Heritage

The True Story of Queen Elizabeth's Wedding Dress

Just two years after the end of World War II, then-Princess Elizabeth had to pay for her gown using ration coupons.
IMAGE ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / GETTY
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When Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip married in November of 1947, the wedding served as an escape from post-WWII austerity in the UK.

Two years after the war was over, the British government was still recovering from the Blitz and rationing was in effect for everyone, even the royal family; the future Queen saved up clothing coupons to purchase her wedding dress.

She was granted 200 extra ration coupons for the celebration, but admirers of the young royal thought that wasn't enough, and quickly sent her theirs through the mail. Each one was returned with a note, as it was illegal to transfer them, and the princess made her post-War budget work.


Elizabeth was something of a last-minute bride by modern standards. The design of her dress, a stunning gown made from ivory silk and decorated with 10,000 seed pearls, was approved only three months before the wedding. Couturier Norman Hartnell wanted it to be “the most beautiful dress I had so far made."

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And it was beautiful. The dress was made silk from China (as opposed to Japan or Italy, given it was still so soon after the war) and its 15-foot train was inspired by Bottielli's painting of Primavera from 1482, and covered in delicate floral designs including"jasmine, smilax, seringa, and rose-like blossoms."


According to the Royal Collection Trust, it was meant to symbolize "rebirth and growth" in Britain after the war.

In total, the gown took 350 women seven weeks to make. "I had forgotten how beautiful it was, with that exquisite train—and how small the Princess was," Betty Foster, who worked on the dress told the Telegraph after looking at the gown on display at Buckingham Palace in 2007.

"On my way home from the wedding celebration, I remember everyone on the train was talking about the dress and I felt so proud to have worked on it."

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On the big day, the queen paired the dress with embellished satin heels made by Edward Rayne. Her crown, which held in place a silk tulle veil, had broken as she was getting ready for the ceremony; a royal jeweler was brought in straight away to make the repairs.

"With her bridal dress and tiara on her wedding day, she was a knockout," her bridesmaid, Lady Pamela Hicks, told People.

“And, of course, Philip was every girl’s dream Viking prince.”

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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