Feb 10, 2013
Today is Queen Victoria’s wedding anniversary – 173 years on. Did you know that Albert designed some of the jewellery for their wedding?
We’ve included here an excerpt about the royal wedding from our award-winning book, Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria, by Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe.
Victoria’s marriage to Albert took place at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, on 10 February 1840. The ceremony was at one o’clock in the afternoon, a break with the tradition of holding royal weddings in the evening. Victoria had given much thought to her dress, searching for precedents, particularly in the marriage of her grandfather George III to Queen Charlotte. Many of these she rejected, dressing in white rather than cloth-of-gold or cloth-of-silver and leaving off the crimson or purple robe of state in favour of a train from the waist of white satin trimmed with orange blossom. The satin for the dress and train was made at Spitalfields.
- Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
Queen Victoria in her Wedding Dress, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Oil on canvas, 1847. Royal Collection. The Queen wears the sapphire and diamond brooch given her by Prince Albert with her ‘Turkish” diamond necklace and earrings.
Reporting started early, with The Times stressing the Queen’s commitment to troubled native industries, silk from Spitalfields and lace from Honiton in Devon. On 15 January The Times noted that ‘various tradespeople have received commands from Her Majesty to execute a large and superior assortment of presents, and amongst others Messrs Turner (the goldsmiths) are actively engaged in preparing several elegant and valuable articles in jewellery’1. Hoping for the Crown Jeweller title, they had to be content with several Royal Warrants and with acting as back-up to their rival Garrard’s. On 20 January it was reported that ‘the “wedding favours” of lily-white satin or silk riband will be universally worn on the wedding day’, and that ‘extensive orders’ had given employment to thousands who would have otherwise suffered depression usual at this season’2. The ribbon was woven with a crown, a true lovers’ knot and a rose, thistle and shamrock wreath3.
On the day she rose early and ‘had my hair dressed and the wreath of orange flowers put on… I wore a white satin gown with a very deep flounce of Honiton lace, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings and Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch’4. Although painted seven years later, the clearest image of her wedding dress, lace and jewels is shown in a portrait by Winterhalter, made for the Prince on the anniversary of their wedding in 1847. Her choice of white and orange-blossom flowers became the ’uniform’ of brides throughout the Victorian period and beyond. …As the indefatigable Times reported observed, the Queen ‘wore no diamonds on her head, nothing but a simple wreath of orange blossoms. …A pair of very large diamond earrings, a diamond necklace, and the insignia of the Order of the Garter, were the personal ornaments worn by the Queen’5.
The brooch in enamelled gold and porcelain (top) retains its original Hunt & Roskell display case, and was probably made in the wake of the royal wedding. The firm traded under this name at 156 New Bond Street from 1846. Orange blossom brooches in textured gold with engraved veins set with coral and shell flowers were popular from the 1830s.
Her ‘Turkish diamond necklace and long fringe earrings were made by Rundell’s in 1839 from diamonds in the gift of jewellery presented to her by Sultan Mahmud II in 1838. Prominent on her lace collar is Albert’s sapphire brooch.
The brooch, in gold and silver pave-set with turquoises, was a souvenir of the royal marriage. One was given to each of Queen Victoria’s twelve train-bearers. The turquoise eagle has a diamond beak and ruby eyes and grasps two large pearls in its claws.
…Victoria gave each [of her train-bearers] a turquoise brooch, designed by Albert himself, in the form of a German eagle. The brooches were treasured in the families of the girls as a souvenir of a great occasion. The eagle, pave-set with turquoises, has a ruby eye (for passion), a diamond-set beak (for eternity) and holds pearls for ‘true love’ in its claws. The Queen presented the train-bearers with their brooches in dark blue velvet cases after the ceremony.
Extracted from Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria, by Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe, winner of the 2011 William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History. Text and images © Trustees of the British Museum unless otherwise stated.
Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria is available for a discounted £45 when bought online at the British Museum shop (rrp £55).
- The Times, 15 January 1840, p.5
- Ibid., 20 January 1840, p. 6
- J. Roberts 2007, p. 2
- Esher 1912, Vol 1, p. 63
- The Times, 11 February 1840, p. 4. This is not strictly true, as Lady Wilhemina Stanhope (later Duchess of Cleveland) noted in her journal, she had on her head ‘a very high wreath of orange flowers, a very few diamonds studded into her hair behind’