London is a part of the world that’s witnessed an enormous amount of political activity over the years. It’s been a major hub of global commerce, warfare and culture – but there are few occasions more noteworthy than state weddings. Let’s look at a few of the most significant to take place in the capital.
Henry I and Matilda of Scotland, 1100
Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror, and reigned from the year he got married until his death. Matilda was the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland, and Henry was just over thirty years old, which was quite old for the time – though marriages at this age were not unusual amongst the noble classes. The union was, to be sure, incredibly politically motivated, but the two almost certainly shared a fondness for one another. Matilda had been educated in a number of convents, and may even have taken the necessary vows to formally become a nun – which presented a considerable obstacle to the marriage. Matilda appealed to Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for permission to marry. The archbishop swiftly convened a council to decide on the matter. Despite some dissent, the council agreed that the planned marriage was perfectly legitimate, and it proceeded uninhibited.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, 1532
Perhaps the most notorious marriage in the history of the British Isles commenced with not one, but two ceremonies. The two first married in a secret ceremony on November 14th, before a second ceremony was performed in private in accordance with the Royal Book. The second ceremony took place on the 25th January 1533. The newly-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage between Henry and his last wife, Catherine of Aragon, to be null and void, and in the same declaration pronounced the union between Henry and Anne to be totally valid.
Of course, the brief marriage that followed was even less fairy-tale than the wedding ceremonies that preceded it; Anne would give Henry a single daughter, Elizabeth, before enduring three miscarriages and being shipped off the Tower of London and being summarily found guilty of high treason and decapitated.
Victoria and Albert, 1840
This wedding took place in the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace. Victoria wore a spectacular dress, as you might expect; for one thing, it was white – which was unusual at a time where coloured dresses were more fashionable. The dress was made from Honiton lace, which gave the Devon school of lacemaking a much-needed shot in the arm. It’s thought that this particular wedding was largely responsible for the popularity of white dresses among brides in future weddings, though Victoria wasn’t the first bride to wear white.
Elizabeth and Philip, 1947
The current monarch wed her now-husband on the 20th November 1947. The ceremony was something of a microcosm for the national mood; in the wake of peace being declared, marriages and families were breaking out across the world, and a baby boom kicked off. Being a relatively recent ceremony, we’ve access to far more detail concerning how proceedings unfolded, from the music, performed by William Neil McKie, to the clothing.
This particular wedding didn’t get off to the greatest start, with a priceless Tiara snapping in two as Elizabeth was preparing for the wedding. The Queen Mary Fringe Tiara was built in 1919 for Queen Mary, who gave it to her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth (mother of the Elizabeth whose wedding we’re talking about). The queen mother lent it to her daughter as the ‘something borrowed’, but then disaster struck. Fortunately, in a overly-royal twist, the court jeweller was close at hand, and was rushed to the work room to fix the problem under police escort. The tiara was restored in time for the ceremony, and the queen mother would later lend it to her granddaughter, Anne, for her own wedding ceremony.
Where can I get married in London?
If you’re looking to incorporate some of the capital’s most noteworthy sights and sounds into the most noteworthy day of your life, then a trip along the city’s famous river is sure to fit the bill. A London river cruise is a great way to see all of the sights and sounds there are to offer on the banks of the Thames. London wedding reception venues that float along the thames are a great place to spend the aftermath of the ceremony itself, even if performing the vows while afloat isn’t a good fit for your tastes.