It was not only the best kept secret in recent British history, but it was simply astounding—given the scrutiny of media attention—that it could be kept secret. Yet the English author of the Wedding Bible who knows everything that’s going on in the British bridal industry didn’t know, stating that even for normal weddings, it’s hard to keep so many things veiled in mystery.
But a mystery it was until Catherine Elizabeth Middleton stepped out of that gleaming vintage high-top Rolls Royce on her wedding morning. The duchess-to-be bride, the lovely Kate—shimmering, joyful, “modernly” romantic—was wearing the breathtaking “mystery”!
Her gown, television announcers revealed, was designed by Sarah Burton for the house of Alexander McQueen. It was a regally white sculpted vision in hand-crafted lace (made in secret at the Royal School of Needlework) and silk satin gazar that was not home-made (Britain’s only silk farm at Lullingstone Castle closed in 2004.)
The delicate lace pattern featured four floral emblems of the United Kingdom (rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock) and was sheer and fitted over Kate’s shoulders and long arms so her every gesture was like a graceful, queenly command. Both the sweeping, deeply pleated skirt (“made to resemble an opening flower”) and the almost nine elegant feet of train were lavishly appliquéd with the same English Cluny and French Chantilly hand-cut lace. “The dress was absolutely ravishing,” gushed Tim Gunn about the Grace Kelly inspired confection.
With a nod to the Language of Flowers, Kate’s small shades-of-white bouquet included, of course, Sweet William (which stands for gallantry) and lily-of-the-valley (which signifies a return of happiness). It also held a few green sprigs from the mythological “royal myrtles” at
Fulham Palace, grown from cuttings of the bridal bouquet of William’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, Queen . Victoria
“When she came in with that veil over her face, it was almost ethereal, like she was coming through a cloud—an angel coming into the Abbey,” said wedding guest Michael Hintze, chairman of the Prince of Wales Foundation for the Built Environment. The single layer of silk tulle was held in place by Kate’s something borrowed “halo”—an heirloom Cartier diamond tiara loaned from the Queen.
It all fit so beautifully in the magnificent thousand year-old stone Westminster Abbey as the bride walked with her father along the “living avenue” of 20-foot high English Field Maples (later to be planted at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate.) Then as Kate joined her happy prince in his scarlet tunic and blue sash of the Irish Guards, the two beloved friends were standing exactly where they wanted to be. “In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding,” declared the Lord Bishop of
London, and more than two billion viewers world-wide (and a million or so well-wishers on the streets of central ) were invited to share the intimacy and mystery of this royal moment like it was our own.~ London
[This is a reprint from the summer issue of Season magazine, pages 78-79. The article is excerpted from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women. Click on "Season Magazine" in the Labels list below for other reprints.]