed. Went into the great Reception Room, where the young Couple received the congratulations of all the invited guests, & after that went to luncheon. Leopold sat next to me, with Helen next to him. At desert, I gave out the health of the Bride & Bridegroom, with every wish for their happiness. Bertie proposed the Pce & Pss Waldeck's & then the King & Queen's healths, lastly the King, proposed mine. We all separated after luncheon. — Received a telegram from my Attaché at the Legation at Stuttgart, saying that Helen's sister had had a still born daughter, but was going on well. This was very sad, & I determined to say nothing before Helen left. I joined the young couple in the Corridor, who were ready to leave, & surrounded by all the family of both sides. She looked very nice, all in white, with a little straw bonnet, trimmed with orange blossoms. I embraced them both, & we all followed down to the door. My heart was in my mouth, & I felt very agitated. Rice & slippers were thrown, as they drove off to Claremont, accompanied by Alec Yorke & Mrs Moreton. — Took Pss Waldeck, up to my room, & told her the news about her daughter, which upset her very much. — Drove out with Beatrice, Marie, & the Queen, going through the prettily decorated town. — In the evening, large State Banquet in St. George Hall, we sat down 156. The King led me in, & I sat between him, & Pce Waldeck. The usual healths were given, at the end of dinner. Afterwards much talking.

Heard, that the young couple had safely arrived at Claremont. This exciting day is all over, & past, like a dream, & the last, but one, of my children is married, & has left the paternal home, but not entirely, as he still keeps his rooms. It was very trying to see the dear Boy, on this important day of his life, still lame & shaky, but I am thankful it is well over. I feel so much for dear Helen, but she showed unmistakably how devoted she is to him. It is a great blessing, God bless them both!

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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