It was a rainy day 176 years ago when young Queen Victoria entered the coach at Buckingham Palace sometime after noon and slowly drove to St. James’s in order to get married to her German cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. It was the first marriage of a reigning British Queen in 300 years – “Bloody Mary” had been her predecessor. Huge crowds, gathering since early dawn, thronged the streets from Buckingham Palace to the entrance of St. James Park, rainfall notwithstanding. “I never saw such crowds as there were in the Park, & they cheered most enthusiastically,” she later wrote in her scrapbook. For further details about her wedding, consult, for example, the Victoriana Magazine or Richard Cavendish’s article.
For the ceremony, Victoria had chosen as headdress a wreath of orange blossoms draped with lace – not the crown – and her dress was of white silk satin ornamented with Honiton lace. The colour of her dress was an unusual choice for her time as white was not the wedding fashion. She set an example that would soon become the norm. Read more about Victoria’s dress here. Hilary Alexander provides further details on royal gowns.
After a 15-minute ceremony at the Chapel Royal, the married couple returned to Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast before they left for Windsor Castle, where they spent a three-day honeymoon.
Political considerations had certainly played a role in furthering this union, yet Victoria and Albert had married for love, as these pages testify. Victoria bore Albert nine children – although she disliked pregnancy and birth – and was devastated when Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861.
You may enjoy doing this puzzle of Sir George Hayter’s painting: “The Marriage of Queen Victoria, 10 February 1840” (excerpt), full view at the Royal Collection Trust.