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Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Dress exhibited in Bath

The wedding dress worn by Princess Alexandra of Denmark, later Princess of Wales and Queen Alexandra is displayed as part of the current exhibition Royal Women, in Bath’s Fashion Museum.

Kept in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace, the dress is on loan from the Royal Collection by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen. It is an appropriate highlight exhibit given the fact that the first of this year’s royal weddings will take place in May at St George’s Chapel, where Princess Alexandra of Denmark wore this dress, on her marriage to the Prince of Wales on 10 March 1863.

It is a rare opportunity to view a historic British royal wedding dress at first hand as for conservation reasons, they are not usually on public display; Princess Alexandra’s dress forms a group of historic dresses kept in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including those worn by Princess Charlotte (1796-1817), Queen Victoria, Princess Mary of Teck – the future Queen Mary – Princess Margaret and Princess Alexandra of Kent.

Princess Alexandra was photographed both alone and together with the Prince of Wales after the wedding in the dress, images of which feature in the ‘Album of Important Occasions, 1837-1885’ in the Royal Photograph Collection.

Princess Alexandra’s dress is well depicted in the painting made by William Powell Frith, ‘The Marriage of the Prince of Wales’; a lappet of her Brussels lace is preserved today in the Royal Collection, a wedding present to Alexandra from Leopold I, King of the Belgians. The dress itself was made by the London dressmaker Mrs James, richly trimmed with net and Honiton lace patterned with traditional emblems as would befit the wedding dress of a princess of Great Britain, with designs of roses, shamrocks and thistles.

The dress was altered shortly after the wedding by a London dressmaker Mme Elise, with the full skirt which today is made – at least partly, from what was once the silver moire train. It may have been altered in order to increase the size of the Danish princess’s trousseau; Elly Summers, who curated Royal Women at the Fashion Museum, explained that perhaps “she may have needed more evening dresses to wear… so remodelling her wedding dress into an evening dress seems likely”.

Following the wedding luncheon at Windsor Castle, Princess Alexandra changed into a dress of white silk and a bonnet trimmed with orange blossom, the latter not unlike the ribbed silk ‘Going Away Bonnet’ ornamented with orange blossoms which Queen Victoria had worn to Windsor for her own honeymoon in 1840, which still survives. Despite the fact that the wedding dress was altered, the waxen orange blossom sprigs have survived, as has the lace. Princess Alexandra’s white court wedding dress had puff sleeves, was of English cream silk and described as “a petticoat of white satin trimmed with chatelaines of orange blossom, myrtle and bouffantes of tulle, Honiton lace, and bouquets of orange blossom and myrtle”. According to the Royal Collection, Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress was lined with brown silk and stiff muslin.

The wedding dress features as part of the new exhibition, which traces four generations of royal female representation through the patronage of designers such as Norman Hartnell and Christian Dior. It begins with the dress of Princess Alexandra and continuing through to the dresses worn in turn by Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. With the first of the royal weddings at St. George’s Chapel in May, there is a historic link with the first marriage ever to be celebrated at St. George’s – through this one wedding dress.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018.

Royal Women: Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth and Margaret. Public life, personal style runs at the Fashion Museum in Bath from 3 February 2018 – 28 April 2019.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian, writer and researcher. An expert in royal studies as an academic subject, she speaks as an independent scholar on matters royal historical for both TV and radio, including the BBC. She specializes in Queen Victoria's family and Russian royalty and is an authority on Russia's last Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918). She was selected as an historical advisor for the first-time translation from English to Russian of the classic biography by Baroness Buxhoeveden (Moscow, 2012). She was elected a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2017. She also specializes in Empress Elisabeth of Austria and has written a series of academic articles on her life for Royalty Digest Quarterly, based on original research in Vienna and Geneva. Elizabeth is a long-standing contributor to the Swedish historical and genealogical journal Royalty Digest Quarterly and currently writes for the Tudor Society's magazine, Tudor Life. She is a former contributor to the European Royal History Journal and Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine and was History Writer for the world's leading independent royal news site, Royal Central. Her research interests include royal correspondence, royal servants and royal weddings, speaking on BBC Radio Berkshire's coverage on historic weddings at Windsor prior to the marriage of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (2018). She is particularly interested in royal architecture and contributed to the TV Yesterday Channel series, World's Greatest Palaces (2019). She has researched and written on the life of W. A. Mozart, writing a mini-series for the Czech Republic's sole English language newspaper, the Prague Post (2017-2019). Her two-part article on Mozart in London was published in the USA for the Newsletter of the Friends of Mozart Society (New York, Summer/Fall 2016). Elizabeth worked in the heritage sector for over ten years and has been an active supporter of numerous cultural heritage organizations including The Georgian Group, Historic Royal Palaces, Berliner Dombau-Verein e.V, Förderverein Berliner Schloss e.V, Verein Potsdamer Stadtschloss e. V, and Freunde der Preußischen Schlösser und Gärten e.V. Also a poet, Elizabeth's poetry has been published in various literary journals, including The Oxonian Review, Coldnoon and Allegro Poetry. Her first mini-collection of ten poems is forthcoming in the Edinburgh-based quarterly journal Trafika Europe, Issue TE18 All Poetry. Her debut pamphlet of poems is forthcoming with the Welsh-based publisher Marble Poetry in 2020.