Concerned about their son’s marital prospects, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert secured the help of their eldest daughter, Vicky. After vetting and rejecting a number of possible candidates, Vicky settled on Alexandra of Denmark, however her parents were concerned by the ongoing political turmoil between Denmark and Prussia since they had a lot of German relations. However, it soon became clear Alexandra was the only suitable candidate and a meeting was arranged for the couple in September 1861.
Vicky had high hopes for the marriage since Alexandra was a great beauty, however a year passed before any proposal took place and by that time Bertie had a reputation as a playboy and Prince Albert had died. Bertie met Alexandra again in September 1862 at the Royal Palace of Laeken, the home of his great-uncle, Leopold I of Belgium, and this time he proposed and was accepted.
Alexandra travelled to Britain aboard the royal yacht Victoria and Albert II, arriving in Gravesend, Kent, on 7 March 1863, much to the excitement of the British public who were soon enchanted by the princess’s beauty, and Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote an ode in Alexandra’s honour.
On 10 March 1863, the couple were married in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, however the choice of venue proved to be disastrous as it was far too small to cope with the crowds of well-wishers and the guest list had to be kept small. As a result, only the princess’s closet relations could be invited and this caused much dismay in Denmark. Since the court was still in mourning for Prince Albert, the ladies were restricted to wearing grey, lilac or mauve.
The bride followed the tradition inadvertently set by her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, and wore a white silk dress layered with Honiton lace, and trimmed with garlands of orange blossom and myrtle. The pattern of the lace depicted cornucopias filled with roses, shamrocks and thistles, arranged in festoons, and interspersed with the same plant motifs. As was also the custom, the dress was made by a London dressmaker, Mrs James of Belgravia, with materials sourced in Britain.
Alexandra had been given yards of beautiful Brussels lace by King Leopold of Belgium as a wedding gift which she had intended to use on her dress but Queen Victoria insisted the princess follow the custom of supporting British industries instead. The lace was designed by Miss Tucker and executed by John Tucker and Co of Branscombe, near Sidmouth, and comprised a suite of four deep flounces with matching lace veil, train trimming and handkerchief.
The lace veil was fastened by a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle, and Alexandra carried a bouquet of orange blossoms, white rosebuds, lily of the valley, orchids, and myrtle. Alexandra wore a pearl necklace, earrings and a brooch set given to her by the Prince of Wales; an opal and diamond bracelet given by the Queen; another diamond bracelet given by the ladies of Leeds; and an opal and diamond bracelet given by the ladies of Manchester.
The bridal bouquet was held in a beautiful holder, a wedding gift from the Maharajah Duleep Singh, which was carved out of rock-crystal, and embellished with large emeralds and diamonds, pink coral and oriental pearls. The handle contained four feather-like plumes composed of brilliants, underneath which was the letter “A” in rubies. At the end of the handle, a crystal ball was decorated with the Alexandra’s coronet, and to which was attached a chain of pearls and gold, with a hoop of pearls to wear on the finger.
After the wedding, Alexandra had the dress altered to wear it as an evening gown so the dress recently shown at the Wedding Dress Exhibition at Kensington Palace featured the altered skirt.