The engagement of Victoria, Princess Royal, and Frederick of Prussia was announced on 19 May 1857 but there was immediate controversy as the British public did not like the idea of their beloved princess marrying a foreigner, let alone a Prussian. However, it was clear the young couple were very much in love and her parents hoped the dynastic alliance would help bring about a unified Germany.
The young couple’s first meeting at the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851 was specifically arranged to allow the young couple to meet with the idea of marriage foremost in the mind of their parents, however Frederick was very taken with the pretty young girl who acted as his guide. Afterwards, Fritz and Vicky continued to correspond with each other and when Fritz visited the royal family at Balmoral in 1855, he proposed to Vicky. Fourteen year-old Vicky, overwhelmed by Fritz’s declarations of love, burst into floods of tears, however her parents were delighted and gave their consent immediately.
Since her parents had stipulated their daughter could not marry until she was seventeen, the marriage did not take place until 25 January 1858 and was held at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace. The decision to have the wedding in England did not please the Prussians though since Fritz was second in line to the throne, however Queen Victoria tartly responded the bride was the daughter of a reigning monarch.
Before the ceremony, Vicky presented her mother with a brooch containing a lock of her hair and she posed for a photograph with her parents which ended up blurred as her mother was shaking so much. Even though it was a chilly winter’s day, thousands of people lined the streets hoping for a glimpse of the princess who appeared in the last carriage with her mother. The ceremony was described in Queen Victoria’s diaries which convey how emotional she was watching her daughter walk down the aisle towards “darling Fritz” who wore the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guards and carried his shining silver helmet in his hand. The bride and groom walked out of the chapel to the Mendelssohn’s Wedding March which was being played for the first time at a royal wedding.
The Princess Royal’s dress, designed by Janet Fife, was white silk moiré, featuring three flounces of Honiton lace with rose, shamrock, and thistle motifs. The flounces at the front of the dress had bouquets of orange and myrtle blossoms, the latter being the bridal flower of Germany, which graduated in size down the length of the dress. The train was made from the same material as the dress, and was trimmed with lace, white satin ribbons and had bouquets similar to those on the flounces. The lace veil was held in place by a matching wreath, and she wore a diamond necklace, earrings, and brooch.