On July 6th 1893, London woke to a blazing hot morning after two days of rain. The streets were decked with flowers and large crowds were already settled on the pavements and lampposts as dawn broke. They had come for the royal wedding of George, Duke of York, second in line to the throne but what many really wanted to see was the bride. And Princess Mary of Teck was ready to step into the spotlight in a wedding outfit that won fans from the start.
Not that you would know that from the journal of Queen Victoria. The arch matchmaker, who had originally selected Mary as a wife for George’s older brother, wrote in her journal that the bride was ”very simply and prettily dressed”. However, this royal wedding gown was far from plain.
It was put together by Linton and Curtis at studios in Albermarle Street and featured a boned bodice with a pointed waist both back and front. Made of silk, it had a V neck and cap sleeves, trimmed with Honiton lace. The full-length skirt had an opening at the front to show the satin beneath and was finished with more lace. It was trimmed with orange blossom.
The silk in the gown had been designed and made by the Silver Studio in Hammersmith. As soon as George and Mary announced their engagement, on May 4th 1893, it was confirmed that its founder, Arthur Silver, would create the patterns for the silks. It was hardly a surprising choice. He had taken on the same role when Mary, known to her family as May, had been engaged to George’s older brother, Albert Victor, who had died unexpectedly in January 1892, just weeks before the marriage.
The first design, called the ”Lily of the Valley”, was completely abandoned and in its place came a creation titled ”The May Silks”. The fabric was embroidered with roses, thistles and shamrocks and produced entirely in Britain, honouring a promise made by the bride’s mother before the first planned wedding. In fact, Mary’s mama, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, had a big say in the overall wedding outfit, adding her own Honiton lace to the dress and giving her daughter her own bridal veil to wear.
That veil, made of more lace, was held in place with sprigs of orange blossom and a diamond tiara given to the bride by Queen Victoria herself. Mary, who would become known for her love of sparkle, also wore a diamond necklace presented to her by her soon to be parents in law, Edward and Alexandra, then Prince and Princess of Wales.
The waiting crowds got their first glimpse as May headed to the Chapel Royal, St James Palace where she would marry her prince and there were plenty of other chances to see the gown. Apart from the carriage processions, Queen Victoria, who knew a thing or three about royal PR, took the newlyweds on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the crowds and give everyone another viewing of this royal wedding dress.
The gown is now part of the Royal Collection, a reminder of the royal romance of a couple who would become the founders of the House of Windsor.