We’ve done it! We’ve moved from Nice, France to London, England! After eleven years in Nice, we arrived in London just in time for Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding and lots of sunshine. Let’s hope it lasts – the marriage and the sunshine.
It seems all the news lately has been about the royal wedding. And just in case you haven’t yet had your fill, here are seven curious royal wedding traditions that you might not know about:
1. Queen’s Permission
Members of the Royal Family – up to the sixth in line for the throne – must get permission from the Queen to marry. Harry is currently sixth in line, so he had to go to Granny for permission. She granted it and sent a letter to the Privy Council, her group of advisors, to confirm her consent.
In case you are wondering about the line-up to the throne: Prince Charles is first; Prince William is second; then Will and Kate’s children – George, Charlotte, and Louis take the third, fourth, and fifth spots. This leaves Harry in sixth place, but he could drop lower if Will and Kate were to have more children.
2. Honouring the Queen
After the couple have taken their wedding vows and start down the aisle to leave the church, they stop in front of the Queen. The groom bows and the bride curtseys. The royal family is supposed to bow/curtsey to the Queen the first time they see her each day.
Those lovely, multi-layer, royal wedding cakes are usually fruitcakes covered in white marzipan and thick white icing. After the cake is cut and the bride and groom have a piece, the staff takes the rest away to cut into servings for the guests. Often extra slices are packed into nice, monogramed boxes or tins and sent through the post to those who were invited but unable to attend or to charities or other organizations. These long-lasting, royal fruitcakes turn up in auctions from time to time. A slice of Charles and Diana’s 1981 wedding cake recently went to auction and was estimated to sell for around $1,200 or £882 – not bad for a thirty-seven-year-old piece of fruitcake.
Harry and Meghan broke with the fruitcake tradition opting instead for a lemon and elderflower cake. I don’t think that will last thirty-seven years!
You may not kiss the bride. When the couple is pronounced husband and wife, there is no kissing of the bride: it’s not allowed in the church. The royal couple usually save their first official smooch for the balcony of Buckingham Palace. But since Harry and Meghan were married in Windsor, Buckingham Palace was a bit too far, so they kissed on the church steps.
5. Bridesmaids and Pageboys
Bridesmaids and pageboys are very young: They are usually children related to the bride or groom, or children of friends. The bride can have an adult maid of honour (traditionally called a chief bridesmaid) and the groom can have one or more best men (traditionally called supporters).
But there are still rules, of course. A royal cannot be a maid of honour or best man for a non-royal. For example, when Kate Middleton married Prince William, her sister, Pippa was her maid of honour. But when Pippa recently married, Kate couldn’t officially be her maid of honour because Kate is now a royal and it wouldn’t do for a royal to walk down the aisle after a non-royal.
6. White Dress
The tradition of wearing a white lace wedding dress started with Queen Victoria. Although she wasn’t the first to get married in white, it seems her dress had the most enduring influence. At the time of her marriage, white was an unusual colour choice. She didn’t choose it because of its symbolism, but to highlight British industry. Her cream satin was woven in Spitalfields, the centre of London’s silk industry, and it was the perfect colour to highlight the white, handmade Honiton lace.
After Victoria’s wedding, a popular ladies magazine called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”
Another wedding tradition that harks back to Queen Victoria is carrying a sprig of myrtle in the bridal bouquet. It’s said that Prince Albert’s grandmother presented Victoria with a myrtle plant from Germany. The offspring of that plant are still growing at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight, and many royal brides (including Meghan Markle) tuck a sprig in their bouquet for luck.
Some of these traditions do have a bit of flexibility and Harry and Meghan have adhered to some and not to others. The British monarchy is slowly changing with the times: They have just welcomed a divorced American into the royal family. The last time a British royal married a divorced American it caused a king to abdicate. But Harry is pretty far down the line of succession, so I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Best of luck to the happy couple!
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