Grace Kelly's wedding to Prince Rainer III of Monaco

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years

Tradition and Inspiration

No one does spectacular weddings quite like the royals, so with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle only a few months away, we thought we’d take you back through some of the most iconic royal wedding dresses.

Queen Elizabeth

The lady herself, Queen Elizabeth had to use ration coupons to buy the fabric used to make her dress. Clothing was rationed in 1947, and even though the grand occasion was witnessed by 2500 guests, Her Majesty still had to save up the cards to ensure she had the perfect dress. Made of ivory duchess satin and embellished with over 10,000 pearls, the dress had a 15-foot train, attached at the shoulders (ahead of her time on the cape front!) and a silk tulle veil. Her sparkling tiara was lent by her mother.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Our Queen’s elegant dress
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Elizabeth’s train was beautifully embellished. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Queen Victoria

Travelling even further back to Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, we see her set a very early trend for white wedding dresses. White dresses were very unusual at the time, with most brides choosing dresses of colour, but Victoria wore a heavy cream silk satin gown, embellished with Honiton lace. Her train was 18-foot long and she chose to wear a sapphire brooch from her ‘dear Albert’.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Setting a trend for white
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
A portrait shows the brooch from Albert – her ‘something blue’

Grace Kelly

At her wedding to Prince Rainer III of Monaco in 1956, actress Grace Kelly wore a dress that has been described as one of the most elegant and best-remembered of all time. A gift from MGM Studios, it was designed by one of their costume designers and featured a high neck, long sleeves and a gorgeous full skirt. No expense was spared with the fabric – over 20 metres of silk taffeta, over 90 metres of silk net, 125 year old lace and an 80 metre tulle veil took 36 seamstresses six weeks to finish. Her dress is said to have influenced the wedding dress that the Duchess of Cambridge wore on her big day.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Grace Kelly held a bejewelled prayer book in place of a bouquet
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Such gorgeous lace detail in the veil and train

Catherine Middleton

The Duchess of Cambridge worked closely with Alexander McQueen designer, Sarah Burton, on the design of her gown. Ivory satin with lace applique, the delicate floral motifs floated down over the bodice and onto the skirt which had a short train in comparison to other regal gowns, at only three metres. As is tradition, she was lent a beautiful Cartier scroll tiara, made in 1936 and belonging to the Queen.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
The similarities between Kate and Grace Kelly’s dresses
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
The train was perfectly formed – but small by royal standards!

Beatrice Borromeo

As you would expect, Grace Kelly’s grandson, Pierre Casiraghi’s wedding was simply decadent. His bride, Beatrice, wore five dresses over the weekend celebrations, each as gorgeous as the next! But she saved the best until last for the final celebrations; a custom Armani Prive silk tulle gown, reminiscent of a dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in 1966, with a deep neckline and two drapes from the shoulders, held in place by family heirlooms – two antique diamond brooches in the form of wings.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Beatrice Borromeo’s custom Armani was elegant and sophisticated
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
The winged brooches just peeking out on the straps of the beautiful gown.

Diana Spencer

We can’t possibly forget Diana, Princess of Wales’ dress. Made of ivory silk taffeta and antique lace, the gown featured a 25-foot train, hand embroidered with sequins and pearls. Designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel wanted to make sure that as well as going down in history, Diana loved the dress. It definitely made a dramatic impression with its puffed sleeves, frilled neckline and antique lace trim and influenced bridal gowns throughout the 1980s.

Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
Diana’s dress and 25-foot train was trimmed with antique lace
Royal Wedding Dresses Through the Years
The frills and puffed sleeves inspired brides in the ’80s

With so much tradition for inspiration, we can’t wait to see what Meghan chooses for her wedding day. For more bridal gown inspiration, head over to our luxury wedding dresses page.

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