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FeaturesRoyal WeddingsThe Wessexes

Royal Wedding Flowers: the Countess of Wessex

When Sophie Rhys Jones married Prince Edward on June 19th 1999 at St. George’s Chapel, she carried a bouquet with more than a hint of the past about it. The couple who starred in the last big Windsor wedding of the 20th century had gone for something of a medieval theme in the look of their big day and the flowers carried by the bride fitted right in.

From the pageboys and bridesmaids in outfits inspired by the ancient Order of the Garter to the striking pearl jewellery given to the bride by her groom, there were plenty of Plantagenet touches about this royal wedding. And the Countess of Wessex’s wedding bouquet, a medium sized arrangement in a cascade style, reflected those designs.

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Sophie’s bouquet was a mix of some of the most popular flowers used by brides for their big day. The creamy blooms included garden roses, stephanotis, freesias and lily of the valley. But the star flower in this arrangement is the calla lily which nestles at the heart of the bouquet and remains its most striking feature. Surrounding the blooms is trailing greenery including some very deep leaves which reflect the black and white colour scheme used for the bridal party.

As you’d expect from such traditional bridal blooms, all the flowers in Sophie’s bouquet have rather romantic meanings in the language of flowers that was so popular with the Victorians. Lily of the valley, scattered throughout the bouquet in clusters, represents ‘’the return of happiness’’ while the freesias, less easy to spot, signify innocence and friendship. Roses take on different meanings according to their colour with white blooms symbolizing new beginnings as well as purity and innocence. The calla lilies represent beauty.

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Sophie’s flowers also have another claim to fame. This is one of the few royal wedding bouquets known to have been kept. A section of the posy was preserved and put in a frame. The Countess of Wessex has said the wedding reminder is on show at her home so all her guests can see it.

From the moment Sophie’s father, Christopher Rhys-Jones, carried this bouquet up the steps of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor for his daughter to the starring role it took in the official wedding portraits, this has always been a striking arrangement. And over twenty years on, it remains so, a royal wedding bouquet that has really stood the test of time.

There is lots more about this historic marriage in our new book, out now. Royal Weddings: A Collection is available on Amazon as a paperback and an ebook.

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, a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. June has been a reporter, producer and editor, picking up several awards over the years. 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.