I have been interested in the story of Queen Victoria and her Prince, Albert, since I first visited their beautiful seaside retreat on the Isle of Wight. Osborne House is a monument to this extraordinary couple, with their initials woven into many of the furnishings, loving portraits in all of the major rooms and hallways filled with extravagant presents from one to the other.
Victoria and Albert were prolific correspondents and the Queen began her wedding day, 10 February 1840, by sending a note to her fiancé asking how he had slept and expressing a belief that the bad weather that morning would soon give way to sunshine. She later visited to check on him in person disregarding the tradition that brides should not see their groom until the wedding service began – just one of many defiant acts that this particular monarch would later become renowned for.
The sun did indeed come out that day, but not in time for Victoria’s journey to the Chapel Royal at St James’s. Albert was waiting for her and her twelve bridesmaids wearing a British field-marshal’s uniform and the insignia of the Order of the Garter that had been granted to him just a few days before. He had also partaken in a ceremony that made him an official subject of his bride to be.
Victoria wore white satin with a crown of orange blossoms and a veil of Honiton lace framing her face. She also sported an early present from her new husband in the form of a sapphire brooch set with diamonds. Both appeared nervous (the orange blossoms were described as quivering) but the ceremony went well. This must have been a huge relief after Victoria’s coronation which had been marred by repeated mistakes on the part of the clergy and problems with an ill-fitting ring. There were, however, some murmurings about the political partiality of the guest list which must be even more of a headache for a reigning monarch than for your average bride.
During a brief private interlude when the service was completed, Victoria gave Albert a wedding ring and they vowed never to have any secrets from one another. Anyone who has seen their companion desks in the study at Osborne will realise the everyday closeness that resulted from this private vow.
The wedding breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace, the highlight being a cake which weighed 300lbs and required four servants to carry it in, before the newlyweds travelled to Windsor through streets lined with people, including a great posse of cheering schoolboys from nearby Eton – future government ministers no doubt!
After a modest supper the two spent their first evening together as husband and wife. In Victoria’s journal entry from that day we catch a glimpse of the breathless young girl behind the mask of composed head of state:
“I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert sat on a footstool by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!”
Although their marriage was to come to a premature end with Albert’s death in 1861, theirs was a great love story and a hugely productive partnership. The Victorian Age is often presented as a restrictive and backward looking time but there was also much innovation, with Albert at the forefront of many reforming social campaigns, a leader in the organisation of 1851’s Great Exhibition and the introducer of Christmas trees to England.
Victoria was to outlive her husband by forty years but to the end of her reign the bedroom at Osborne House contained a portrait of Albert above his empty pillow and his personal effects remain just where he had left them.
Interested in a particular royal wedding and fancy writing a guest post about it? Let me know!