Popular, forward thinking and ready to embrace change, one Windsor bride has been credited with bringing a modern touch to the age-old institution that is royal weddings. But more on Meghan Markle another time. You’ll need to rewind almost one hundred years to find this star bride. On a cold winter’s day, almost a century ago, Princess Patricia of Connaught changed Windsor weddings forever.
Patricia said ‘I do’ on February 27th, 1919 in a ceremony that really did pull royal weddings well and truly into the 20th century. Hers was the first big Windsor marriage since World War One and the tumultuous changes that conflict had brought to royal dynasties across Europe. Patricia was fairly low down the regal pecking order (she was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin of King George V) but her wedding brought out huge crowds and set the template for Windsor weddings for years to come.
For a start, Patricia picked a church that is now the go-to for royal marriages but which had been off the venue list for centuries. For her big day, she chose Westminster Abbey. It’s now so associated with royal weddings that it seems strange to think this was an offbeat choice but Patricia was the first royal bride to walk down its aisle for over 500 years. She started a trend that has led to some of the House of Windsor’s most famous marriages taking place amidst its ancient walls.
This bride also looked very modern. Dozens of Victoria’s descendants had married in what was almost a royal wedding uniform, turning up for their nuptials in huge white dresses, decked with lace and orange blossom. Patricia chose a far simpler gown with slimmed down lines and a discreet train. One newspaper described it as ‘’designed to suit the Princess’ distinctive style’’ which pretty much sums up Patricia’s wedding to a tee. Add in bridesmaids dressed in blue with rather large hats and you have a new look to royal weddings which marked a change in tone perfect for a Royal Family embracing a world altered forever by war.
But the most startling thing for many in high society was the social ramifications of Patricia’s wedding. As one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, she had been among the most eligible brides in Europe. Many of her cousins had wed royalty and Patricia had been talked about as a possible match for some of the most regal names in Europe. King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Grand Duke Michael of Russia were among those suggested as husbands for the princess but she was having none of it. Patricia may never have said in public that she wanted to marry for love but her choice clearly wasn’t made for dynastic reasons. Her groom was Alexander Ramsay, son of the Earl of Dalhousie, and Patricia knew that by marrying him she would lose her royal status. She carried on regardless.
But by then, that surprised just about no one who had ever met Patricia. This princess had taken her own path from an early age. While plenty of her cousins were only ever photographed looking rather regal and lovely, Patricia was described by one newspaper as ”spirited”, not a word usually associated with princesses at the turn of the century. She loved sport and didn’t mind getting her hands dirty. And her lively personality and engaging manner had made her very, very popular.
Cue the big crowds who turned out on that February day almost 100 years ago. They were hoping to see the bride herself as well as the glittering and very royal guest list. For a country recovering from a war the likes of which had never been seen before, it was a moment of celebration after four years of darkness.
The interest in newspapers and magazines was huge, too, and once the wedding was over, Lady Patricia Ramsay (as she was now known) headed off on a honeymoon that included a spot of golf with photographs appearing in popular magazines not long afterwards. Just like her modern counterparts, Patricia found her royal romance turn into a mini media sensation.
But then, the princess bride who gave up her title had perhaps more in common with the royals of today than she’s given credit for. Her marriage certainly set the pace for Windsor weddings for years to come.