The Oldest Royal Wedding Dress Is Now on Display at Buckingham Palace

Princess Charlotte of Wales wore the sequined gown when she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in 1816.

Princess Charlotte's 1816 wedding dress

Heritage Images / Getty Images

From Princess Diana’s silk and taffeta ball gown with 10,000 pearls to Kate Middleton’s long-sleeved lace dress with floral appliqués, the royals have worn some of the most statement-making and influential wedding dresses of all time. After the royal couples tie the knot, the attire that they wore for their nuptials often goes on display at Buckingham Palace for the public to see up close. Now, the oldest British royal wedding dress is part of the palace’s collection, Tatler reports. On Friday, April 21, 2023, the sequined outfit that Princess Charlotte of Wales wore when she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in 1816 joined The Queen’s Gallery at an exhibition called “Style and Society: Dressing the Georgians” at the palace. 

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold on their wedding day

Heritage Images / Getty Images

The gown is truly one of a kind, with silver sequins, intricate floral details around the collar, puff sleeves, an empire waist, and a sweeping train. By the end of the 18th century, many royal brides started to wear white on their special day, but this metallic-hued iteration kept with the previous European tradition of featuring silver thread. According to the Royal Collection Trust, this sequined design is the only surviving royal wedding dress from the Georgian period. However, the dress has been altered from its original form because repurposing and recycling was a common practice during the Georgian era.

Princess Charlotte of Wales was the daughter of King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick. The monarch wanted his daughter to marry Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, a lieutenant-general in the Russian cavalry, Tatler reports. According to the Royal Collection Trust, it was considered the most important royal wedding of the era. Charlotte was in line to the throne, expecting to take over as the sovereign once her father died, but she passed away in 1817 after giving birth to her son. King William IV, King George VI’s brother, ascended the throne instead.

By adding Princess Charlotte’s wedding dress to the gallery, the Royal Collection Trust aims to uncover information about that time period and encourage visitors to draw a connection to current fashion trends. “Dress is so much more than just what we see on the surface, and it’s fascinating what we can learn about a period when looking at it through a fashion history lens,” curator Anna Reynolds says. “Visitors might be surprised to learn how much the Georgian period has in common with the fashion landscape we know today, from influencers and fashion magazines to ideas about the value of clothes and how they can be recycled and repurposed.” 

In addition to Charlotte’s wedding gown, “Style and Society: Dressing the Georgians” will feature more than 200 works from the Royal Collection, including art, clothing, jewelry, and other accessories, according to BBC News. Another wedding item will also be on display: the diamond rings that Queen Charlotte received on her wedding day. Nine of her lockets will likewise make an appearance. Additionally, visitors cane expect to see a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte in a court gown, the couple’s coronation portrait, hair and makeup from that time period, and a silver-gilt traveling toilet service. 

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