Royal Weddings Throughout History

A crown of sapphires and diamonds

People in the United Kingdom (and around the world) will likely be glued to their TV sets on May 19. On that Saturday, Prince Harry—the redheaded royal sixth in line to the British throne—will wed American actress Meghan Markle in what’s sure to be a true fairy tale wedding.

But of course, this isn’t the first time a royal romance has stirred up the public interest. In fact, royal weddings have shaped culture for centuries, from starting fashion trends to breaking royal protocol—and these royal couples prove it.

A painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: February 10, 1840

When Queen Victoria was three years into her reign, she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in St. James’s Place, London. While the young couple’s nuptials weren’t quite as public as Harry and Meghan’s will be (TV hadn’t been invented yet), the streets around Chapel Royal were filled with people cheering and wishing the couple well. Victoria would later describe her wedding as “the happiest day of my life!”

Though Victoria was only 20 when she said “I do,” her wedding day was particularly influential. In fact, her bridal fashion started a trend that lasted for generations! The young queen wore a white satin gown—an unusual choice, as colored dresses were the fashion of the day. As a result, white dresses became very popular among upper class brides, eventually creating the “white wedding” tradition we all know today.

Duke Edward and Wallis Simpson on their wedding day

Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson: June 3, 1937

The love story between the Duke of Windsor and American socialite Wallis Simpson is one filled with controversy. The two fell in love in 1934 and Edward, then heir apparent to the British crown, intended to marry her… as soon as her divorce was finalized. The scandal following the couple’s affair rocked the royal household, eventually culminating when Edward abdicated the throne and moved to France with Simpson in 1937.

The couple wed at the French castle Château de Candé later that year. Wallis wore a Mainbocher dress in her signature color: a pastel shade she called “Wallis blue.” No member of the royal family attended the ceremony—likely because the Church of England did not acknowledge marriages involving divorced people whose former spouses were still alive. In fact, the Church of England continued to hold this belief until 2002!

Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly on their wedding day

Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly: April 19, 1956

Grace Kelly was an American actress. Prince Rainier III was the Principality of Monaco’s ruling monarch. When the two met, it was love at first sight. The press called the couple’s 1956 nuptials “the wedding of the century.” 3,000 people attended the reception, while more than 20,000 well-wishers celebrated in the streets. Kelly’s white lace wedding gown is still remembered to this day as the most elegant bridal gown of all time.

With her quintessential style and… well, grace, Grace Kelly’s influence on the bridal fashion industry is still evident today. And while she did not join the British monarchy, her journey from commoner to Princess Consort seems to have influenced the partners of England’s princes; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge drew inspiration from Grace Kelly when it was time to design her own wedding gown, and Meghan and Harry’s love story bears some resemblance to Kelly’s romance with Prince Rainier.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles ride a carriage on their wedding day

Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales: July 29, 1981

Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement in February of 1981. Just like Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III, the press proclaimed it would be “the wedding of the century;” however, unlike the royal couple of Monaco, Charles and Diana opted to share their special day with 750 million TV viewers. The wedding took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, with a guest list of 3,500 and a reveling crowd of 660,000 outside.

Diana wore a stunning ivory gown with puffed sleeves and a 25-foot long train—designed specifically so the Princess could have “the longest train in royal wedding history.” Her dress had an immediate effect on the wedding industry; designers had copycat dresses available for purchase before the couple had even returned from their honeymoon! Even this year, TIME named the dress as one of the most influential British royal wedding dresses of all time.

Prince William and Kate in a carriage on their wedding day

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: April 29, 2011

The last royal wedding on our list is also one of the most recent—and the last wedding Prince Harry took part in (as best man to his brother, William). When William married Kate Middleton in 2011, the couple incorporated elements of royal weddings past, while adding their own original twists.

Kate drew inspiration from Grace Kelly for her Alexander McQueen white lace dress. Like William’s parents, they opted to televise the wedding—which was wise, as approximately 2 billion people across 180 countries tuned in! The couple also opted for a traditional ceremony service from the Church of England’s 1928 Prayer Book. However, they also had a modern, private reception with dancing, a performance by Ellie Goulding, and a fireworks display.

What kind of wedding with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have this weekend? Time will only tell—but chances are most of us will be watching!

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