The real Royal Wedding – what were Victoria and Albert's nuptials actually like?
From the lacy dress to the less than racy wedding night, everything you need to know about Victoria and Albert's big day in 1840
When and where did Queen Victoria and Prince Albert get married?
Victoria and Albert were married at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace at 1pm on Monday 10 February 1840.
Westminster Abbey – which we now associate with such unions – hadn’t been used for Royal Weddings for quite some time, and wasn’t used for one again until Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Patricia, married there in 1919.
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The Chapel Royal was most recently back in the spotlight when Prince George was christened there in 2013.
What was Victoria's wedding dress actually like?
Quite like Prince George’s Christening gown, actually – but more on that later.
Victoria wore a white dress, which was seen as unusual at the time. It was more traditional for brides to wear colours, with gold or silver embroidery running throughout their gowns.
But the Queen decided to buck the trend and go with white, which was – contrary to popular opinion – seen at the time as a symbol of a family’s wealth, not purity. She opted for a white silk dress, made from silk spun at Spitalfields in London, and added some rather splendid Honiton lace, which was worked at the village of Beer in Devon.
Victoria is often credited with starting a ‘white wedding’ trend, though historians argue about how much truth there is to the claim. She wasn’t the first royal to marry in white, but she certainly made sure she wouldn’t be the last.
Who designed Queen Victoria’s wedding dress?
The dress, and the famously patterned lace, were designed by William Dyce, head of what was known at the time as the Government School of Design. It’s now the Royal College of Art.
The white silk dress itself was made by a woman called Mary Bettans.
Why did Victoria’s wedding lace become so famous?
Queen Victoria loved her wedding dress so much that she tended to wear it over and over again in different guises.
Herself and Albert even posed for a series of photos in their wedding clothes years later, re-enacting the precious moment for improved cameras so they’d have photos to remember the occasion by. Victoria posed for a portrait as a first anniversary present for Albert too.
The lace we see Victoria wearing with her small crown in later years is that very same Honiton lace too, and we know the Queen was buried with her wedding veil covering her face.
Here she is posing for her official Diamond Jubilee portrait, wearing both her wedding veil and the lace.
You might also have spotted similar lace in Prince William’s Christening photos from 1981. You see Victora was so taken with her wedding dress that she and Albert commissioned a Christening gown based on the same design for their first born child, Victoria.
That same Christening gown was worn by 62 royal children between 1841 and 2004, when it was finally deemed too fragile and a replica was ordered.
Did Queen Victoria wear a crown on her wedding day?
No, she opted for a headdress of orange blossoms instead, although Albert did design a coronet for her as a wedding present.
That very same coronet hit the headlines earlier this year when someone tried to sell it and an export ban was placed upon it to stop it leaving the country.
Who gave the bride away?
As her father was dead, Victoria was walked up the aisle by her favourite uncle, the Duke of Sussex.
Was the Queen really asked if she’d like to change her vows?
The Archbishop of Canterbury actually did approach Victoria and ask if she might like to remove the promise to “obey” her less powerful husband from her vows.
The Queen refused.
Was Lord Melbourne at Victoria and Albert’s wedding?
Yes, he was, and he played quite an important role too. The Prime Minister of the day carried the Sword of State for the nuptials.
It’s a broad sword that symbolises the power and authority of the sovereign, is kept among the Crown Jewels, and is carried at the State opening of Parliament to this day.
We’re guessing the real life Melbourne didn’t look as though he wanted to chop Albert’s head off with it, though.
What was Victoria and Albert’s wedding cake like?
It weighed 300lbs, was three yards in circumference and has actually survived until this very day.
Did Queen Victoria really only have a two-day honeymoon?
Yes, the pair headed off to Windsor on the afternoon of the wedding, where they remained until Friday.
It’s said they spent their time reading, walking, riding and hosting dinner parties, before returning to Buckingham Palace on Friday the 14th of February.
How did Victoria describe the day in her famous diary?
Her entry, dated February 10th 1840, reads as follows:
The last time I slept alone. Got up at a ¼ to 9,- well, and having slept well; and breakfasted at ½ p.9. Mama came before and brought me a Nosegay of orange flowers. My dearest kindest Lehzen gave me a dear little ring. Wrote my journal, and to Lord M. Had my hair dressed and the wreath of orange flowers put on. Saw my precious Albert for the last time alone, as my Bridegroom. Dressed. Saw Uncle, and Ernest who dearest Albert brought up. At ½ p.12 I set off; dearest Albert having gone before. I wore a white satin gown, with a very deep flounce of Honiton lace, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and my Angel's beautiful sapphire broach.
Mama and the Duchess of Sutherland went in the carriage with me; I subjoin an account of the whole, which is pretty correct, only that they put in that I cried, and I did not shed one tear the whole time, and some other foolish things about Albert which they have said. To return to my going to St.James's, I never saw such crowds of people as there were in the Park, and they cheered most enthusiastically.
When I arrived at St James's I went into the dressing-room where my 12 young Train-bearers were, dressed all in white with white roses, which had a beautiful effect. Here I waited a little till dearest Albert's Procession had moved into the Chapel. I then went with my Train-bearers and ladies into the Throne room, where the Procession formed; Lord Melbourne in his fine new dress coat, bearing the Sword of State, and Lord Uxbridge and Lord Belfast on either side of him walked immediately before me. Queen Anne's room was full of people, ranged on seats one higher than the other, as also in the Guard room, and by the Staircase,- all very friendly; the Procession looked beautiful going downstairs. Part of the Colour Court was also covered in, and full of people, who were very civil.
The Flourish of Trumpets ceased I entered the Chapel, and the organ began to play, which had a beautiful effect. At the Altar, to my right, stood my precious Angel; Mama was on my left as also the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge and Aunt Augusta; and on Albert's right was the Queen Dowager, then Uncle Ernest, Ernest, the Duchess of Cambridge and little Mary, George, Augusta, and Princess Sophia Matilda. Lord Melbourne stood close to me with the Sword of State.
The Ceremony was very imposing, and fine and simple, and I think ought to make an everlasting impression on every one who promises at the Altar to keep what he or she promises. Dearest Albert repeated everything very distinctly. I felt so happy when the ring was put on, and by (my precious) Albert. As soon as the Service was over, the Procession returned as it came, with the exception that my beloved Albert led me out.
And what about the wedding night?
Contrary to what the TV show might have us believe, Albert and Victoria had a far quieter – but quite loved-up – wedding night.
The Queen writes:
We had our dinner in our sitting room; but I had such a sick headache that I could eat nothing, and was obliged to lie down in the middle blue room for the remainder of the evening, on the sofa; but, ill or not, I never, never spent such an evening!! My dearest dearest dear Albert sat on a footstool by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness, I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness,- really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! - At ½ p.10 I went and undressed and was very sick, and at 20 m. p.10 we both went to bed; (of course in one bed), to lie by his side, and in his arms, and on his dear bosom, and be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before - was bliss beyond belief! Oh! this was the happiest day of my life! - May God help me to do my duty as I ought and be worthy of such blessings!