Take a trip back in time with us, as we marvel at some of the most beautiful royal wedding dresses in the last century.
Royal relationships have long been a source of fascination, an allure that has reached new, heightened levels of frenzy with the announcement of the engagement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Of course, a new member of the royal family is always bound to build column inches, but this match means so much more. Markle is a beacon of change and progression in what has always been considered a rigidly traditional institution.
Not only is she divorced, and will be the first non-white woman to marry into the royal family, but she’s also a staunch feminist and women’s rights activist who has already pledged to use her new status to support Time’s Up and #MeToo.
Especially because, judging by how many archaic barriers Markle has smashed already, we’re on the edge of our proverbial seats wondering what fabulousness her wedding dress will entail.
A mixture of royal rules and the fashions of the time have previously determined the style of wedding dresses past, from Kate Middleton’s full length lacy sleeves to Princess Diana’s over-sized eighties meringue. But we’re willing to bet our bottom dollar that Markle won’t be letting anyone else influence her big-day fashion, and with such on-point style, we can see why.
In anticipation of what will be one of the most high-profile weddings to ever happen to the royal family, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most fashionable, iconic, eye-catching and memorable wedding dresses worn by royal brides from the UK and far beyond, over the years.
Feast your eyes on decade’s worth of gorgeous bridal fashion, which we will, of course, update with the latest royal brides when the time comes.
Princess Sofia of Sweden - 13 June 2015
Sofia Hellqvist, a former TV personality and yoga instructor, married Prince Carl Philip of Sweden on the 13 June 2015 at Stockholm’s royal chapel in a stunning, silk crepe and organza wedding gown.
The bride looked sensational as she officially became Princess Sofia of Sweden, in a dress designed by Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt. It featured three different shades of white, full length sleeves made from intricate couture lace and a hand-cut and hand-stitched train, made in the designer’s atelier.
She completed the look with a handmade tulle veil, which sat alongside a modern emerald and diamond tiara.
Beatrice Borromeo - 25 July 2015
Beatrice Borromeo is a member of the ancient Italian aristocratic House of Borromeo and is a well-known TV personality and journalist in her homeland. She married Pierre Casiraghi, the grandson of Grace Kelly, in the summer of 2015 and was praised as one of the most fashionable royal brides ever.
Beatrice wore five custom made gowns to her big day, two of which were designed by Valentino, who has close ties to her family. She also wore a design by another Italian designer, Giorgio Armani, which featured a high neckline and mid-length lace covered sleeves.
In the picture above, the bride can be seen wearing a low-cut, white grecian, flowing diaphanous silk tulle long dress with voluminous skirt and train by Armani Privé.
Princess Claire of Luxemberg - 17 September 2013
German bioethics researcher Claire Lademacher married Prince Felix of Luxemberg in the health spa Königstein im Taunus, situated on the thickly-wooded slopes of the Taunus in Hesse, Germany.
Her dress was a big focus of the day, attracting plenty of attention thanks to its A-list credentials, having been designed by Ellie Saab. The floor-length, long-sleeved dress featured intricate Chantilly lace floral motifs all over it and shimmered in the sun after being stitched with glimmering silver thread.
It also had a three-metre long flowing train covered in a neo baroque flower design which continued through the length of the silk tulle veil. Princess Claire used a glittering tiara to fix her veil in place, and donned a matching pair of diamond earrings.
Kate Middleton - 29 April 2011
Kate Middleton wore a custom-made Alexander McQueen show-stopper of a gown for her wedding to Prince William, which took place on the 29 April 2011 in London’s Westminster Abbey.
Designed by Sarah Burton for the famous fashion brand, Kate’s gown was rumoured to cost $434,000 (£310,7oo) to make and featured a satin bodice, padded hips (a McQueen signature), a delicate mix of lily, rose, thistles and shamrock floral patterns which were individually applied to machine-made net.
The dress’s skirt was designed to imitate the opening of a flower, with a blue ribbon hidden inside to represent ‘something blue’. Middleton’s ‘something borrowed’ was incredibly impressive, as she was loaned the Queen’s Cartier diamond tiara for the day, originally purchased for the Queen Mother and given to Elizabeth II on her 18th birthday.
Charlene of Monaco - 1 July 2011
Charlene Wittstock is a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa and met her husband, Albert II Prince of Maonaco, at a swimming competition back in 2000. The couple were publicly seen together in 2006 and continued to date for four years before announcing their engagement in 2010.
The wedding of the Princess and Prince of Monaco was described at the time as the biggest party the country had seen for 55 years, and was attended by celebrities such as Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Charlene, Princess of Monaco’s Armani Privé dress was fashioned from exquisite duchesse silk and took three seamstresses 2,500 hours to make and featured a five-meter-long train adorned with 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother-of-pearl teardrops.
She decided not to wear the Van Cleef and Arpels tiara that had been made for her, but instead kept it in Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum so that she could wear two diamond hair clips, previously owned by her grandmother, instead.
Zara Phillips - 30 July 2011
Zara Phillips married Mike Tindall at Canongate Kirk church in Edinburgh on the 30 July 2011, in a ceremony attended by members of the royal family including the Queen and celebrities such as The Saturday’s Una Healy and rugby player Jonny Wilkinson.
Phillips wore a full-skirted wedding dress with corseted bodice, designed by royal favourite, Stewart Parvin. The skirt had concealed pockets and unlike many other royal brides, a modest train. It also had a dropped waist, designed to create a bell-shaped silhouette.
Similar to Kate Middleton, Phillips opted for a glitzy Greek Key tiara as her ‘something borrowed’, which was from her mum, Princess Anne. It secured her stunning cathedral-length veil, which was fashioned from fine silk tulle with a short blusher to cover her face on the way to the church.
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden - 19 June 2010
Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden married personal trainer and gym owner Daniel Westling in Stockholm Cathedral on the 19 June 2010. The pair met because Westling was personal trainer to the royal and they were first spotted kissing at a friend’s birthday party.
For the wedding she wore an ivory silk, off-the-shoulder gown designed for her by Par Engsheden. Her five-metre train flowed outwards from the waist and matched the shape of her veil which was held in place by the same tiara Queen Silvia wore to her wedding in 1976.
Princess Tatiana of Greece - 25 August 2010
Tatiana Blatnik married Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark in a sunset ceremony held on the hills of the island of Spetses on the 25 August 2010. She donned a gown made by New York based Venezuelan designer, Angel Sanchez, which featured a strapless bodice and flowing layers of lace.
The entire dress was covered in 131 feet of French chantilly lace and fashioned around a flattering, molded bodice which showed off the princess’s incredible figure.
Princess Tatiana’s hair was styled into a chic up do, and fixed with a tiara she’d been lent by her mother-in-law, Queen Anne-Marie.
Lady Rose Windsor - 19 July 2008
Lady Rose Windsor, daughter of the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin, married George Gilman at St James’s Palace in London on the 19 July 2008.
The bride wore a floor-length gown in an ivory hue, designed by London-based dressmakers, Franka Couture. Lady Rose finished the simple look with a dazzling diamond tiara which belonged to Queen Mary, her late great-grandmother.
Autumn Kelly - 17 May 2008
Autumn Kelly took on the surname Phillips when she married Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne and the oldest grandchild of the Queen. The pair met in Canada, Kelly’s homeland, in 2003 while they were both attending the Grand Prix.
Kelly moved to the UK to live with Peter in an apartment in Kensington, London, and the pair announced their engagement in 2007 after four years of dating. The couple married at St George’s Church in the grounds of Windsor Castle and were witnessed by 300 guests including the Queen.
The bride’s dress was designed by Sassi Holford and consisted of a fitted bodice made of hand-beaded lace, a silk duchesse skirt and a beaded French lace shrug to keep the chill off her shoulders.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall - 9 April 2005
Charles and Camilla’s relationship infamously started long before their marriage. Although the pair had been close since before the Prince’s wedding to Princess Diana, it wasn’t until 2005 that they officially tied the knot in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall.
Camilla opted for an impressively embellished blue-gold damask coat by Robinson Valentine for the day. The pronounced, upturned collar was decorated with a beautiful gold pattern, which was supposed to resemble a piece of the bride’s mother’s jewelry.
She wore a chic, chiffon dress underneath her coat and accessorised with a gold, feathered hat by famous milliner, Philip Treacy.
Queen Letizia of Spain - 22 May 2004
Journalist and news anchor Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano became Queen Letizia of Spain after marrying King Felipe VI in the Cathedral Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid. This was the first royal wedding to ever grace the cathedral, and the first royal wedding Madrid had seen in a century.
Couturier Manuel Pertegaz designed the stunning silk-woven dress worn by the bride, distinctive because of its high collar and statement flared sleeves. The dress had a fifteen-foot-train which was embroidered with real gold and a beautiful floral pattern.
Layered over her up-do, Letizia wore a delicate lace veil, secured with a diamond tiara and donned matching diamond earrings for some serious sparkle.
Princess Mary of Denmark - 14 May 2004
Princess Mary, a law graduate from Australia, met Prince Frederik of Denmark in the most normal of ways. Away from the glittering events of A-list socialites, the pair hit it off in a pub during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and continued to date despite the distance between their homelands.
Prince Frederik put a ring on it in at Copenhagen Cathedral on 14 May 2004. Princess Mary wore a chic, simple, duchesse satin gown to the ceremony made by Danish fashion designer Uffe Frank. It featured a 19-foot-train and reportedly had the wedding ring of the bride’s late mother stitched inside, close to her heart.
Sarah, Duchess of York - 23 July 1986
Sarah Ferguson, daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson, originally met Prince Andrew, third child of the Queen, when they were both children but they didn’t start a romantic relationship until they were introduced again by Princess Diana at a party in 1985.
Within a year, the pair were engaged as Andrew proposed to Sarah on his 26th birthday with a ring he designed himself, and they married just months afterwards. On 23 July 1986 the couple wed at Westminster Abbey.
Sarah wore an elaborate ivory duchesse satin wedding grown designed by British couturier and fashion designer, Lindka Cierach, who is favoured with royals and nobility. The dress was quite flamboyant in shape which was typically popular at the time and was copied by legions of brides afterwards.
It featured heavy beading in the shape of a number of sentimental symbols, from hearts to anchors to represent Andrew’s sailing background and thistles, which are part of his family crest.
Princess of Wales, Diana - 29 July 1981
Princess Diana is arguably the most iconic and well-loved royal of our time, so it’s no surprise that her wedding to Prince Charles at St Paul’s Cathedral in London sparked a wave of copycat wedding dress designs.
Diana’s gown is famous for its exaggerated silhouette, which is classic of its time, and elaborate embroidery which featured 10,000 pearls. The dress was created by husband-and-wife design team David and Elizabeth Emanuel and shocked guests and viewers because of its record-breaking 25-foot train.
Diana had a blue ribbon stitched to the inside of her waistband to count for her ‘something blue’, and wore an 18th century-era tiara from her family’s heirloom collection as her ‘something borrowed’. Inside the back of the gown, the Emanuels attached an 18-carat gold trinket studded with white diamonds, fixed to the label.
Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark - 18 September 1964
Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark married King Constantine II of Greece on 18 September 1964, two weeks after Anne-Marie’s 18th birthday. The couple were initially introduced when Anne-Marie was 13 years old, when Constantine (her third cousin) accompanied his parents on a state visit to Denmark, and only met sporadically over the coming years.
The princess looked beautiful for her wedding day in a three-quarter-length sleeved dress that cinched in her waist with a satin band. She wore an intricate, delicate lace veil secured by a sparkling tiara.
Duchess of Kent, Katharine Worsley - 8 June 1961
On the 8 June 1961, Katherine Worsley married Prince Edward, the eldest son of Prince George and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, at York Minster. It was a high-profile affair, with several European royals in attendance as well as actors and celebrities.
London-based Irish couturier John Cavanagh designed the Duchess’s wedding dress, which was created from gossamer white silk gauze and woven with a formal design in iridescent silvery thread that sparkled and shimmered. The dress’s silhouette was full-skirted, with a fitted upper body and long lace sleeves.
Princess Birgitta of Sweden - 25 May 1961
Born at Haga Palace in Stockholm, Princess Birgitta is the second child of Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten and Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg. When she was 22 years old, Birgitta took a trip to Germany where she attended a cocktail party and met her future husband, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern.
The pair married at the Royal Palace of Stockholm on the 25 May 1961 but because both parties were from different countries with different religions, two separate ceremonies were held.
The princess wore a typical Sixties style wedding dress, accentuating an hour-glassed figure with pulled in waist and full skirt. She wore different tiaras for the two ceremonies, though, here donning a diamond circlet with clover-shaped toppers and a traditional sprig of myrtle.
Princess Margaret - 6 May 1960
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones on the 6 May 1960 at London’s Westminster Abbey. The pair were originally introduced by friends, after Princess Margaret reportedly asked to be set up with someone who “doesn’t breed horses, own land, or know my mother.”
Upon marrying, the pair were known as Countess and Count of Snowdon and their wedding was the first royal ceremony to be broadcast on television. Princess Margaret wore a dress designed by a favourite royal couturier at the time, Norman Hartnell, which was made from silk organza.
The dress was uncommonly simple for a royal wedding gown, but was praised for its elegance and sophistication with women’s magazines heralding it “stunningly tailored” and “a study in simplicity.” It’s said that the reason for the dress’s chic appearance was so as not to overwhelm Princess Margaret’s petite figure.
Grace Kelly - 18 April 1956
American actor Grace Kelly tied the knot with Prince Rainier III of Monaco on the 19 April 1956, officially becoming the Princess of Monaco. Her wedding dress is often cited as one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, praised for its chic and elegant aesthetic.
The gown was created by Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose, who had worked with Grace on costumes for four of her films. Some say the full-length lace sleeves of Grace’s dress are what made this style so popular, which were embroidered with antique Brussels lace and covered in hundreds of seed pearls.
The Prince of Monaco wasn’t the tallest of chaps and so as to avoid the bride towering above her husband-to-be, the actor wore just 2½-inch heels designed by David Evins. They were decorated with seed pearls and lace and had a copper penny hidden inside the right shoe for luck.
Queen Elizabeth II - 20 November 1947
The then-Princess Elizabeth II married Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey on the 20 November 1947. Her dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who submitted several ideas before the final ivory silk design was approved just three months before the wedding.
Hartnell counted Botticelli’s famous depiction of spring, the painting Primavera, as his inspiration, and covered the dress in floral references and 10,000 seed pearls. It had a fitted bodice, heart-shaped neckline, with a low v-pointed waist and a floor-length panelled skirt with a 15-foot silk tulle full court train.
Although the dress shimmered with a golden hue, the Queen was forced to use clothing coupons to pay for her gown because of the ration constrictions of World War II. Hundreds of people sent their coupons to the Palace to try and help pay for the wedding dress, but they were all returned.
Princess Astrid of Sweden - 4 November 1926
Astrid Princess of Sweden became Queen consort of the Belgians after marrying Prince Leopold III in Stockholm on 4 November 1926. Unlike many at the time, the marriage was not arranged. Leopold’s parents, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, announced to the press that it was a “true union” and “marriage of love.”
Astrid wore a white satin gown trimmed with seed pearls and a veil fashioned from Brussels lace, that had previously been worn by her mother and her sister Margaretha at their own weddings.
The Queen Mother, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon - 26 April 1923
Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. On her way to the ceremony, Elizabeth unknowingly started a tradition, as she unexpectedly laid her bouquet of flowers at the tomb of the Unknown Solider in memory of her brother Fergus. Since that moment, many brides have done the same, although more commonly after their ceremony than before.
Lady Elizabeth’s dress was was made from deep ivory chiffon moire and embroidered with pearls and silver thread to give it some sparkle. It was designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, a favourite of Queen Mary. The gown’s shape was typical of the time, with a classic twenties-style drop waist.
It had some sentimental and unusual touches, including a strip of Brussels lace inserted into the dress which was a Strathmore family heirloom. The dress also had a silver leaf girdle with a trail of spring green tulle which trailed to the ground and a silver and rose thistle fasten.