31 August 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Heirloom Veils

Royal weddings are just rife with tradition, and that's one of the reasons why I love 'em. From borrowed jewels to bits of fabric reused time and again, royal families around the world have multiple wedding traditions to choose from.

Today's focus is a reader request (and a brilliant one at that) on one tradition in particular: the heirloom veil. It's the easiest part of a bridal ensemble to pass down through the generations, and several royal families have made a practice of passing wedding veils from bride to bride.

There are those brides that have carried a tradition one generation through; for example, Queen Sofia of Spain wore the veil of her mother, Queen Frederika of Greece, when she married. But today we're talking about those veils that have become a multi-generational tradition.

In fact, we just saw a perfect example of this: Princess Sophie married in the Isenburg family veil, a piece that includes Brussels lace and the family crest and dates from 1830. An antique veil was also a feature in one of the weddings we saw earlier this summer:
Left to right: Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
Princess Margaret of Connaught (granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria) married Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden in 1905 wearing an Irish lace veil which was one of her wedding presents. Her only daughter, Princess Ingrid of Sweden, wore the same veil when she married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 1935. Ingrid was about 10 years old when her mother passed away, so it was no doubt an extremely meaningful gesture. Ingrid took the veil with her as she became Queen of Denmark, and started a tradition that continues today: all of her female descendants have married in the same veil.
L to R: Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Princess Alexia of Greece, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
The first of Ingrid's daughters to marry, Anne-Marie, spread the tradition into the Greek royal family when she married King Constantine of Greece. So far, Anne-Marie's daughter Alexia has worn it, and one imagines that we will see it again if/when her other daughter, Theodora, marries. Second, Queen Margrethe (then Crown Princess) wore it, and passed it along to the only non-descendant to wear it to date: Crown Princess Mary. Fitting for a future Queen of Denmark, wouldn't you say? Princess Benedikte wore it as well, for her wedding to German royal Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, and her two daughters, Alexandra and Nathalie, wore it for their own weddings. My vote for best-veiled in this lot goes to Queen Anne-Marie...but then again, I have an unnatural amount of affection for her entire wedding look.

Ingrid did not take all the veil tradition away from Sweden, though; they're doing just fine on their own.
L to R: Princess Sibylla, Princess Désirée, Princess Margaretha, Princess Christina, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria
Sweden's veil tradition stems from Queen Sofia, who passed this veil to her youngest son, Prince Eugen, who in turn gave it to Princess Sibylla (mother of the current king, Carl XVI Gustaf). Sibylla wore it for her marriage to Prince Gustaf Adolf in 1932, and her descendants have worn it since. Three of her daughters (Désirée, Margaretha, and Christina) wore it, as did Queen Silvia. Most recently, Crown Princess Victoria used it on her wedding day. My favorite way to wear this veil comes from Princess Christina. She didn't cover it up, like her two sisters did; she didn't bunch it up, like Silvia did; and you could still see it from the front, whereas it wasn't a huge feature of the front view of Victoria's bridal look.

Belgium has a lace veil tradition as well, as only befits a country known for its lacework. (Just a side note: if you've never seen it before, you may want to brace yourself for the glorious bastion of sleeve-age that is Princess Astrid's wedding gown.)
L to R: Queen Paola, Princess Astrid (see what I mean?), Princess Mathilde, Princess Claire
Here's the interesting thing about this veil: it comes from Queen Paola's Italian noble family, but it is still a Belgian work of art! It was originally worn in 1877 by Paola's Belgian grandmother, Laura Mosselman du Chenoy, when she married Don Beniamino, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, and it is made of three meters of Brussels lace. Queen Paola's mother wore the same veil at her wedding before it returned to Belgium when Paola wore it to marry Prince Albert. Since then, it has been worn by her daughter, Astrid, and her daughters-in-law, Mathilde and Claire. The veil's been restored twice - in advance of Astrid's wedding, and again for Mathilde's.

Infanta Cristina of Spain's veil is one of my favorites in this tradition. This veil has lived through an assassination attempt (how's that for history, eh?).
L to R: Queen Victoria Eugenia, Infanta Cristina
Originally commissioned for, and worn at, the wedding of King Alfonso XII of Spain and Queen Maria Christina in 1879, the veil's biggest test came when Queen Victoria Eugenia wore it at her wedding to King Alfonso XIII in 1906. Heading back to the palace, an anarchist threw a bomb at the royal carriage (the royal couple was unhurt). The veil survived, and was eventually bought by Spain's National Museum of Anthropology. After a restoration, they lent it to Cristina for her wedding day in 1997.

These are not all the examples out there; if I didn't cover it here, leave your favorite in the comments!

And tell me: who wore these veils best?