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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

The wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 10th February 1840

On this day in 1840, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg and Gotha were married at The Chapel Royal inside St James’s Palace.

© Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

Prince Albert began his procession from Buckingham Palace to St James’s Palace “about half past eleven o'clock”. He arrived in the third of three carriages alongside his father, The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and his brother, The Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Queen Victoria’s procession began shortly after “at twelve o'clock” and she arrived in the final carriage of seven, alongside her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess of Sutherland, her close friend and Mistress of the Robes.

The “illustrious Personages, and others composing the Procession” then assembled in the Throne-room before moving in procession to the Chapel Royal. First to enter were the Serjeant Trumpeter and Master of the Ceremonies, Sir Robert Chester. The Bridegroom’s party then entered to the sound of drums and trumpets. “Wearing the Collar of the Order of the Garter”, His Royal Highness “was conducted to the seat provided for him on the left hand of the Altar.”

The Queen similarly entered the Chapel to the sound of drums and trumpets, wearing a white satin dress made by Mary Bettans, with lace designed by William Dyce (she had decided not to wear her crimson velvet robes of state as she wanted to be married as a bride and not a Queen) She was followed by her bridesmaids which were twelve unmarried ladies whom carried train.

The service was then commenced by the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, who was accompanied “on his right His Grace the Lord Archbishop of York, and on his left the Lord Bishop of London, who assisted as Dean of the Chapel Royal.” When the Archbishop of Canterbury read the words: "I pronounce that they be man and wife together," the Park and Tower guns fired.

Queen Victoria was given the opportunity to change her wedding vows from the standard, Church of England wording of the time for the woman to promise to obey her husband - something that Prince Albert, as the groom, was never expected to vow - but she was adamant that she would say it.

Following the service, the procession returned from the Chapel Royal to the Throne-room, “where the Registry of the Marriage was attested with the usual formalities.” The bride's mother, The Dowager Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, and other “persons of distinction” then “paid their compliments on the occasion, after which Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Albert, with the rest of the Royal Family, retired to the Royal Closet.”

In the evening “there were very splendid illuminations, and other public demonstrations of joy, in celebration of this most auspicious event, throughout the metropolis.” Victoria recorded how she “never saw such crowds of people… they cheered most enthusiastically” and later stated the event as “the happiest day of my life”.

The Queen wore a gown of white satin, trimmed with white lace matching her veil, and a crown of orange blossoms. The only spot of color was the beautiful sapphire brooch Albert had given her as a wedding present. Prince Albert wore a Field Marshals Uniform matched with The Order Of The Garter Collar Chain and white satin ribbons on his epaulettes. After the wedding Victoria and Albert travelled back to Buckingham Palace. Victoria records going upstairs to change into another white silk gown. “went upstairs and undressed and put on a white silk gown trimmed with swansdown, and a bonnet with orange flowers. Albert went downstairs and undressed." The bonnet she mentions still survives in the Royal Collection

Worn by Queen Victoria for her going-away, following her wedding to Prince Albert

It was suggested that Victoria should wear her State Robes but she did not want to. “Lord M. wasn't tired; had had a great deal to do. Talked to him of Lady Normanby's being so changed and having become so irritable and contradictory. Talked of my wearing my Robes at the Wedding, which I wished not, and which I thought could not be necessary. “Oh! no, I should think not, much better white”, said Lord M. Talked of Queen Charlotte's wearing her robes and of her; “It was hurried on to déjoué them,” said Lord M., “and did déjoué them; Lord Holland thought” it was common practice for Sovereigns to wear state robes and elaborate regalia, Victoria on the other hand wanted to be married as a bride and not a Queen. Victoria's choice of a simple white wedding dress has been immortalised by brides throughout history after she became the trendsetter.

The Queen also wore a diamond necklace and long ‘Turkish’ earrings by Rundells, which had been created the previous year out of diamonds presented to her by the Sultan Mahmud II in 1838. A large sapphire, diamond-set brooch, was worn at the front of her dress. This was a gift from Prince Albert; unusually, this brooch – which formed one of the most treasured pieces amongst the Queen’s personal jewellery – does not feature in the painting made of their wedding, ‘The Marriage of Queen Victoria’ by Sir George Hayter, as the author Charlotte Gere has demonstrated. She does, however, wear it in the painting by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, which the Queen gave as a present to Prince Albert on their seventh wedding anniversary, in 1847. It shows the Queen wearing her full wedding attire and jewellery. The brooch was a deeply personal object, all the more so because of the day on which it was worn and because it was a present from Prince Albert. So important was the brooch, that the Queen mentioned it specifically in her journal and later in her will, leaving instructions that it should revert to the Crown on her death.

Thank you for reading todays blog, I will be covering Queen Victoria's bridesmaids, her wedding cake and her honeymoon over the coming days.

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