Wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

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Wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.jpg
Wedding photo with the Duke of York wearing RAF full dress in the rank of group captain.
Date 26 April 1923, 11:30 GMT
Location Westminster Abbey, London, England
Participants Prince Albert, Duke of York

The wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) took place on 26 April 1923 at Westminster Abbey.

Courtship and proposals[edit]

Prince Albert, Duke of York—"Bertie" to the family—was the second son of King George V. He was second in line to succeed his father, behind his elder brother the Prince of Wales. He initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, but she turned him down, being "afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to".[1] When he declared he would marry no one else, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl her son wanted to marry. She became convinced that Elizabeth was "the one girl who could make Bertie happy", but nevertheless refused to interfere.[2] At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert's equerry, until he left the prince's service for a better-paid job in the American oil business.[3]

In February 1922, Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Albert's sister, Princess Mary, to Viscount Lascelles.[4] The following month, Albert proposed again, but she refused him once more.[5] Eventually, in January 1923, Elizabeth agreed to marry Albert, despite her misgivings about royal life.[6] Albert's freedom in choosing Elizabeth, not a member of a royal family, though the daughter of a peer, was considered a gesture in favour of political modernisation; previously, princes were expected to marry princesses.[7]


Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. In an unexpected and unprecedented gesture,[8] Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of The Unknown Warrior on her way into the Abbey,[9] in memory of her brother Fergus.[10] Ever since, the bouquets of subsequent royal brides have traditionally been laid at the tomb, though after the wedding ceremony rather than before.

Lady Elizabeth was attended by eight bridesmaids:[11]


The groom's family[edit]

The bride's family[edit]

  • The Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the bride's parents
    • The Lady and Lord Elphinstone, the bride's sister and her husband
      • The Master of Elphinstone, the bride's nephew
      • Miss Jean Constance Elphinstone, the bride's niece
      • Mr Andrew Elphinstone, the bride's nephew
    • The Lord and Lady Glamis, the bride's brother and his wife
      • The Master of Glamis, the bride's nephew
      • Miss Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, the bride's niece
      • Mr Timothy Bowes-Lyon, the bride's nephew
      • Miss Nancy Bowes-Lyon, the bride's niece
    • Mr and Mrs John Bowes-Lyon, the bride's brother and his wife
      • Miss Anne Bowes-Lyon, the bride's niece
      • Miss Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, the bride's niece
    • Lady Rose Leveson-Gower and William Leveson-Gower Esq, the bride's sister and her husband
      • Miss Mary Cecilia Leveson-Gower, the bride's niece
      • Mr Granville James Leveson-Gower, the bride's nephew
    • Mr Michael Bowes-Lyon, the bride's brother
    • Mr David Bowes-Lyon, the bride's brother
  • Mr and Mrs Francis Bowes-Lyon, 'the bride's paternal uncle and aunt
    • Mr Muriel Bowes-Lyon, the bride's cousin
    • Mr Charles Bowes-Lyon, the bride's cousin
  • Mr Francis Bowes-Lyon, the bride's partenal uncle
  • Mr and Mrs Patrick Bowes-Lyon, the bride's paternal uncle and aunt
  • Lady Constance Bowes-Lyon, the bride's paternal aunt
  • Mr and Mrs Malcolm Bowes-Lyon, the bride's paternal uncle and aunt
  • Miss Ann Violet Cavendish-Bentinck, the bride's maternal aunt

Close relatives[edit]

Bride's dress[edit]

Elizabeth's wedding dress was made from deep ivory chiffon moire, embroidered with pearls and a silver thread.[12] It was intended to match the traditional Flanders lace provided for the train by Queen Mary.[12] Elizabeth's dress, which was in the fashion of the early 1920s, was designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, dressmaker to Queen Mary.[13]

A strip of Brussels lace, inserted in the dress, was a Strathmore family heirloom. A female ancestor of the bride wore it to a grand ball for "Bonnie Prince Charlie", Charles Edward Stuart.[14]

The silver leaf girdle had a trail of spring green tulle, trailing to the ground; silver and rose thistle fastened it. According to an era news article: "In the trimming the bride has defied all old superstitions about the unluckiness of green."[14]

Unlike more recent dresses, details of this one were publicly revealed in advance of the wedding day.[14] However, the dress was worked on until the last possible opportunity: the day before the wedding, Elizabeth divided her time between the wedding rehearsal and her dressmakers.[15]

Prince Albert wore RAF full dress in the rank of group captain, his senior service rank at the time of his marriage.

The newly formed British Broadcasting Company had wanted to record and broadcast the event on radio, but the Chapter vetoed the idea (although the Dean, Herbert Edward Ryle, was in favour).[16] Albert's marriage to a British commoner was considered a modernising gesture.[17]

Upon their marriage, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York.[18] Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, they honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey, and then went to Scotland, where she caught "unromantic" whooping cough.[19]


  1. ^ Ezard, John (1 April 2002), "A life of legend, duty and devotion", The Guardian: 18 
  2. ^ Airlie, Mabell (1962), Thatched with Gold, London: Hutchinson, p. 167 
  3. ^ Shawcross, pp. 133–135
  4. ^ Shawcross, pp. 135–136
  5. ^ Shawcross, p. 136
  6. ^ Longford, Elizabeth (1981), The Queen Mother, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p. 23 
  7. ^ Roberts, pp. 57–58; Shawcross, p. 113
  8. ^ Shawcross, p. 177
  9. ^ Vickers, Hugo (2006), Elizabeth: The Queen Mother, Arrow Books/Random House, p. 64, ISBN 978-0-09-947662-7 
  10. ^ Rayment, Sean (1 May 2011). "Royal wedding: Kate Middleton's bridal bouquet placed at Grave of Unknown Warrior". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  11. ^ Daily Telegraph: royal wedding photograph
  12. ^ a b Bousfield, Arthur; Toffoli, Garry (26 September 2002). Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, 1900-2002: The Queen Mother and Her Century. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-55002-391-6. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "The Duchess of York's Wedding Dress". Fashion Era. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c Bronner, Milton (24 April 1923). "Medieval gown for Lady Betty". The Toledo News-Bee. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Dull grey skies and raw winds for Royal wedding". The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg FL). Associated Press. 25 April 1923. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  16. ^ Reith, John (1949), Into the Wind, London: Hodder and Staughton, p. 94 
  17. ^ Roberts, pp. 57-58.
  18. ^ Shawcross, p. 168
  19. ^ Letter from Albert to Queen Mary, 25 May 1923, quoted in Shawcross, p. 185