Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Queen Victoria's White Wedding

About a week or so ago I sat down and watched "The Young Victoria", a pleasant dramatization based on the young adulthood of this most notorious queen. I'm ashamed to say that my studies on Victoria and Victorian Britain are a bit fuzzy, but nonetheless this movie rekindled my interests.

Reflecting back on the few undergraduate courses I did on this era I remembered the continuing idea, or perhaps rumour, or maybe even fact, that Queen Victoria had single handedly begun the trend of brides wearing white on their wedding day.

Weddings have traditionally been, as they are today, a day for brides to sport their finery. Brocaded gowns, lace, silk, satin, threaded in white, gold and silver were all common features of gowns prior to Victoria's own. Dripped in jewels and sometimes fur, royal brides did not commonly wear white gowns (think about this anytime you watch a hist-fic movie from now on--when not set in the modern era, the bride is not usually wearing white!).

No doubt Victoria was not the first royal bride to wear white on her wedding day, this is not the claim at all.  Centuries before Victoria's nuptials to Prince Albert, Anne of Brittanny was said to have married Louis XII in a white gown in 1499. Marguerite de Valois supposedly married Henri de Navarre in beautiful white ermine in 1572. It was common for brides, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries to wear gowns of white muslin. There are dozens of brides who chose to wear white on their special day.

Everything changed however in 1840, when Victoria married Albert in a white satin gown. Adorned with blossoms, jewels and a long, luxurious veil, this official wedding photo was published internationally and begun a white-wedding gown-fever among well to do, high society brides. White wedding gowns gained increasing popularity throughout the rest of the century, becoming the common colour of choice by the 1940's, and still til this day remain the iconic colour of gowns for brides world wide, whether they are pure, chaste and innocent in nature, or not!



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