Victoria, Princess Royal, married Frederick William of Prussia in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace on 25 January 1858.
The match had been in the thoughts of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for a number of years as they had formed a close bond with Frederick’s parents when they sheltered in Britain for three months in 1848. The family returned to London in 1851 for the Great Exhibition and eleven-year-old Vicky acted as a guide for the nineteen-year-old Fritz. Despite the age difference, Vicky and Fritz seemed to like each other much to the delight of her parents who were very much taken with the young prince who seemed to share their liberal ideas.
Prince Albert had long dreamed of a united German nation and he had seen the marriage of his daughter as the first step in the process. It was a lot to place on the slender shoulders of a teenage girl but Queen Victoria was eager for her children to experience the same happiness she had enjoyed with Albert so she was delighted when Vicky’s attraction to Fritz became apparent. Three years later, Fritz visited the royal family at Balmoral and requested permission to marry Vicky and her parents happily accepted on condition the marriage not take place until Vicky was seventeen.
The couple’s engagement was announced on 17 May 1856 but the news was not met with enthusiasm from the British public who were still holding a grudge against the Prussians for their neutral stance during the Crimean War and saw the Hohenzollerns as a miserable bunch. The response in Prussia was a mixed one though and unsurprisingly welcomed more by the liberals. For the next two years, Prince Albert carefully prepared his daughter for her future role by studying European politics but he greatly over-estimated her ability to influence the Hohenzollerns.
When it was announced the wedding would be taking place in England on 25 January 1858, it sparked outrage in Prussia when it was revealed the marriage would take place in England as the prince’s countrymen felt a future kaiser should be married in Berlin. However, Queen Victoria insisted her daughter should be married in her own country and was determined to have her way. Prince Albert then aggravated the situation when he announced Vicky would be retaining her title as Princess Royal.
The wedding day was bitterly cold but it didn’t deter large and chaotic crowds from gathering in the streets as the procession made its way from Buckingham Palace to St. James’s Chapel. Fritz, wearing the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian First Infantry Regiment of the Guard, was accompanied by his father and his uncle Prince Albrecht. Vicky was escorted down the aisle by her father and her godfather, Leopold I of Belgium, who was also her great-uncle.
The Princess Royal followed the tradition started by her mother and her dress was made from fabrics manufactured at Spitalsfields. The bridal gown was made of white moire antique embroidered with rose, shamrock, and thistle emblems in gold thread, while the three lace flounces were edged with orange blossom and myrtle. The white moire antique train was trimmed with rows of Honiton lace and wreaths similar to those on the flounces of the dress.
Vicky wore a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle with the Honiton guipure lace veil which was held in place with Spanish pins. The placing of the veil was said to be contrary to how British brides normally wore it but it was at the suggestion of the Queen.
Vicky was the first royal bride to wear myrtle from the bush Queen Victoria had planted at Osborne House from a cutting given to her from Prince Albert’s grandmother. It has now become traditional for British royal brides to have a sprig of myrtle in their bouquet and the tradition has also been passed down throughout the European royal houses by Queen Victoria’s descendants.
Vicky was also accompanied by her eight bridesmaids: Lady Susan Pelham Clinton; Lady Cecilia Gordon Lennox; Lady Emma Stanley; Lady Katherine Hamilton; Lady Susan Murray; Lady Constance Villiers; Lady Victoria Noel; and, Lady Cecilia Molyneux. The white tulle dresses of the bridesmaids were designed by the Princess Royal herself and were trimmed with bouquets of pink roses and white heather.
After the ceremony, the procession returned to Buckingham Palace where the newlyweds appeared on the balcony before the wedding breakfast. The three-tier wedding cake was 5ft in height and was decorated with classical figures. Each guest was also presented with a special commemorative medal with a portrait of the bride and groom on one side, while on the reverse, there was a wreath of orange blossom, roses, jasmine and myrtle with the date of the wedding.
Afterwards, the couple had a two day honeymoon at Windsor Castle before it was time for the princess to start her new life in Prussia. As expected, the farewells were tearful but Vicky was never far from the thoughts of her parents and her mother wrote to her each week with plenty of advice, welcome or otherwise.