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The Vintage Guide To London | August 21, 2017

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Famous London events: The Queen’s wedding

Famous London events: The Queen’s wedding

This April London will again be in the throes of royal wedding fever. Rebecca McWattie revisits the magic of the Queen’s wedding in post-war 1947 and predicts that even in the 21st century the country will be united watching the glory and spectacle of  William and Kate’s union.


Although the country would not appear to be as pro-royal as it once did, in difficult times such as after World War II and now that we are facing a crippled economy, tradition is comforting. It’s reassuring that institutions such as the monarchy still stand strong, having witnessed and survived all changes in our history.

Although the Royal Family hasn’t been immune to divorce isn’t there still a romantic hope in all of us to witness a fairytale? There certainly was in 1947 when the young Princess Elizabeth’s engagement to the tall, dashing naval officer Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten was announced. Since Princess Elizabeth met Prince Philip aged 13, they had regularly corresponded and rumours of a romance had long been circulating in the British press.

Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Lieutenant Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey on the morning of 20 November 1947. The nation, still economically and psychologically suffering the effects of World War II, embraced the celebrations fully, especially as this was the first royal wedding broadcast on TV. To encourage the festivities, the government announced an easing of rationing a few days before the wedding.

Despite the damp November night large numbers of people lined the Mall on the eve of the wedding, sleeping on their blitz shelter mattresses and singing war-time songs.

Princess Elizabeth received the statutory bridal allowance of 200 extra coupons for the wedding dress material, although it’s a stretch of the imagination to think this went far enough for the ivory duchesse satin dress with a 13 ft train, designed by Norman Hartnell. The dress took 350 seamstresses seven weeks to painstakingly embroider with crystals and a staggering 10,000 seed pearls.

Respectful of the myth that it was unlucky for a bride to try on her wedding dress before the day, Norman Hartnell and his assistants went to Buckingham Palace to fit the dress on the morning of the wedding.

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