Tuesday, February 10, 2015

175 years ago today: Queen Victoria married Prince Albert

February 10, 1840

The "important and national event" took place earlier today at noon, at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, where the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was celebrated.  According to The Times,  this was first royal event since the marriage of the late Princess Charlotte of Wales, that has "excited so great an interest."

It was a surprise to many that the marriage would be celebrated at noon, "instead of an advanced hour of the evening, as was heretofore the custom with respect to Royal marriages."

This knowledge brought "many, many thousands" from all over London into St. James's Park at "an early hour."    There has not been such an "extraordinary display" in the park since the "rejoicings of the visit of the allied Sovereigns in 1814."

People were already gathering in the Park by 9:00 a.m., to get a "good place" to view the Royal cortege leave from Buckingham Palace and down the Mall to St. James's Palace.
By noon, the crowds had grown larger, "between the back of Carlton-terrace. and the foot of Constitution-hill," leading to the difficulty of maintaining an open carriage way."

The "lowering aspect of the weather" has not had "terrors for the visitors, male and female, young and old," arriving in masses.  The crowds were not deterred by the "smart showers which came down at intervals."

The officers of the household and the attendants of Her Majesty began to arrive at Buckingham Palace at 10:30.  These included, the Earls of Belfast, Surrey, and Albemarle.   At 11:30, the "six gentlemen composing the foreign suites of His Royal Highness Prince Albert and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg -Gotha mustered in the Grand Hall."   They departed from the Palace in a Royal Carriage for the ride to St. James's.

The carriages were returned at 11:45, and "notice was given to the Royal bridegroom that all was in readiness for his department."   Wearing the uniform of a British Field Marshal, Prince Albert left his private apartments, passed through the state rooms, to his carriage.  he was accompanied by his father, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and his elder brother, the Hereditary Prince.

Prince Albert entered his carriage to cheers, and "he made his acknowledgments with an air of the most courteous gallantry."  He and his father and brother traveled in one carriage, and his attendants followed in two more carriages.

They were escorted by a Squadron of Life Guards.

As Prince Albert made his way to the chapel, Queen Victoria was informed by her Lord Chamberlain that "all was ready."  She left her apartments "on the arm of the Earl of Uxbridge as Lord Chamberlain, supported by the Duchess of Kent."  They were followed by a Page of Honour.

The Queen carried her train over her arm.   As she descended down the stairs to the Grand Hall, she was "greeted with loud acclamations."   The Queen kept her eyes to the ground, and only gave a slight acknowledgment with her head.  She wore "no diamonds on her head, nothing but a simple wreath of orange blossoms."  Her "magnificent wreath" did not cover her face, but fell over her shoulders.  She wore "very large diamond earrings, a diamond necklace," and the Order of Garter.

The Duchess of Kent and the Duchess of Sutherland rode in the carriage with the Queen.    The procession left "the Palace at a slow pace under a strong escort of the Household Cavalry."

There was a "vociferous applause" as the Queen's procession traveled down the Mall.  The police, ever vigilant police "conducted themselves with great temper, and maintained order without violent exercise of their supreme authority."

The crowds had hoped for a view of the couple, but the carriage windows were closed, and the "royal party only partially recognized."

At 12:15, the strains of the "national air" of 'God Save the Queen,' was played by the band in front of the palace.  This was the signal that the bride was now on her way to St. James's Palace to "plight her troth" to Prince Albert.   "Tremendous" cheers resounded through the park.

The Queen's cortege was attended by a full guard of honour.   She was "enthusiastically cheered" as the carriage headed toward St. James's Palace.  She appeared "highly gratified by the loyalty" from her subjects, and offered a smile, although it was noted that her "countenance was extremely pale."  

The drive took about ten minutes.   At St. James's Palace, the Queen was "conducted to her closet," before heading to the chapel.

The seats in the chapel "were stuffed, covered with crimson cloth, and elegantly ornamented with gold fringe.   The communion table held a vast quantity of gold plate.  The railing was also covered with crimson velvet, and stools were placed at the right of the altar for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.  Four chairs of state, "gilt and covered with crimson silk velvet,: were placed in front of the communion table, the highest in elevation was for the Queen.  There were also two stools placed at the altar for the bride and groom to kneel.

The Queen Dowager (Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV) arrived a few minutes before noon and took her seat near the altar.  She was "arrayed in a robe of rich silk purple velvet trimmed with ermine."

At 12:25 p.m., the Royal bridegroom entered the chapel to a "flourish of trumpets and drums."  As he walked toward the altar, he was "greeted with a loud clapping of hands from the gentlemen," as the ladies waved their handkerchiefs with enthusiasm.   Prince Albert looked attractive, much improved since his arrival in England a few days earlier.  His father and brother were also greeted with the "utmost cordiality."

The Prince was conducted to his seat on the left side of the altar.  He spent a few minutes in conversation with the Queen Dowager until the "trumpets and drums" announced the arrival of Queen.   Her procession was longer and included her pages of honor, equerries and other court officials, followed by Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia Matilda, Her Royal Highness Princess Mary of Cambridge, Her Royal Highness Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester, Her Royal Highness The Princess Augusta, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge and the His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, and their attendants.

Queen Victoria was next.  Her train was carried by 12 "unmarried Ladies;"  Lady Adelaide Paget, Lady Caroline Gordon Lennox, Lady Sarah Villiers, Lady Elizabeth Howard, Lady Frances Cowper, Lady Ida Hay, Lady Elizabeth West, Lady Catherine Stanhope, Lady Mary Grimston, Lady Mary Hoard, Lady Eleanora Paget and Lady Jane Bouverie.

They were followed by the Ladies of the Bedchamber, the Maids of Honour and the Women of the Bedchamber.

(The Times relied on the official program for the list of the Queen's procession.  The Duchess of Gloucester did not attend the wedding as she was confined to her home with a cold.)

Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester was "cheered" as she was escorted to her seat.  Princess Augusta of Cambridge "excited general admiration by her affability and beauty."   The Duchess of Cambridge led her youngest child, Princess Mary, into the chapel, and the "mother of so beautiful a child was certain not to be seen without interest."

There appeared to be some sympathy for the bride's mother, the Duchess of Kent, who appeared "disconsolate and distressed."  The Duke of Sussex, who gave away the bride, "seemed to be excellent spirits."

Queen Victoria looked "anxious and excited," and "paler even than usual."  Her wedding gown was a "rich white satin, trimmed with white orange-flower blossoms."  On her head, she wore an orange blossom wreath, covered with a "beautiful veil of Honiton lace."

Her bridesmaids and trainbearers "were similarly attired," apart from not wearing veils.

The national anthem was played as the queen approached the chapel.  She walked up the aisle, followed by the trainbearers and attendants.  She knelt on her footstool, after "having performed her private devotions," she took place in her chair of state.

The Archbishop of Canterbury read the service with "great appropriateness and feeling."  The Bishop of London repeated the responses.

Prince Albert's response to the vows was "I will," in a firm tone.  Queen Victoria also spoke in a "firm voice, and a tone audible in all parts of the chapel," when she responded "I will," to the vows.

The Archbishop of Canterbury asked "Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"  The Duke of Sussex, took the Queen's hand, and said: "I do."   The Archbishop "then laid hold" of Victoria's hand, and pressed into Albert's, as the couple plighted their troth.

Then, the Archbishop took the "plain gold ring, from Prince Albert, placed it on the Queen's fourth finger, then returned to Albert, who put the ring on Victoria's finger: "With this ring, I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow; in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

He concluded the service with O Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of Mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life, send thy blessing upon these thy servants, Victoria and Albert, whom we bless in thy name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made (whereof this ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 
"Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder."

After the ceremony was concluded,  members of the Royal Family moved to take their places in the procession, paying their congratulations to the Queen.  The Duke of Sussex shook her hand, "which appeared to have little ceremony, but with cordiality in it, affectionately kissed her check.   The Queen stepped to the other side of the altar, to greet and kiss the Queen Dowager.

Prince Albert took the Queen's hand, escorting her out of the Chapel.  As the procession proceeded down the aisle, the Queen "spoke frequently to the Earl of Uxbridge," who was giving directions as "to the order of the procession."

The "nuptial procession" returned to Buckingham Palace in the same order.  There was a lot of cheering and the "waving of handkerchiefs was renewed" when the Queen and Prince Albert appeared, holding hands.   Prince Albert enclosed  Victoria's hand in his own "in such a way as to display the wedding ring, which appeared more solid than is usual in ordinary weddings."

The Royal ladies were all cheered as they were driven to the palace. One of the most enthusiastic cheers was for the Duke of Wellington, who was not a part of the wedding procession.   

The procession reached Buckingham Palace at 1:25 p.m.  Prince Albert helped his new bride out of the carriage.  She entered her "own hall with an open and joyous countenance, flushed perhaps in the slightest degree."

A wedding breakfast was held in Buckingham Palace.  The guests included the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, the Duchess of Gloucester, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, Viscount Melbourne and members of the Queen's household.

The newlyweds left Buckingham Palace at 3:45 p.m..  The sun "shone forth with full brightness, the skies were cleared of their murky clouds," as the couple got into the carriage.  Prince Albert was dressed "in a plain dark travelling dress," and the Queen had changed into a "white satin pelisse, trimmed with swansdown, with a white satin bonnet and feather."

There were crowds all along the route from the Buckingham Palace through London to Eton, arriving at Windsor Castle after 6 p.m.

In her diary later that night,  Queen Victoria wrote : ...."My DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert sat on a footstool by my side, & his excessive love & affection gave me feelings  of heavenly love & happiness, I never could have hoped to have felt before! - really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such as a Husband !"


Holdfast said...

In the painting of the ceremony the Duke of Sussex appears to be wearing a black cap. Is this a normal part of a duke's robes?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

No. He habitually wore a black skull cap ..

Holdfast said...

Interesting, thank you. I suppose if a priest may sometimes wear a cap in church, so can a duke.