British Royal Weddings: A Potted History

Who was the first royal to marry at Westminster Abbey? Whose wedding do we have to thank for the white wedding dress? And who turned down a future king three times before agreeing to marry him?

British Royal Weddings: A Potted History © Getty Images

1100 – Henry I & Matilda


The first royal to be married in Westminster Abbey was Henry I in 1100. It has hosted over a dozen royal weddings since, most recently that of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

1328 – Edward III & Philippa of Hainault

Edward III chose York Minster for his wedding to Philippa of Hainault in 1328, even though it was still being built and had no roof. The king got a white wedding of sorts, as it snowed during the ceremony.

1464 – Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville

Edward IV kept his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville a secret, as she was a widow and commoner. The exact date of their 1464 wedding is still debated.

1503 – James IV and Margaret

Henry VII considered a marriage between James IV of Scotland and his daughter, Margaret – a five-year-old. She was bethrothed (by proxy) in 1502, when she was 12 years old. Margaret didn’t meet her husband until the following year.

1736 – Frederick, Prince of Wales & Princess Augusta

The teenage Princess Augusta really didn’t want to go ahead with the planned marriage to the Prince of Wales, Frederick, in 1736. While on the way to the ceremony, she pleaded with her mother, “Please don’t leave me”, and was sick immediately afterwards.

1816 –Princess Charlotte & Prince Leopold

The oldest surviving royal wedding dress belonged to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, who married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. It cost over £10,000 (around £400,000 today).

1840 – Victoria & Albert

We have Queen Victoria to thank for the white wedding dress. Although not the first to wear white, her wedding to Albert on 10 February 1840 set the bar that all other brides had to match. Before then, any colour could be worn, including the rather funereal black.

1923 – George VI & Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

The future George VI proposed three times before Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon agreed to marry him. The wedding took place in 1923, and it was made a public event to lift national morale in the wake of World War I.

1936 – Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson

There has been no shortage of scandalous royal match-ups, but when Edward VIII announced his desire to wed Wallis Simpson, twice divorced already, it led to a constitutional crisis. In 1936, Edward abdicated the throne.

1947 – Elizabeth II & Philip

Elizabeth II’s wedding cake was a towering nine feet high, over four tiers – enough for all 2,000 guests to have a slice.

1960 – Princess Margaret & Antony Armstrong-Jones

The first royal wedding to be televised was in 1960, when Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.

1981 – Prince Charles & Diana


Diana Spencer was so nervous at her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles that she mixed up his name during the ceremony, calling him ‘Philip Charles’.