A Civil War Era Royal Wedding

Much like the Anglophiles of today, Civil War-era Americans were fascinated by the British royal family. Rather than obsessing over William, Kate, and Harry, nineteenth century Americans celebrated the marriage of Prince William’s great-great-great grandfather, Prince Albert Edward, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
An arranged marriage five years in the making, Albert and Alexandra’s union appeared to be a love match in the eyes of the public. After a brief engagement, the royal couple married on March 10, 1863 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. Accordingly, the April 11, 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly devoted considerable space to the royal wedding, stating, “WE devote a very large proportion of our space this week to illustrations of the Marriage of the Prince of Wales, which took place on 10th ult., and was the great event of the day in Europe.”1
According to the Harper’s Weekly’s account—which was a condensed version of a London Times article—the blushing bride, though nervous, was joyously happy, the groom was attired in a General’s uniform and the purple mantle of the Knight of the Garter, and the Queen, clad in widow’s weeds, watched the ceremony from a closet-window above the altar. According to reporters, “On these occasions, we believe, the dress of the bride ranks, in general estimation, as only second in importance to the celebration of the ceremony itself, which is to be regretted, for a lady’s dress, like a lady’s beauty, can only be described by its effect.”2 The Archbishop of Canterbury conducted the ceremony before a substantial crowd—no more than 900 people. And, reporters commented that “The pleasure of the wedding was somewhat marred by the bad arrangements of the police. Seven women were crushed to death in the throng, and one hundred wounded. If such a thing occurred here, how our “mobocracy” would be abused!”3 Despite the chaos of the crowds, reporters on both sides of the pond deemed the affair a majestic spectacle worthy of admiration and celebration.

1. “The Wedding of the Prince of Wales,” Harper’s Weekly, April 11, 1863, page 229.
2. “The Bride,” Harper’s Weekly, April 11, 1863, page 230.
3. “The Ceremony,” Ibid.
Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, April 11, 1863.

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