Proof has been given in times gone by, and will be again, of Queen Mary's universally admired resolve to patronise only British goods. When her Majesty was married she wore white satin woven by the famous Spitalfields weavers, and at the coronation of King Edward the Royal purple velvet she wore as Princess of Wales was of home-made manufacture, and her Coronation dress and robes are all woven by the same weavers, who now work at Brain-tree, in Essex, instead of in East London.
The Queen's loyalty to the manufactories of her country is inherited from her ancestor, King George III., who, when his sister, Princess Augusta, was about to be married to the Duke of Brunswick, commanded that all the dress materials to be worn on the occasion of the wedding were to be of English make.
Those were the days of flagrant smuggling. Foreign laces were prohibited in England, but those who desired them took strategic means to smuggle them across the Channel themselves, or employed others to do so for them. As a result, a strict surveillance was resorted to by the Revenue officers, and the title of everyone who wore foreign lace was examined in order that a stop might be put to inland importations.
As it was discovered that King George III.'s command as to home - made fabrics and laces was not likely to be obeyed at the wedding of his sister, and that orders were being given for the pro-hibited foreign materials, a great raid was planned by the Custom
House officers, which was carried out three days before the wedding. What was the horror of those' who had disobeyed their king for the gratification of their own vanity when these beautiful foreign fabrics, exquisite laces, and the gold and silver decorations for their wedding garments were seized from the Court milliners, who could only protest against a forfeiture which they were unable to prevent. . That it is possible for a wedding of national importance to place an industry on a stable footing has often been proved. The pursuit of lace-making has specially benefited by the generous patronage which has been afforded by Royal brides. When the time of Queen Victoria's marriage approached, great was the joy of Devonshire upon the receipt of an order for a Honiton lace wedding veil and dress for her Majesty's wear. The lace, which cost 1,000, was
Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort as they appeared at Buckingham Palace after the marriage ceremony From a drawing by F. Lock made by workers in and about the little village of Beer, in South Devon, where, to this day, may be found fragments of some of the sprigs used for the Royal apparel.
The bridal dress worn by Queen Alexandra was designed in accordance with m i d-victorian taste, for the crinoline was then in fashion, and the white satin skirt, with its orange - blossoms and Honiton lace decorations, was distended over a cage-like background, that brought into relief the slight and delicate figure of the beautiful young Princess.
This lace had been specially made in Devonshire, and was patterned with the Prince of Wales's plumes as well as with the rose, the shamrock, and thistle. It draped the corsage and veiled the bride's exquisite coiffure, and was held in its place upon her head by a wreath of orange-blossom and a coronet of diamonds, the gift of the bridegroom, the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII. The superb train of silver moire antique had nosegays of orange-blossoms disposed upon it, and soft bouillonnees of tulle. The Princess's hair was charmingly dressed, and she wore hanging clown her neck the long curls that have been since called by her name.
Queen Victoria's daughters, the Princess Royal and Princess Alice, also wore lace made at Honiton at their weddings
Though every bride of modern days, who can contrive to do so, chooses the regulation satin toilette with a veil, preferably of old lace or of tulle edged with lace, or hemmed with gems, such attire has not always been de riguer.
Quiet weddings were the fashion in the early part of the nineteenth century, though the festivities were kept up from early morn till late at night, when the bride and bridegroom departed to their new home. Honeymoons were not common at that time, and it was probably in order that the bride might enjoy the festivities of the day in comfort that she wore a short white "lutestring" dress and a poke bonnet draped with a veil. Lutestring was a silk greatly in vogue a hundred years ago.
There were many runaway marriages at that period, for it was quite fashionable to make a rush for Gretna Green, a village on the borders of Scotland and England, there to be united by the blacksmith of the place. Hovers who pined under the cruel edicts of stern parents took the law into their own hands, and escaped by coach or on horseback to the place where they could be married without delay and without awkward questions being asked.
H.M. Queen Mary in her wedding dress. The dress was made of white satin, which was woven at Spitalfields - an example of her Majesty's determination to patronise only British goods Photo, W. & D. Downey
No thoughts were there of elaborate wedding dresses and beautiful orange-blossom- imprisoned wreaths, on the part of the agitated and tearful brides who flew in their lovers' embrace from the ancestral home, with an irate father in hot chase after them. A riding-habit or a travelling hood and cloak - both very picturesque forms of raiment in their way - sufficed as a marriage garment under such distressful and exciting circumstances. We will turn from the al fresco conditions of the runaway wedding to the pomp and ceremony that attended the marriage of the bride of Napoleon III., the beautiful Empress Eugenie, which took place in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, in the fifties of last century.
The young bride, whose mode of dressing made her the cynosure of neighbouring eyes, was exquisitely attired. Her dress was one of white terry velvet, with a very long train, and the basque bodice, which was cut high, was ablaze with diamonds of the most costly description and radiant with sapphires. Orange-blossoms mingled their pure loveliness with the gems. There was a magnificent display also of the richest lace, and point d'angleterre was the chosen kind, because it had been found impossible to procure as a veil the point d'alencon that it had been intended should be worn. The skirt of the gown was covered with lace.
The eminent Felix E s c a 1 i e r dressed the Empress's hair, which was always greatly admired, and, according to a picture of the period (here reproduced) it was arranged in smooth bands over the brow, with puffs over the ears. A superb coronet was placed as a glittering bandeau holding the lace veil in posi-tion. Orange blossoms were placed on each side. For a long time the Empress in her Royal marriage robe was talked about by the peo ple, and from that day onwards, until untoward fortune befell the gracious lady's career, her exquisite choice in dress was the pivot round which the fashions of the world gyrated.
In the Royal Family of France, it has generally been customary to order for the decoration of a marriage toilette lace made in the country. When the Princess Helene of France was married in 1895 to the Due d'aosta, she wore an exquisite wedding veil, which measured four and a half yards in length, made of point d'aleneon, on the groundwork of which was a beautiful floral design. The centre medallions enclosed the armorial bearings of the bridegroom, surmounted by the Cross of Savoy, the fleur-de-lys, and the arms of France. Her sisters at their nuptials wore lace of equal splendour, and with the heraldic significance applicable to their state.
The Empress Eugenie, famous for her elaborate toilettes, arrayed in the magnificent dress in which she was married to Napoleon III.
The beautiful custom, usual in Spain and Portugal, of dedication, giving the wedding dress to the Virgin, has often been exemplified in history. In the eighteenth century a sister of the then King of Portugal, married at the age of seventeen, offered to the Virgin at the Church of Madre de Dios, not only the dress of exquisite point lace in which she had just been married, but also her jewels.
In our own times we have an example of a Royal wedding dress dedicated to the shrine of the Virgin of the Dove in Madrid, by Princess Ena of Batten-berg, upon her marriage to King Alfonso XIII. of Spain. The shrine is in a poor part of the old town of Madrid, near the principal church, San Francisco el Grande.
The gown was a superb one, made of white satin duchesse embroidered with silver roses and trimmed with exquisite point d'aiguillo Brussels lace. King Alfonso gave a very touching proof of his love for his mother by asking his bride to wear the lace veil that Queen Christina wore at her wedding to King Alfonso XII., and this was the veil which Princess Ena wore.