The 10 most exquisite royal wedding dresses of all time

2018-02-23 17:53

Johannesburg - You’ve probably heard, but there’s another lavish royal wedding on the cards – and we can’t wait!

Of course, the question on everyone’s lips is what America’s sweetheart Meghan Markle (36) will be wearing when she walks down the aisle to meet Prince Harry in May.

She didn’t hold back for her engagement shoot in December, choosing an over-the-top £56 000 (R909 000), sheer couture gown by British design house Ralph & Russo – but the Suits star certainly has some competition in the royal brides who’ve come before her.

We take a look back on the most glamourous royal wedding gowns of all time.

10 Crown Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz

The king and queen of Spain definitely are a genetically blessed pair – so when they tied the knot in a lavish ceremony at Madrid's Almudena Cathedral in 2004.

Letizia, previously a TV reporter who met then Prince Felipe at a dinner organised by a journalist friend, opted for a more modern look for her big day. According to InStyle, the collared gown by Manuel Pertegaz featured a train over 4m long!

A silk veil and diamond tiara – the same one the prince's mother, Queen Sofia, wore when she married King Juan Carlos – added a classic touch to the structured look. 

The couple ascended the throne after Felipe’s father abdicated in 2014, and are now titled King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.

9 Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

After her older sister, The Queen, turned down Margaret’s request to wed Peter Townsend – their father King George VI’s former equerry – Princess Margaret found love with photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.

The pair tied the knot in a televised ceremony in 1960 at Westminster Abbey, during which Margaret (then 30) donned a gown by Norman Hartnell, who also designer her sister’s wedding dress.

In 1960, Life magazine dubbed the silk organza creation "the simplest royal wedding gown in history". It’s also been described as Hartnell’s most sophisticated pieces.

The couple divorced in 1978 – the first for royals in 400 years.

8 Prince William and Kate Middleton

With over 1 billion people watching Kate and Will’s say “I do” at Westminster Abbey in 2011, it’s no wonder her gown is so iconic.

The long-sleeved, collared Alexander McQueen design cost a rumoured $434 000 (R4,9 million) to make, according to CBS.

7. Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Kendra Spears

Talk about a real-life fairytale! Seattle-born supermodel Kendra Spears (29) became Princess Salwa when she wed her beau, Prince Rahim Aga Khan (46), the oldest son of the Shia Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader Aga Khan IV in Geneva, Switzerland in 2013.

According to Hello!, Prince Rahim is the heir to a community, rather than a kingdom. His father is leader of the 25 million-strong Ismaili Muslim community.

For the lavish event the brunette beauty, who converted to Islam to wed her Persian prince, donned a traditional sari in ivory and gold, paired with delicate jewellery, nude sandals and a chignon, Vogue reports.

6. Prince Felix and Claire Lademacher

To marry Prince Felix of Luxembourg (33), the second son of the Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, German-born Claire (32) pulled out all the stops.

The bioethics researcher swapped her lab coat for an embellished Elie Saab gown with a 3m train, naturally.

According to Hello!, the elaborate ivory-coloured silk dress by the Lebanese designer was intricately embroidered with Chantilly lace floral motifs and glimmering silver thread.

A glittering tiara and a silk tulle veil sat atop her dark locks on the big day at the Sainte Marie-Madeleine Basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, France.

5. Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist

She may have been a former semi-nude model in a naughty men’s magazine – but Sofi Hellqvist was every inch a princess when she wed her Prince Charming.

The former reality show star (33) and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden (38) wed on 13 June 2015 in Stockholm, after nearly five years of dating.

Sofia – now mom to two boys, Prince Alexander (1) Prince Gabriel (6 months) donned a demure, long-sleeved white silk and lace gown by Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt. The gown was made from silk crepe overlaid with Italian silk organza, Hello! reported at the time, and featured elaborate couture lace made by José María Ruiz. The dress, which Sofia paired with a hand embroidered veil and a sparkling tiara, was made in not one by three shades of white.

4. Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock

The moment Charlene stepped out of the Pink Palace in the show-stopping Armani Privé duchesse silk dress on her wedding day in 2011, she became a sartorial force to be reckoned with.

The former SA Olympic swimmer may have grown up in Benoni, but she looked every inch a royal in the gown of sumptuous simplicity, perfectly suited to her trademark, elegant style.

The dress – which Charlene (40) has since dubbed Armami’s masterpiece, took three seamstresses 2 500 hours to make, according to Vogue. It features a 5m long train ornamented with 40 000 Swarovski crystals and 20 000 mother-of-pearl teardrops. Incredibly, the dress isn’t the only one of its kind!

“It was such a huge responsibility that we actually made two dresses just in case something happened to one of them,” Roberta Armani, Giorgio’s niece revealed.

3. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Then Princess Elizabeth, the Queen said her vows to dashing naval officer Philip Mountbatten over 70 years ago, in 1947.

The then 21-year-old’s gown was created by British courtier and designer Norman Hartnell. It was made with ivory silk and decorated with beautiful floral designs of jasmine, smilax, lilac and rose. The ensemble is said to have been inspired by Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting, Primavera.

The satin train, which was encrusted with 10 000 seed pearls imported from America.

According to The Express, Her Majesty (91) had to ration coupons to buy the material for the dress – with the nuptials taking place just two years after the Second World War – so it’s unclear how much the ensemble cost.

But hit Netflix series The Crown may have given us an indication of how much a gown like this one would cost today. A replica of the Queen’s beautiful wedding dress was created for the opulent series – and it cost £30 000 (R487 000), Harper’s Bazaar reports. That’s a lot of coupons!

2. Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo

When Italian aristocrat and TV presenter Beatrice (32) married Pierre Casiraghi (30), son of Caroline Princess of Hanover in 2015, she did it in suitably lavish style.

Clearly, nothing was too good for the daughter of the Count of Arona and a Monegasque princess’ son – including two wedding ceremonies.

The first was a civil ceremony on 25 July 2015 in the gardens of the Pink Palace, home to Pierre’s uncle Prince Albert. The religious ceremony took place on 1 August 2015 on Isola Bella, one of the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore, Italy, Forbes reports. Yip, that’s Borromean – as in owned by Beatrice’s family.

She may be an Italian royal, but for the opulent reception after the second ceremony, Beatrice wore a gown fit for a Grecian goddess. The bride had no less than five outfit changes for the celebrations, but the Giorgio Armani creation, which featured a low-cut, long flowing diaphanous silk tulle dress with ample skirt and train, was far and away the most spectacular.

1. Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly

She’d always been Hollywood’s princess – but in 1956, the US actress became a royal in every sense of the word.

Grace Kelly, then 26, wed Monaco’s monarch Prince Rainer (then 32) in a wedding that’s still touted as the standard for glamour and style – but it was Grace’s out-of-this-world gown that stole the show.

The elaborate ensemble, which inspired Miranda Kerr and even the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dresses, was actually a gift to the Oscar winner from film studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to The Telegraph.

The famous dress was created by Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose, and it took a whopping 30 seamstresses six weeks to make.

The gown featured delicate 125-year-old lace and a silk faille skirt with three petticoats – a smoothing petticoat, ruffled petticoat, and foundation petticoat. Goodness!

Sources: Hello!Harper’s Bazaar, The Express, Vogue, The Telegraph, Forbes, The Express, InStyle

(Photo: Getty Images)

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