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Royal Weddings

Royal Wedding Flowers: the Duchess of Cambridge

All brides need a bouquet and a royal bride is no different.  Flowers are as much a part of a wedding as the dress, the cake and the first kiss but they are usually filled with special meanings that add a personal as well as regal element to the whole day. Here, we look back at the bouquet carried by Kate Middleton on the day of her royal wedding, April 29th 2011.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s bouquet was small, neat and made of locally grown flowers, all of them white. It was laced with green leaves and wired into a shield shape that kept its form throughout the day.

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The dominant flower in the bouquet is lily of the valley. This highly scented plant usually blooms as May gets underway, and it’s been a wedding favourite for years (in fact, this bouquet has been compared many times with the one carried by Princess Grace of Monaco which was also largely composed of lily of the valley).

The bride gave a nod to her groom in her bouquet, adding in Sweet William, that favourite flower found in many gardens. The Duchess of Cambridge’s posy also included ivy and hyacinth as well as a very traditional royal bloom indeed. For nestling among all those flowers was a sprig of myrtle taken from a bush planted at Osborne House by Queen Victoria. Royal brides have included this in their bouquets since the 19th century in a tradition that has stood the test of time.

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Much was made at the time of the language of flowers used by the Duchess of Cambridge in her wedding bouquet. As you would expect from a wedding bouquet, love features heavily. The ivy symbolizes wedded love and the hyacinths mean constancy of love. The myrtle, that royal wedding bouquet staple, is the emblem of marriage. Sweet William denotes gallantry while lily of the valley stands for ‘a return to happiness’.

The flowers carried by the Duchess of Cambridge had one final part to play in this royal wedding. Once the celebrations were over, the bouquet was returned to Westminster Abbey where it was placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a tradition that was started almost a century ago when the Queen Mother, then Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, put her own wedding flowers on the tomb on the way into her royal wedding on April 26th 1923. She had lost a brother, Fergus, in World War One and laid her bouquet there to remember him and all those who died in that conflict. All senior royal brides since have followed suit.

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Truth be told, this bouquet divided opinion – some thought it was the perfect foil to her famous lace-covered dress while critics thought it too small and hard to make out in the majesty of Westminster Abbey. But it became as famous a part of her wedding look as the gown, the veil and the tiara as well as being a very symbolic start to married life.

Kate’s bouquet is the focus of one of over two dozen royal wedding floral features in our new anthonology. You can buy Royal Weddings: A Collection from Royal Central on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.

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.