Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Royal Brides Part II—Diana’s Tiara and Victoria’s Secret


         Last week I posted about Queen Victoria’s revolutionary wedding dress, which broke with tradition in 1840 by being white and featuring, not a diamond crown, but simply a wreath of orange blossoms in her hair. I also included two photos and comments about the crowns worn by modern royal brides Princess Diana and Kate Middleton.  I posted a photo of Diana and wrote:  Princes Diana, at her wedding on July 29, 1981, wore a much more visible and dramatic crown—the Lover’s Knot tiara, which was made in 1914 using diamonds and pearls from the royal family’s collection.”

            Turns out I was wrong.  As my sharp-eyed daughter Eleni pointed out, that was not a photo of Diana in the Lovers Knot tiara at her wedding, although it did become her favorite crown and the Queen did loan it to her for the wedding.  But at the last minute Diana decided to get married in the Spencer Family crown, shown here.

         According to People Magazine, “Like all good royal pieces, the Spencer Tiara is actually made up of other pieces of jewelry... The current version – which is constructed with diamonds shaped into tulips and stars surrounded by attractive scrolls – was probably finalized sometime in the ’30s. It has become a popular wedding tiara for the Spencer family: Diana’s sisters – Lady Sarah and Jane, Baroness Fellowes – both wore the sparkler for their wedding days and Victoria Lockwood, who was the first wife of Diana’s brother Charles, the current Earl of Spencer, wore it when she married into the famed aristocratic family in 1989 (when little Prince Harry served as a pageboy). However, Diana’s mother, Frances, did not wear the tiara when she married into the Spencer family in 1954.”

        Back to Victoria and her famous wedding dress, which featured a flounce of Honiton lace.  As a mark of support for the Honiton industry, Victoria insisted her daughters also order Honiton lace for their wedding dresses. She also wore her wedding lace sewed on to the dresses she wore to the christenings of her nine children and to the weddings of two of her children, her eldest daughter, Victoria, in 1858, and her youngest son, Leopold in 1882.

         Victoria’s youngest and favorite daughter, Princess Beatrice, was the only bride allowed to wear Victoria’s own veil of Honiton lace, because her mother knew how much she loved it.  Beatrice wore it as part of her wedding gown when she married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885. Her veil was crowned with a circlet of diamond stars, a marriage gift from her mother.  Here is Beatrice at her wedding.

         (I found out, while researching this post, that Beatrice was originally expected to marry Napoleon Eugene, the French Prince Imperial, whose murder during the Anglo-Zulu war in June of 1879 I have already written about in an earlier post called “The Prince Imperial—Murdered by Zulus” http://arollingcrone.blogspot.com/2012/06/prince-imperial-murdered-by-zulus.html?showComment=1396480676400#c7285588968167878773

         The telegram announcing the Prince Imperial’s death left Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice in tears.  According to Victoria's journal, "Dear Beatrice, crying very much as I did too, gave me the telegram ... It was dawning and little sleep did I get ... Beatrice is so distressed; everyone quite stunned."

         Later, when Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg, she told her mother she had decided to marry him and the Queen stopped speaking to her for seven months, communicating only by written notes.  Victoria had always said that her youngest and favorite daughter should never marry, but stay by the Queen’s side as her companion.   Eventually Victoria was cajoled into accepting the engagement and consented to the marriage on the condition that Henry give up his German commitments and live permanently with Beatrice and the Queen.

 Twelve years earlier was the marriage of Victoria’s son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in Saint George’s Chapel of Windsor Castle in March of 1863.  This wedding produced a deluge of photographs of the future King and Queen.  Because the court was still in mourning for Prince Albert, ladies attending the wedding were restricted to wearing gray, lilac or mauve. The notoriously libertine eldest son of Victoria did not do a very good job of hiding his affairs—more than 50 by some estimates—which occurred both before and after the wedding.   In fact Victoria blamed Edward’s loose ways for the death of her adored husband.

 In September 1861, Edward was sent to Germany, supposedly to watch military maneuvers but actually in order to introduce him to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.   Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had already decided that they should marry. They met on 24 September thanks to his elder sister, Victoria, who had married the Crown Prince of Prussia in 1858.   Edward and Alexandra were friendly from the start; and marriage plans got underway.

From this time, Edward started earning his reputation as a playboy. He attended maneuvers in Ireland, and spent three nights with an actress Nellie Clifden, who hid with him in the camp.  Prince Albert, though ill, heard about his son’s adventure and went to visit Edward at Cambridge, to read him the riot act.  Just two weeks after the visit, Albert died, in December 1861.  Queen Victoria was inconsolable.  She wore mourning clothes for the rest of her life and she blamed Edward for his father's death.  She considered her son frivolous, indiscreet and irresponsible and wrote to her eldest daughter, "I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder."   

 (Edward’s many mistresses included actress Lillie Langtry; Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie Jerome, who became Lady Randolph Churchill; actress Sarah Bernhardt, and Alice Keppel, who was the great grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles—formerly mistress of Prince Charles and now his wife.)

Finally, here is Victoria’s secret, which I discovered while researching this post.  Today we like to think of Queen Victoria as being extremely prudish, but in fact, her marriage to Prince Albert was very passionate, and in 1843, she commissioned her favorite artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter, to painting an intimate portrait of herself, “for Albert’s eyes only”.  The resulting painting, which Victoria wrote was “My darling Albert’s favourite picture” was kept in Albert’s private writing room, where only he could enjoy it.  After the death of the Queen, Buckingham Palace kept Victoria’s “secret picture” a secret, revealing it to the public for the first time in 1977.  

You may wonder why this painting was considered so intimate and erotic that no one was allowed to see it.  This is one more example of my oft-repeated statement that what we in the 21st century see when we look at an antique photograph or painting is far different from what contemporaries of the image saw.

The erotic element in Victoria’s secret painting is the hair (as well as the expanse of royal bosom shown.)  In Victorian days, a girl became a woman at 18 and began to wear her hair up, piled on top of her head, often in braids as Victoria did.  No one but her husband would be allowed to see her with her hair down and disheveled, draped over her shoulders. 

A woman’s long hair was one of the most erotic parts of her body in those days; witness the advertisements for hair products showing naked women with their floor-length hair protecting their modesty å la Lady Godiva. ( If you want to know more about  the history of “Older Women and Long Hair in the Olden Days”, check out my December 2010 blog post on the subject: http://arollingcrone.blogspot.com/2010/12/older-women-and-long-hairin-olden-days.html  .  

By the way, the heart shaped pendant on a gold chain held a lock of Albert’s hair which Victoria wore “night and day” before their wedding. (Many times I’ve acquired a daguerreotype from the 1840’s and removed the image from the case or pendant ,to find a lock of the sitter’s hair inside.)


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