Royal weddings have long been occasions of fascination and splendor. Here’s a look at the marriages of key members of the British royal family beginning with Queen Victoria’s 1840 union with her first cousin, Prince Albert.
On July 6, 1893, George V marries Princess Mary of Teck at Chapel Royal. She had been engaged to his older brother, Albert, who died unexpectedly of pneumonia six weeks after the betrothal was announced. A story in The Times reports of the wedding: “The weather was beautiful. A great crowd gathered along the route from Buckingham Palace to the garden entrance of St James Palace… The ceremony eclipsed in pomp and splendor any recent ceremonial of the British court.”
Prince Albert, the future George VI, marries Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, at Westminster Abbey in 1923. At the time, he is second in line to the throne. The bride “wore the simplest and daintiest gown probably ever made for a royal marriage,” The Times reported.
Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, sits at left in this wedding photograph of her uncle, Prince George, and Princess Marina of Greece in Buckingham Palace in 1934. From left, standing, King George V, Princess Nicholas of Greece, Princess Marina, Prince George, Queen Mary and Prince Nicholas of Greece. Seated front right is Lady Mary Cambridge.
Britain's Prince Henry and his bride, Lady Alice Scott, with Queen Mary, right, Princess Elizabeth, waving far left, and King George V on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, marries Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, in France. He had abdicated the throne a year earlier in order to continue their romance, telling his subjects: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”
Princess Elizabeth, 21, marries Prince Philip, 26, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, at Westminster Abbey. He receives the title of Duke of Edinburgh on the day of the wedding. The Times reports that they “married in a ceremony of breathtaking beauty” and drove past well-wishers in a glass carriage to shouts of, “We want the bride.”
Princess Margaret marries Antony Armstrong-Jones, a photographer with no royal lineage. The ceremony, at Westminster Abbey, is the first royal wedding to be televised. Her previous love affair with Group Capt. Peter Townsend, who had divorced his first wife, ended under tremendous pressure on her to refuse his proposal of marriage. Her marriage to Armstrong-Jones, who was given the title Earl of Snowdon, ended in divorce in 1978.
Princess Anne, marries Capt. Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey. The Times reports that her mother, the queen, weeps in public for the first time “tears of joy at the unaffected delight of seeing her 23-year-old daughter and the dashing Dragoon Capt. Mark Phillips in love.” The couple divorces in 1992.
Charles, Prince of Wales, marries Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Hundreds of millions of people watch the televised ceremony. “Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made,” the Archbishop of Canterbury says in a brief homily. A wedding, he adds, is the “place where the adventure really begins.” The couple divorces in 1996.
Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson, both 26, at Westminster Abbey. An estimated 300 million people watch on television. The Times’ reports: “The royal family celebrated the occasion with a sense of pomp, military precision and style that have become a British trademark.” They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
Princess Anne marries naval Cmdr. Timothy Laurence. Only about 30 guests attend the service at tiny Crathie Church near the royal Balmoral Castle in northeastern Scotland on an overcast, bitterly cold day with a hint of snow in the air. It is in marked contrast to her first marriage in a glittering state wedding in Westminster Abbey nearly two decades earlier.
Prince Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, marries Sophie Rhys-Jones, a public relations executive. The Times reports: “Despite the royal splendor, it was a relatively modern ceremony for a decidedly modern couple. The early evening service, attended by just 550 family members and friends, was held well away from London’s great cathedrals and with no military processions or official representatives from other countries.”
Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles 35 years after their romance first began. After the civil exchange of vows at the Guildhall in Windsor, witnessed by only a few dozen close family members and friends, Charles and Camilla emerged for a much more public and elaborate religious service of “prayer and dedication,” televised nationwide and attended by his mother. Camilla, whose first marriage also ended in divorce, uses the title Duchess of Cornwall.
Amid extravagant displays of elegance, patriotism and tradition, Prince William marries Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, announces new titles for the couple: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.