11 April 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's Gown

HRH The Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg and HRH Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium
April 9, 1953
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Today's gown is a little bit frothy, a little bit lacy, and I fear somewhat lost to the bad picture quality of its time. It was worn by Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium, daughter of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid of the Belgians, to marry Prince Jean, son and heir of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg.
True to its time, I suppose - this is 1953, years before the sleekness of the 1960s would creep into the royal wedding gown sphere - the gown itself is something of a meringue. A modest top buttons down to a fitted waist and flairs out into a full skirt with a fluffy train. Her ruffle accents make me smile because they seem a little 1980s to me, and no, I haven't gotten my decades confused: it's just that both of her daughters would use the similar accents when they married, both in 1982. Inspiration or a timeless accent, I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Joséphine-Charlotte's gown alongside her two daughters, Marie Astrid (center) and Margaretha (right)
In this typical dress, there are two particular points of interest, the first being her train. It seems that the top of that voluminous trail carried a most magnificent piece of Bruges lace. Precisely what you would expect from a Belgian princess keen to showcase the landmarks of her homeland, but hidden by the passage of time. This is a detail that doesn't particularly show up in the photographs and video from the time, especially given it was on the back of the dress which is not as pictured and was covered by a veil, which is so sad since it might just be the best part of the dress.
The best part except for the second point of interest in this bridal ensemble, that is. Joséphine-Charlotte pulled two different tiaras out of her wedding experience, which just gets a big standing ovation from me (I mean, if you can't do that when you're the bride, when can you?). The Congo Necklace Tiara was worn for the ceremony and some of the official pictures, while the Belgian Scroll Tiara was worn for different pictures; both were among J-C's wedding gifts. The Congo tiara was also worn by both daughters above, and by daughter-in-law Maria Teresa for their respective weddings.
The Congo Necklace Tiara, left; the Belgian Scroll Tiara, right
It is often said that Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte's match was an arranged marriage, or at least a heavily suggested one cooked up by the bride's grandmother, Queen Elisabeth, and the groom's mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte (who was also Joséphine-Charlotte's godmother, incidentally). Some reports say that one or even both of the participants were in love with commoners deemed unsuitable at the time. Certainly this pairing had advantages for both sides.
News report from the wedding
Regardless of the initial circumstances, it seems to have been a good match in the end. The couple had five children and were married for more than 50 years. Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in her son's favor in 1964; Jean reigned as Luxembourg's grand duke until 2000, when he abdicated for his son, Henri. Joséphine-Charlotte passed away after fighting a losing battle with lung cancer in 2005.

What do you make of J-C's frothy gown?