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Fashion History

Princess Charlotte’s Wedding Dress

January 10, 2013

A few weeks ago I visited the Charlotte the Forgotten Princess exhibition at The Royal Pavillion in Brighton for the 4th time. As I’ve mentioned lot’s on this blog I’ve always been really interested in Princess Charlotte. She’s one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in British history. The only daughter of George IV had she not died in childbirth aged just 21 she would have gone on to be Queen rather that her uncle William and then her cousin Queen Victoria.

When I last wrote about the exhibition there were two of princess Charlotte’s dresses on display. These have since been replaced by Charlotte’s beautiful wedding dress. The dress is one of the earliest surviving royal wedding dresses and dates back to her marriage to Prince Leopold in 1816.

Princess Charlotte's Wedding Dress
Princess Charlotte’s Wedding Dress (Royal Collection)

I have always wanted to see the dress in person having looked at pictures and read about it in books many times. The dress has not been on public display since 1997 when it was displayed in an exhibition at the Museum of London. he exhibition entitled In Royal Fashion displayed a collection of clothes belonging to both Princess Charlotte and Queen Victoria. Some of Princess Charlotte’s dresses are now so fragile that they will never be put back on public display so it has been fantastic to have been able to see 3 of them in the last year at The Royal Pavillion. The dress made a brief appearance for a press call at Kensington Palace in 2011 along with several other royal wedding dresses to mark the occasion of Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton.

The dress was briefly on display to the press at Kensington Palace in 2011 (Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Collection)

The dresses came to be in the care of the Museum of London way back in  1927 when they were sent by Queen Mary, who was an avid collector of Royal articles and history. Below is a copy of the memorandum sent by Queen Mary which mention’s Charlotte’s wedding dress.

071Image from In Royal Fashion by Kay Staniland (Museum of London)e

The dress itself is stunningly beautiful, I’d recommend seeing it in person while it is on display. It’s hard to really appreciate the fine silver stitching of the dress in photographs. It is obviously in very delicate condition now and with such, it could be a very long time before it is on display again.

There are a few mysteries surrounding the dress not many details survive of who it was made by, Princess Charlotte rarely mentioned details of clothing in her letters and no accounts or bills from dress makers survive. Most of the details for the wedding and outfits were arranged by her grandmother Queen Charlotte. The only written records of the dress are found in fashion journals. The following is a description from La Belle Assemblee – June 1st 1816

silver lama on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid ornament.

The description of the dress varies slightly from the dress we see today, there are signs of alteration on the dress which is made up of a separate bodice, skirt, train and underskirt. Due to inaccuracies with contemporary descriptions and inconsistencies between the different parts of the dress it is probable that the dress was assembled from unpicked sections of two separate dresses each belonging to Princess Charlotte sometime before it entered in the London Museums care in 1927. It was only after extensive research and examination of the dress leading to its display in 1997 that this was discovered.

Princess Charlotte's Wedding DressPrincess charlotte's Wedding Dress073Images of the wedding dress taken from In Royal Fashion by Kay Staniland (Museum of London, Royal Collection)

The dress however is very close to descriptions from 1816 and the fact that it is slightly altered from the one worn by Princess Charlotte does not affect either its beauty or its historic significance.

The video below from Kensington Palace shows the dress on display alongside the other Royal wedding dresses, I love this video as it gives more of a sence of the glittering silver threads than you would get in a photograph. I have taken a couple of stills from the video so you can see the way the dress catches the light…

Princess Charlotte's Wedding Dress075Princess Charlotte's wedding dress

You can find out more about the Charlotte the Forgotten Princess Exhibition here

The exhibition runs until 10th March 2013

Other Blog Posts Featuring Princess Charlotte…

Engravings of Princess Charlotte

Charlotte the Forgotten Princess at the Royal Pavillion

Carlton House London’s Lost Palace

  • Reply
    Jessica Cangiano
    January 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    When I was a little girl I adored wearing empire waist dresses (which I think sprung from my love of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books and the movies and films based on them, as some took place as Edwardian fashions were adopted empire waists once more), then they gradually (though not intentionally) faded from my wardrobe as I got older. Now in my late 20s I feel a pull towards them once more, especially after seeing stunning examples like these.

    ♥ Jessica

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