I was going to say that there is nothing the British public loves as much as a Royal Wedding. But, that would be wrong. It is more truthful to say that there is nothing the whole world loves more than a British Royal Wedding. Past occasions have proved that people will travel from all over the world to catch a glimpse of a regal bride and groom as they pass by in horse-drawn coaches, while the rest of us settle down in front of the television to view the processions, and fashions, in greater comfort.
It won’t be any different on 19th May when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The ‘out of town’ venue is a good choice for the couple who seem determined to make choices that reflect them as individuals and as a couple. Compared with the public holiday and pageantry of his older brother’s wedding, Prince Harry’s will be ‘for the people’ in a different kind of way. Politicians have been sidelined to make way for guests from the charitable causes that both Meghan and Harry are passionate about, as well as survivors of the Manchester Arena bombing.
Undoubtedly, all eyes will be on Ms Markle’s family, because frankly, we’re quite familiar with all of the groom’s relatives! Not that this will diminish our interest in what they wear on the day. Hats are a traditional talking point; who could forget the headgear worn by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge? We must wait to discover what they will choose this time. However, we can rely on Her Majesty, the grandmother of the groom, to deflect attention from any fashion mishaps, as she is always immaculately turned out with the help of Angela Kelly, who has helped the Queen establish a chic and classic style for her later years.
The dress is the centrepiece
But, no matter how many hats there are among the 600 guests at this wedding, the only clothing that everyone worldwide wants to see is the bride’s dress. The groom will probably be in uniform, as is usual for royal weddings, which means there is nothing new to talk about there. However, since the Queen’s own wedding in 1947 was televised, the bride’s dress has been the centrepiece.
Leading British fashion designer, Sir Norman Hartnell, had the honour of making the Queen’s dress in 1947. He gave it a sweetheart neckline, a full skirt and covered it with lavish embroidery. It took 350 women seven weeks to complete it. Hartnell said it was “the most beautiful dress I ever made.” Post-war rationing was still in place and the Queen had to pay for the dress with clothing coupons! That is not something any later royal brides have had to face.
Although the weddings of Princess Margaret and Princess Anne attracted public interest, it wasn’t until Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981 that royal wedding fever reached new heights.
Diana’s dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, two young British designers fresh out of college. It was an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown with a 25-foot train. It was big and bold, like the decade to come, and the Spencer tiara she wore on the day was the perfect accessory. It has become one of the most famous wedding dresses in the world, a status that it still holds.
Kate Middleton’s dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen was the epitome of elegance. Its lace sleeves and neckline recalled the sophistication of Grace Kelly, an American actress and princess, and of Hollywood movies mixed with British decorum.
Meghan Markle has some tough acts to follow and is no doubt very aware that billions of eyes will be on her dress and every aspect of her appearance. The media are playing a game of ‘guess the designer’, with various tipsters suggesting Ralph & Russo, the British fashion house that made her engagement outfit. It is customary for royal brides to choose a British designer, however, Erdem, a London-based brand whose chief designer is Canadian, a country close to Ms Markle’s heart, is hotly tipped by fashion insiders.
However, we will have to wait until Saturday 19 May to find out. Let’s hope the sun shines for the couple and they enjoy a wonderful royal wedding in Windsor.