Queen Elizabeth II received millions of flowers through her long life and reign. But there was one bouquet that was truly hers and which became so important and so famous that it was replicated at some of the biggest milestones of her life. The wedding posy carried by the then Princess Elizabeth, on November 20th 1947, at her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh was a creation totally overseen by her. And it showed the significance of one particular bloom for the woman who became the longest reigning Monarch in British history.
Her Late Majesty made orchids the centrepiece of her wedding bouqet. The exotic, delicate and rare flower is among the most prized in the world and for this wedding bouquet for a queen in waiting, three types were specially grown in the run up to the big day.
The Queen’s posy contained species grown in the UK. White cattleya, odontoglossum and cypripedium orchids were brought together in a freeform bouquet that added a touch of opulence to a wedding that took place against a backdrop of post war austerity.
In the language of flowers beloved by Queen Victoria, the ancestor this bride would eventually overtake to become the longest reigning Monarch in British history, the orchid symbolises love. It also stands for beauty and strength as well as luxury.
Elizabeth may well have wanted to follow the tradition begun by her mother who famously placed her own wedding flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. However, before that was possible, the bride’s bouquet went missing. Between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, the flowers disappeared, never to be seen again. Instead, the bride and groom had to pose for another set of photos after their wedding when a replacement could be created. Since then, a new tradition has sprung up. All brides at big royal weddings have a back up bouquet on hand.
And another replica of that famous bouquet was laid at Westminster Abbey at another poignant time. During the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020, the usual acts of national remembrance for those who died serving their country had to be curtained as England went into lockdown. Instead, Her Late Majesty travelled to Westminster Abbey and, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, she watched as a replica of her wedding flowers were laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It was a moving tribute.
Now, orchids are being left among the sea of flowers placed around the country for Queen Elizabeth II, a reminder of the bride whose wedding changed a country and a dynasty forever.