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The most beautiful and iconic royal wedding dresses through time

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Megan Murray
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Take a trip back in time with us, as we marvel at some of the most beautiful royal wedding dresses in the last century. 

This year has been a memorable one when it comes to royal weddings.

Back in May, the world watched as Meghan Markle donned Givenchy to tie the knot with Prince Harry in one of the most high-profile ceremonies the British monarchy has ever seen. And today, Princess Eugenie walks down the same aisle in St George’s Chapel, Windsor to meet her fiancé Jack Brooksbank.

A mixture of regal rules and contemporary fashions have determined the style of royal wedding dresses in years gone by, from Princess Diana’s over-sized Eighties meringue to Kate Middleton’s full-length lace sleeves.

Below, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most stylish, eye-catching and memorable wedding dresses worn by royal brides over the years, from the UK and beyond.

Princess Eugenie - 12 October 2018

Princess Eugenie graced the aisle of  St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in a beautiful dress designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos. Eugenie met the British designers when she was co-hosting an event in support of women artists and is said to have been a fan of their designs ever since, regularly donning them to events. 

The dress features a number of symbols that nod to both the royal family’s Celtic heritage and Eugenie’s husband, Jack Brooksbank’s fondness for Balmoral in Scotland. 

The Princees accessorised with a glittering Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara made in 1919 and lent to her by Her Majesty The Queen, as well as a pair of diamond and emerald drop earrings  which were a gift from the groom.

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex - 19 May 2018

Actor, women’s rights advocate and humanitarian Meghan Markle is one of the most famous brides in history. From the moment Prince Harry and Markle announced they were dating, fascination with the former Suits star began to build and by the time the pair tied the knot in May 2018, every news outlet around the globe was waiting with baited breath to see what she would wear as she walked down the aisle.

Markle’s ceremony wedding dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller for French fashion house Givenchy, with a chic open bateau neckline and minimalist style. The bride worked closely with Waight Keller on the design, choosing to epitomise “a timeless minimal elegance referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy and showcasing the expert craftsmanship of its world-renowned Parisian couture atelier founded in 1952,” according to Kensington Palace.

She was also keen to represent the 53 countries of the Commonwealth in her bridal look, and asked for a veil designed to feature the flora of each Commonwealth country, all united in one spectacular floral composition.

For her wedding shoes, Markle opted for a Givenchy refined pointed couture design made of a silk duchess satin. She also wore a tiara, earrings and bracelet by Cartier.

Princess Sofia of Sweden - 13 June 2015

Sofia Hellqvist, a former TV personality and yoga instructor, married Prince Carl Philip of Sweden on 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 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, Grecian-style silk tulle dress with a 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 Ellie Saab dress was a big focus of the day, attracting plenty of attention thanks to its A-list credentials. The floor-length, long-sleeved gown featured intricate chantilly lace floral motifs 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 29 April 2011 in London’s Westminster Abbey. 

Designed by Sarah Burton for the famous fashion brand, Kate’s gown was rumoured to cost £310,7oo to make. It featured a satin bodice, padded hips (a McQueen signature), and a delicate mix of lily, rose, thistles and shamrock floral patterns, 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: 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 took three seamstresses 2,500 hours to make. Fashioned from duchesse silk, it 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 kept it in Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum. Instead, she wore two diamond hair clips previously owned by her grandmother. 

Zara Phillips - 30 July 2011

Zara Phillips, the daughter of Princess Anne, married Mike Tindall at Canongate Kirk church in Edinburgh on 30 July 2011. The ceremony was attended by members of the royal family including the Queen and celebrities such as The Saturdays’ 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’, on loan from 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 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 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, moulded bodice. 

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 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 formerly 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.  

Letizia wore a delicate lace veil secured with a diamond tiara over her up-do, 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. However, they didn’t start a romantic relationship until they were introduced again by Princess Diana at a party in 1985. 

The pair were engaged within a year: Andrew proposed to Sarah on his 26th birthday with a ring he designed himself. They married just months afterwards at Westminster Abbey, on 23 July 1986. 

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 flamboyant in shape which was 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, including anchors (representing Andrew’s sailing background) and thistles, which are part of his family crest.

Princess of Wales, Diana - 29 July 1981

Princess Diana was arguably the most iconic and well-loved royal of the 20th century, 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 was typical of the era, and elaborate embroidery featuring 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 fixed an 18-carat gold trinket studded with white diamonds 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, 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

Katherine Worsley married Prince Edward, the eldest son of Prince George and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, on 8 June 1961 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, Birgitta took a trip to Germany where she met her future husband, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, at a cocktail party.

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 hourglass figure with pulled-in waist and full skirt. She wore different tiaras for the two ceremonies, donning a diamond circlet with clover-shaped toppers and a traditional sprig of myrtle at the event in Stockholm. 

Princess Margaret -  6 May 1960

The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones on 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 the Countess and Count of Snowdon and their wedding was the first royal ceremony to be broadcast on television. Princess Margaret wore a silk organza dress designed by a favourite royal couturier at the time, Norman Hartnell. 

The dress was uncommonly simple for a royal wedding gown, but was praised for its elegance and sophistication with women’s magazines heralding it as “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 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 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 20 November 1947. Her dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who submitted several ideas before the final ivory silk design was approved 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, 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.

Images: Getty