lunedì 13 marzo 2017

Royal Wedding Dresses Exhibition at the Royal Palace of Stockholm: Queen Silvia

On 17 October 2016, Queen Silvia of Sweden, accompanied by Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Sofia, opened the exhibition Royal Wedding Dresses 1976-2015 in the Hall of State at the Royal Palace of Stockholm (more on the opening in this Daily Mail article, which is packed full of pictures; press photos released by the Royal Palace can be found here).

The exhibition, which was originally due to run until 12 March 2017 but has now been extended to 23 April, features wedding dresses worn by five royal brides over the course of four decades: Queen Silvia, Princess Lilian, Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine and Princess Sofia.

The exhibition has been organized to celebrate the King and Queen's ruby wedding anniversary, which occurred on 19 June 2016.
Of course, given my passion for fashion and for all things royal, I knew I had to try and arrange a visit. After all, I had never been to Stockholm, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine one of my favourite hobbies (yes, I do class royal watching as a hobby!) with a bit of sightseeing.

The exhibition is set up in the Royal Palace's Hall of State, a very grand room used for State occasions and, up until 1975, for the ceremonial opening of Parliament by the sovereign.

The centrepiece of the room is a magnificent silver throne that was presented to Queen Christina on the occasion of her coronation in 1650:

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But now on to the dresses! Chronologically, the first one is that worn by the Queen.

Queen Silvia was born Silvia Renate Sommerlath in Heidelberg, Germany, on 23 December 1943, the youngest child and only daughter of Alice (née Soares de Toledo) and Walther Sommerlath. Her father was German and her mother was Brazilian, and Silvia herself spent part of her childhood living in Brazil with her family.
Silvia met then Crown Prince Carl Gustaf at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, where she was working as an interpreter.

Carl Gustaf's father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, was killed in an airplane crash at Copenhagen Airport on 26 January 1947, Carl Gustaf was nine months old at the time, and second in line to the throne, behind his grandfather, then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf. When his great-grandfather Gustaf V died in 1950, the four-year-old prince became the heir apparent to the Swedish throne.

On 15 September 1973, Carl Gustaf became King of Sweden upon the death of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf. He was enthroned at the Hall of State of the Royal Palace of Stockholm, where the wedding dresses exhibition is taking place, on 19 September 1973.

He and Silvia announced their engagement on 12 March 1976. Silvia received a not-too-extravagant diamond solitaire ring, said to have belonged to King Carl Gustaf's mother Princess Sibylla.


They were married three months later, on 19 June in Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan). It was the first marriage of a reigning Swedish monarch since 1797. If he had married Silvia during the reign of his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, Carl Gustaf would have lost his position as heir-apparent to the Swedish throne. This was due to the inflexibility of his grandfather, whose personal motto was "Duty before all" and who believed that royalty must marry royalty. This was also the reason why Carl Gustaf's uncle, Prince Bertil, did not marry until after Gustaf VI Adolf's death (more on Prince Bertil's wedding to Lilian Davies, a Welsh commoner, coming up in my next post).

On the eve of the wedding, ABBA performed their hit Dancing Queen in honour of the new Queen at a televised gala held at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm:

For her wedding dress, Silvia opted for a French designer, and commissioned Marc Bohan, who was creative director at Christian Dior, having replaced Yves Saint Laurent in 1960. Bohan had many notable clients, including Princess Grace of Monaco, and also designed the gown Princess Caroline of Monaco wore for her first marriage in 1978.

Bohan, that later went on to work for Norman Hartnell and has since retired and lives in the south of France, explained in an interview for Gala magazine in 2015: "I did not want to create anything complicated, nothing trendy, but rather something simple that felt right for the future Queen's personality".

The dress he designed for Queen Silvia was incredibly simple, as far as wedding dresses go, in plain white silk duchesse satin, with a high neckline, long sleeves, a modest A-line skirt and a 12-ft long train. The simplicity of the dress was meant to underscore the real showpieces of her outfit: an intricate lace veil and the Cameo tiara.

Two of the bridesmaids' dresses of embossed organdy and a replica of their bouquet are also on display:

The veil had belonged to Carl Gustaf's mother, Princess Sibylla (she was never queen as her husband did not live to ascend the Swedish throne), who wore it at her own wedding in 1932 (below), although the veil itself is much older and dates back to the mid-19th century. It is made of Brussels lace and consists of tulle appliquéd with bobbin lace and needle lace. It was also worn as a bridal veil by three of the King's sisters, Princesses Désirée, Margaretha and Christina.

Silvia had to wear the veil partly folded up, as at the last minute it was discovered that the train was way shorter than originally thought, so for a more aesthetically pleasing effect she opted to not wear the veil full lenght (note the hidden handkerchief held in place with an elastic band in the photo on the right):


The Cameo tiara, while not one of my favourites, boasts an impressive royal pedigree. Made for French Empress Josephine by crown jeweller Nitot around 1809 and set with seed pearls and hardstone cameos, it was inherited by the Empress' granddaughter, also Josephine, who was Queen of Sweden by marriage. It forms part of a parure that comprises a necklace, earrings, bracelet and brooch. The cameos of the tiara were not originally meant to be mounted together, so they don't exactly match. The tradition of using it as the go-to Swedish wedding tiara begun relatively recently: two of King Carl Gustaf's sisters, Princess Birgitta (below left) and Princess Désirée (below right), wore it on their wedding day, in 1961 and 1964 respectively.

The tradition was cemented by Queen Silvia, who wore it on her own wedding in 1976.

A replica of the Queen's bouquet completed the display. It was originally made of Cattleya orchids, stephanotis, lilies of the valley, myrtle and jasmine and was created by Marlene Pröpster, florist at top Stockholm department store Nordiska Kompaniet.

The menu and table plan for the wedding breakfast, held in the White Sea ballroom at the Royal Palace:

One of the table decorations for the royal wedding breakfast was a coronet of marzipan roses. A member of the royal household staff saved one of the roses and later had it mounted on a silver stem and presented the Queen with it at a lunch to celebrate the royal couple's 25th wedding anniversary. The rose was exhibited alongside a small box containing some grains of the rice thrown during the wedding procession and retrieved from the royal landau by the Crown Equerry:

Stay tuned for more royal wedding dresses in the coming days!

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