170 Years of British Royal Wedding Bouquets
Since Queen Victoria's 1840 wedding, every royal bride has included a sprig of this flower in her bouquet. Can you guess what it is?
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1840: Queen Victoria
The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is the stuff of fairy tales — guy and girl fall in love, girl proposes to guy because she's a monarch and legally has to...you know the story. Thankfully he said yes! On her wedding day, the bride carried a small bouquet of snowdrops (Albert's favorite flower) and myrtle, a Hebrew symbol for love and marriage. A few years later, Victoria would plant a piece of myrtle from a nosegay given to her by Prince Albert's grandmother in her garden. Cuttings from this plant have been used in almost every royal bridal bouquet since, starting with Princess Royal Victoria (the Queen's daughter) at her wedding in 1858. After the wedding, the cutting is planted in the bride’s garden by a bridesmaid. Legend has it that if it doesn’t take root, whoever planted it will become an old maid.
1863: Queen Alexandra
Less than two years after the death of Queen Victoria's beloved husband, her son and heir, Prince Albert Edward (later Edward VII), married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St. George Chapel. In contrast to the bride's flower-laden wedding dress dripping in orange blossoms and myrtle, Alexandra carried a relatively simple bouquet packed with meaningful blooms: white rosebuds (purity and innocence), lily of the valley (happiness), rare white orchids (love and fertility) and the traditional sprig of myrtle (love and marriage). The posy must have worked its magic — the couple would go on to be married for 47 years, have six children and rule the United Kingdom for the first decade of the 20th century, later known as the Edwardian era.
1893: Queen Mary
The wedding of the current queen's grandparents was an unusual one — the bride had previously been engaged to her groom's older brother who died of pneumonia the previous year. But Queen Victoria was so fond of the young Princess Mary of Teck, she strongly encouraged Prince George (second in line to the throne) to marry her instead. So, on July 6, 1893, the couple wed at St. James Palace in London on one of the hottest days of the year. The bride carried an oversized bouquet of all-white blooms: orchids (symbolizing love and fertility), lily of the valley (happiness), carnations (pure love and good luck), orange blossoms (fertility), the traditional sprigs of myrtle and York roses, as Mary was soon to become the Duchess of York. Despite the couple's odd beginnings, they went on to enjoy 43 years of happily-wedded bliss, have six children and rule England for 25 years.
1896: Princess Maud of Wales
Princess Maud, the fifth of Edward and Alexandra's six children, married her maternal first cousin, Prince Carl of Denmark (later King Haakon VII of Norway) on July 22, 1896 in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace. The spunky bride, fondly called 'Harry' by her family, wore orange blossoms in her hair in lieu of a tiara and carried a modest bouquet of trailing white jessamine (love and purity), orange blossoms (fertility) and cuttings from Queen Victoria's German myrtle plant. As history would have it, down-to-earth Maud would later become Queen of Norway when her husband was chosen as monarch of the newly-independent country. She's the great-grandmother of the current King Harald V of Norway.
1922: Mary, Princess Royal
Mary, Princess Royal, the only daughter of George V and Queen Mary, married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, on February 28, 1922, at Westminster Abbey — the first child of a monarch to marry at the abbey since 1290! The bride carried a bouquet of white flowers (possibly roses), stems of myrtle and fern and wore a lover's knot of orange blossoms around her waist. Unfortunately, there are no portraits of the bride holding her bouquet — it was placed at the foot of the Cenotaph, a WW1 memorial, after the ceremony as a tribute to fallen soldiers.
1923: Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother
The Queen Mum's bridal bouquet is quite possibly the most famous of them all — yet nobody knows what it looked like. That's because as she entered Westminster Abbey, the bride, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in tribute to her brother Fergus, who died in World War One. Because of this, the bouquet isn't pictured in any of the official wedding photos nor can it be glimpsed as Elizabeth and her new husband, the future King George VI, wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Various accounts of the time say the famed posy contained white roses, heather (a symbol of good luck and a reminder of Elizabeth's childhood home in Scotland), lily of the valley and probably a sprig or two of myrtle, but we may never know for sure. What we do know, however, is that this touching gesture spurred an unofficial tradition: most royal brides (Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth II included) now send their bouquets to the abbey to be laid at the tomb after their wedding ceremonies.
Still curious? You can catch a quick glimpse of the bouquet being handed into the bridal carriage in the first 30 seconds of this wedding day newsreel.
1934: Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
Princess Marina of Greece and Prince George, Duke of Kent met at a party in London in 1932 and were married two years later in a glamorous ceremony at Westminster Abbey. She was the daughter of a poor Greek prince and Russian grand duchess who was exiled from Greece after the monarchy was overthrown. Appropriately, on her wedding day, the stylish princess carried a gorgeous asymmetrical bouquet of white longeflorum lilies, a Greek symbol of rebirth and new beginnings.
1935: Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
A world traveler until her early thirties, free-spirited Alice Montagu Douglas Scott married Henry, Duke of Gloucester in a pink (yes pink!) satin gown at their 1935 Buckingham Palace wedding ceremony. The blush-hued dress, adorned at the neck with a cluster of orange blossoms (a symbol of fertility), jumpstarted the career of now-famous royal clothing designer, Norman Hartnell. To set off the striking ensemble, the bride held a lush bouquet of white roses and lily of the valley, although, in official wedding portraits taken later (including this one), she's holding various cascading Constance Spry-designed arrangments of calla lilies, orchids, philodendron and more.
1937: Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
The scandal of the century, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry his twice-divorced love, American socialite Wallis Simpson in 1937. The couple wed in a low-key ceremony at Chateau de Cande in France with none of the groom's family present, as they were forbidden to attend by the groom's brother and successor, King George VI. Although Wallis didn't carry any flowers, the chateau was filled with stunning, oversized arrangements of peonies and delphinium, a gift to the bride from her friend and celebrity florist, Constance Spry who, 15 years later, would decorate Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. To match his bride, Edward adorned his morning suit with a simple-yet-dapper carnation boutonniere.
1947: Queen Elizabeth II
Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, married Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh carrying a show-stopping bouquet made of three types of British-grown white orchids: cattleya, odontoglossum and cypripedium. A sprig of myrtle picked from the garden at Osborne House was also included. But as luck would have it, the bouquet was misplaced sometime between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, leaving the bride empty-handed for her wedding photos. Fortunately, royal florist Martin Longman quickly arranged and delivered a replica bouquet, allowing the prince and princess to recreate a few sweet wedding moments like the one seen here, with bouquet in hand.
1960: Princess Margaret
Although they would divorce 18 years later, the wedding of Princess Margaret to Antony Armstrong-Jones was a hopeful, happy beginning for a princess who had seen her fair share of heartache. For the occasion, the bride carried a smaller version of her older sister's (Queen Elizabeth) bouquet, filled with small white orchids (love and charm), stephanotis (marital bliss), lily of the valley (return of happiness) and, of course, the traditional sprig of myrtle.
1973: Anne, Princess Royal
To offset her stunning, stark-white dress, Queen Elizabeth's only daughter opted for a simple bouquet of creamy white blooms for her 1973 nuptials to Captain Mark Phillips. The classic posy was filled with white roses, lily of the valley, stephanotis and sprigs of Victorian myrtle.
1981: Diana, Princess of Wales
Known as the "wedding of the century," Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 marriage to Prince Charles was the stuff of fairy tales. So it's only fitting that the bride carried a fairy-tale-worthy bouquet of cascading gardenia (symbolizing love and purity), stephanotis (marital bliss), odontoglossum orchid (fertility; also in Queen Elizabeth's bouquet), lily of the valley (happiness), freesia (friendship), veronica (fidelity), myrtle (love and marriage), ivy (faithfulness) and Earl Mountbatten roses, a touching tribute to the groom's late uncle, Louis Mountbatten.
1986: Sarah, Duchess of York
When she wed Prince Andrew at Westminster Abbey in 1986, Sarah Ferguson carried a unique, crescent-shaped bouquet of white Asiatic lilies, gardenia, yellow roses and lily of the valley. Fergie also famously wore a flower crown of scented gardenias, her groom's favorite, that was removed after the ceremony to reveal the stunning York Diamond Tiara, a special piece commissioned by the Queen for the occasion. This ceremonial unveiling was meant to signify Sarah's transition into royal life.
1992: Anne, Princess Royal
Less than a year after her divorce from Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne married Sir Timothy Laurence in a low-key ceremony at Crathie Kirk near the royal family home in Balmoral, Scotland. As the wedding took place just days after Charles and Diana announced their separation and in the wake of a fire that destroyed parts of Windsor Castle, the princess hoped that her bouquet of Scottish white heather would bring the family some good luck, as its meaning implies.
1993: Serena Armstrong-Jones, Viscountess Linley
The Hon. Serena Stanhope married Princess Margaret's son, David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, carrying a gorgeous-yet-simple bouquet made up entirely of lily of the valley. The understated posy allowed all the attention to be focused on the bride's show-stopping dress, which was designed to mimic her mother-in-law's 1960 ensemble.
1994: Lady Sarah Chatto
Princess Margaret's quiet and artistic daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, was ahead of her time when she carried a free-flowing, unfussy bouquet of white garden roses, gardenia, stephanotis and other lush white blooms for her wedding to fellow-artist, Daniel Chatto, in 1994.
1999: Sophie, Countess of Wessex
PR consultant, Sophie Rhys-Jones, wed her handsome groom, Prince Edward (Queen Elizabeth's youngest son) at St. George's Chapel on June 19, 1999. To complement her medieval-style wedding gown, the bride carried a flowy, show-stopping bouquet of aptly-named "Sophie" calla lilies (we love how they match her bell sleeves), white roses, freesia, stephanotis, ivy and trailing Italian ruscus greenery.
2005: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Camilla Parker Bowles wed her longtime love, Charles, Prince of Wales, in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on April 5, 2005, a second marriage for both the bride and groom. To complement her cream and gold silk dress, Camilla carried a bouquet of lily of the valley and white, yellow and lavender primrose, a bloom that in Victorian times meant, "I can't live without you" — a fitting symbol for a love affair that began prior to Charles' first marriage to Princess Diana. The bouquet also included sprigs of myrtle from Cornwall, as the bride was soon to be styled Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
2008: Autumn Phillips
The first of the most recent royal generation to tie the knot, Peter Phillips (the Queen's eldest grandson) married Autumn Kelly on May 17th, 2008 at St. George's Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed this coming May. The bride carried a cascading bouquet of white roses, spray roses, lily of the valley, stephanotis and trailing greenery, an arrangement that some were quick to point out looked shockingly similar to Princess Diana's.
2011: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
Kate Middleton made headlines at her 2011 wedding to Prince William, but not for what you might think. One of the most talked about aspects of the day? The duchess-to-be's understated bouquet, barely visible against the grand backdrop of Westminster Abbey. But what this pretty posy lacked in size, it made up for in meaning, each bloom representing something special: lily of the valley (happiness), hyacinth (sportiness, or constancy in love), ivy (fidelity, also used in Princess Diana's bouquet), sweet William (gallantry and a nod to her handsome husband-to-be), and two sprigs of myrtle, one from Queen Victoria's myrtle plant, the other from Queen Elizabeth's.
2011: Zara Tindall
On July 30, 2011, the Queen's granddaughter, Zara Phillips, married professional rugby player, Mike Tindall, at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. The bride opted for a more modern look than her cousin-in-law Kate Middleton, carrying a tightly-arranged bouquet of white calla lilies, dusty miller, lily of the valley, hydrangea and blue thistle, the national emblem of Scotland and a sweet tribute to the wedding locale.
May 2018: Miss Meghan Markle
What’s in the weeds for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? According to their florist, the bridal bouquet will feature white garden roses, peonies (Meghan's favorite flower) and foxglove which, according to flower lore, has a dichotomous meaning: on one hand, this poisonous plant represents trickery and insincerity. But it can also represent healing of the heart, as it's historically been used to cure heart ailments.