Westminster Abbey has been a place of worship for the Royal Family for centuries, been the venue for every coronation since 1066 and the venue for royal weddings and funerals. This article will examine the royal weddings which have taken place at Westminster Abbey between 1919 to the most recent wedding, held there in 2011.
Princess Patricia of Connaught (1919)
Born Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth, Princess Patricia was a grandchild of Queen Victoria and was born on the 17 March 1886 in Buckingham Palace. Her parents were Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and her mother was Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. The Princess was considered one of the most eligible royal princesses of the time and spent parts of her formative years in both India, where her father was in the army, and Canada, where the Duke was posted as Governor General.
On the 27th February 1919, Princess Patricia married Commander Alexander Ramsay at Westminster Abbey, in the first royal wedding to be held at the Abbey since 1382. After her marriage, the Princess relinquished the title of ‘Her Royal Highness’ and was styled Lady Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth Ramsay, by royal warrant. Despite forsaking her royal title, Lady Patricia remained in the line of succession and continued to attend royal events. Lady Patricia and her husband had one child, Alexander, who was born in December 1919. Lady Patricia died on the 12th January 1974 and is buried in Frogmore, Windsor, with her husband, who died in 1972.
Princess Mary (1922)
Princess Mary was born Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary on the 25th April 1897 at York Cottage, Sandringham and was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. During the First World War, the Princess accompanied her mother on many trips to hospitals and welfare organisations, and during her lifetime was associated with organisations such as the Girl Guides and those concerned with nursing and military welfare. On the 28th February 1922, Westminster Abbey was the venue of the marriage of Princess Mary to Henry, Viscount Lascelles, who later became the sixth Earl of Harewood. The wedding featured in many fashion magazines – the first of which to do so. The Princess and her husband had two sons, Gerald and George, who would later become the 7th Earl of Harewood. The Princess died at Harewood on the 28 March 1965, surviving her husband, who died in 1947.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (1923)
The marriage of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (who became the Duchess of York) to Prince Albert, Duke of York in 1923 saw the beginning of a royal tradition which continues to this day.
Lady Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon on the 4th August 1900 in Hertfordshire. When her father became the Earl of Strathmore in 1904 and inherited the family seat of Glamis Castle, Elizabeth assumed the title of ‘Lady.’
On the 26th April 1923, Lady Elizabeth married Prince Albert, Duke of York, who would later become King George VI. After entering the Abbey, Lady Elizabeth paused at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and placed her wedding bouquet there in remembrance of the sacrifice of the First World War, and it is believed in memory of her brother Fergus, who had been killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos. The placing of the bouquet at this memorial is now a tradition which is maintained to this day, as the bouquets of the most recent royal brides, the Duchess of Sussex and Princess Eugenie, were placed on the tomb a day after their respective weddings in Windsor.
After the abdication of King Edward VIII, the Duchess of York became Queen Elizabeth as her husband was crowned King. After the accession of her daughter in 1952, the Queen became known as the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother died on the 30th March 2002 and is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, alongside her husband and younger daughter, Princess Margaret.
Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1934)
Eleven years later, on the 29th November 1934, the Abbey was the venue for the location of the marriage between Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent who was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary. Princess Marina was born on the 13 December 1906, the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duchess Elena of Russia.
The wedding in 1934 was broadcast on the radio at the time – the ‘wireless’ – and was the first royal wedding to be conveyed in this way. After the ceremony at the Abbey, a Greek ceremony was held privately at Buckingham Palace. In 1942, the Duke of Kent was killed in an air accident in Scotland, during active service with the RAF, and was buried at Frogmore, Windsor. Princess Marina remained a crucial part of the Royal Family and continued to complete official duties. Princess Marina, who had three children with her husband, died at Kensington Palace in 1968 and was buried at Frogmore.
Princess Elizabeth (1947)
The marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten on the 20th November 1947 was a joyous occasion for a nation which had recently endured the Second World War. The Princess was born in Mayfair on the 21st April 1926 and was the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Princess Elizabeth met Prince Philip in 1934, at the wedding of Princess Marina and Prince George. Philip attended the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth meeting the Princess again there in 1939. Their engagement was announced in July 1947.
The wedding was broadcast by the BBC to an audience of approximately 200 million people around the world. Before the wedding, Philip relinquished the titles he inherited at birth (Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark), and on the day of the wedding was given the title of the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich. Due to rationing, which was still in place because of the war, Princes Elizabeth used clothing ration coupons to pay for her dress.
Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne on the occasion of her father’s death in 1952 to become Queen Elizabeth II, and is now both Britain and the world’s longest reigning monarch, celebrating her Sapphire Jubilee in February 2017. The Queen and Prince Philip have been married for 71 years and have four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
Princess Margaret (1960)
The next wedding to be held at the Abbey was that of Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, in 1960. Margaret was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and was born at Glamis Castle on the 21st August 1930.
Princess Margaret was engaged to Anthony Armstrong Jones in February 1960, and they were married on the 6th May that year. Anthony Armstrong Jones was a photographer who Margaret had met two years previously. The wedding was the first to be televised and was watched by an audience worldwide of approximately 300 million.
The Princess was given away by her brother in law, the Duke of Edinburgh and wore a dress designed by Norman Hartnell (who also designed the wedding dress of Princess Margaret’s sister, Princess Elizabeth) in a style that is still considered amongst the most stylish for royal brides. In 1961, Anthony Armstrong Jones was given the title of the Earl of Snowdon. After the birth of two children, David and Sarah, the couple divorced in 1978. Princess Margaret died at Kensington Palace in February 2002 and is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, alongside her parents. The Earl of Snowdon died in January 2017 and his son David, inherited the earldom to become the second Earl Snowdown.
Princess Alexandra (1963)
The second royal wedding to take place in the Abbey during the sixties was that of Princess Alexandra of Kent to Angus Ogilvy. Princess Alexandra is the daughter of Prince Marina and George, Duke of Kent (whose own wedding had been held at the Abbey in 1934) and was born on 25th December 1936 in London. At the time of her birth, she was sixth in line to the throne, and during the 1950s and 1960s completed many royal engagements.
Princess Alexandra was married to the Hon. Angus Ogilvy at the Abbey on the 24th April 1963. As was now custom, the wedding was broadcast to a worldwide audience of approximately 200 million people. The groom was offered a title after the marriage by the Queen, but declined, meaning that their two children would have no royal titles. The Hon. Angus Ogilvy died in 2004 and is buried at Frogmore. Princess Alexandra continues to complete royal engagements and attend family events.
Princess Anne (1973)
The only daughter of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne was born on the 15th August 1950 in London. An accomplished equestrian from an early age, the Princess won eventing gold and silver medals representing Great Britain during the 1970s and met her future husband Captain Mark Phillips through her involvement with the sport. Their engagement was announced in May 1973.
They were married in Westminster Abbey on the 14th November 1973, which was also the 25th birthday of the bride’s brother, Prince Charles. Once again the wedding was broadcast on television, an estimated worldwide audience of 100 million watched. Captain Phillips was offered an earldom after his marriage to the Princess but declined and the couple’s two children, Peter and Zara Philips, have no royal titles.
The Princess and Captain Phillips divorced in 1992, and in the same year, the Princess married Timothy Laurence, who is now a Vice Admiral in the Navy.
Sarah Ferguson (1986)
The only royal wedding to be held at the Abbey during the 1980s was that of Prince Andrew, second son of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, to Sarah Ferguson. Sarah was born in London on the 15th of October 1959 and had met Prince Andrew whilst growing up. Their wedding was held in the Abbey on the 23rd July 1986, and the couple was given the titles of the Duke and Duchess of York after their ceremony.
The couple has two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. After separating in 1992, the couple divorced in 1996, with the Duchess of York relinquishing the title of ‘HRH’ to become Sarah, Duchess of York. Although she now no longer carries out royal engagements, Sarah attends family occasions, in particular with her two daughters.
Catherine Middleton (2011)
The most recent royal wedding to be held at Westminster Abbey was that of Catherine Middleton to Prince William of Wales, the elder son of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. Catherine was born on 9th January 1982 in Berkshire and met the Prince at St Andrews University, Scotland in 2001, where they were both studying for undergraduate degrees.
The couple’s engagement was announced in November 2010, and the Prince gave the sapphire engagement ring that had belonged to his mother to Catherine. The couple was married on Friday, 29th April 2011 in Westminster Abbey; the day was declared a bank holiday for the nation to celebrate.
A worldwide audience of several hundred million people watched the service on television. The Queen bestowed the dukedom of Cambridge on the Prince, and Prince William and Catherine became TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The bride wore an Alexander McQueen gown designed by Sarah Burton, and the Abbey was decorated with eight English maple and hornbeam trees, in addition to an abundance of flowers sourced from royal estates.
The Duke and Duchess are senior members of the Royal Family and complete many engagements in aid of their charitable organisations and support of The Queen. They have three children; Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.