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British Royals

The simple gift Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip gave to the guests at their wedding


By Anefo, CC0, Wiki Commons

It’s 78 years since the royal wedding that built the modern House of Windsor. On November 20th 1947, at Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip in a ceremony that would lead to one of the most successful royal unions in history. And in the run up to their wedding, the papers were filled with tiny details of a ceremony that caught the popular imagination.

Publishing every moment of monarchical marriage celebrations is nothing new. While we might think of the obsession with all things royal as a modern phenomenon, back in 1947 there was barely a detail of this special event left unpublished.

With just days to go until the wedding, the Northern Whig joined other papers in sharing details of what the couple’s wedding reception would look like. The top table layout was revealed – no surprises there as the happy couple were joined by the bride’s parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the groom’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece. Prince Philip’s father had died in 1944.

The paper also declared that most important table would also host ”foreign Royalties” but was far more interested in what they would be looking at than who they actually were. The centrepiece of the table, it reported, would include myrtle taken from a tree grown from a sprig of Queen Victoria’s own wedding bouquet. It would be mixed with pink carnations and white heather. It was a rather practical decision for a post war bride. All three flowers are long lasting once cut and would need very little care once in place.

However, heather was something of a theme at this royal wedding. The guests would all be given a wedding favour consisting of a sprig of white heather tied with silver ribbon. It was a rather simple memento of a very historic day.

The smallest detail of this royal wedding was lapped up as the ceremony and the couple became a focal point of celebration for a country still recovering from the Second World War which had ended just two years earlier. It was a moment in history and would become even more significant as time went on as the vows exchanged that day at Westminster Abbey formed a marriage that became the longest of any Monarch and consort in British history and the foundation of a new Royal Family.

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.