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The ultimate floral symbol of love that starred in Queen Elizabeth II’s royal wedding bouquet

Royal weddings tend to have a lot in common. They usually take place in huge, historic churches with brides decked in acres of white fabric and heirloom tiaras and grooms in military uniform, followed down the aisle by hoardes of bridesmaids and pageboys. Traditions must be observed while protocols are dug out and dusted down as the familiar pattern of this family celebration turned into a spectator event is played out. But there is always one part of a royal wedding where a bride can really stamp her personality and that’s her flowers. For while her wildest dress dreams might be tempered by centuries of expectation, her flowers are her own. And the Queen was no exception. When she married, as Princess Elizabeth, on November 20th 1947, her bouquet was very much in her mould.

For this bride wanted orchids. 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.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.