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Queen Elizabeth II Purchased Her Wedding Dress with Ration Coupons

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: 1. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images (Colorized) 2. Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: 1. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images (Colorized) 2. Bettmann / Getty Images

Fans of the British Royal family are aware of Queen Elizabeth II’s service with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, but did you know that the conflict impacted her wedding some two years after it ended? As Britain tried to rebuild, common amenities were still rationed, including the cloth used to make her wedding dress.

The dress was purchased with ration coupons

In order to “afford” her wedding dress, Queen Elizabeth II was given 200 extra ration coupons by the British government. She also received hundreds of coupons from brides-to-be across the United Kingdom. She returned them, as it was illegal to give the coupons away in the first place, and wrote a thank you note to each woman.

Sketch of Queen Elizabeth II in her wedding dress
Sketch of Elizabeth in her wedding dress, 1947. (Photo Credit: Norman Hartnell / Central Press / Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip smiling at each other on their wedding day
Elizabeth and Philip on their wedding day. (Photo Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS / Getty Images)

The design for the dress was approved a mere three months before the wedding. Designed by Norman Hartnell, it was a Chinese silk fitted gown with a sweetheart neckline, tailored bodice and long, fitted sleeves. The bodice and full skirts were encrusted with pearl and diamanté jasmine blossoms, ears of wheat and star flowers, and Hartnell included a secret lucky clover on the inside of the skirt, so Elizabeth’s left hand “could rest upon it during the ceremony.”

It had a 13-foot-long train inspired by Botticelli‘s 1482 painting Primavera, bedazzled with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls imported from the United States. The cloth was chosen by the Queen Mother, who desired an “unusually rich, lustrous stiff satin which was made at Lullingstone Castle.”

The dress was paired with a diamond tiara and white satin sandals, with silver buckles studded with small pearls.

Elderly woman standing in front of a weaving machine
Bella Adamson, a winder at the Winterthur factory in Dunfermline, Scotland, weaving Chinese silk for Elizabeth’s wedding dress. (Photo Credit: Charles Hewitt / Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
Woman working at a weaving machine
Worker weaving Chinese silk for Elizabeth’s wedding dress at the Wintherthur factory in Dunfermline, Scotland. (Photo Credit: Charles Hewitt / Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

The dress was stitched by 350 women over the course of nearly two months. It was later recreated for the Netflix series The Crown, costing the production £30,000.

Royal wedded bliss

The big day occurred at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. It was the first great celebration of the post-war era, with the Royal Collection Trust saying Elizabeth’s gown and its spring-like theme symbolized “rebirth and growth” in Britain.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip smiling at each other on their wedding day
Elizabeth and Philip at Buckingham Palace on their wedding day. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Elizabeth was flanked by eight bridesmaids, while Philip’s best man was the Marquess of Milford Haven. They were brought to the church in large carriage processions, but not before a potential issue arose. While Elizabeth was getting ready for the ceremony, her crown broke, prompting a royal jeweler to make an emergency repair.

Walking down the aisle, Elizabeth carried a bouquet made by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It featured myrtle from the bouquet of Queen Victoria‘s eldest daughter, as well as odontoglossum, cattleya and cypripedium orchids.

The ceremony was recorded and broadcast to 200 million people worldwide by BBC Radio. Following their nuptials, Elizabeth and Philip traveled to Buckingham Palace, where they waved to the large crowd below its balcony.

Aerial view of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip walking down the aisle
Elizabeth and Philip walking down the aisle at Westminster Abbey. (Photo Credit: Bert Hardy / Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II's wedding party
Family photo taken at Buckingham Palace after the wedding. (Photo Credit: Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images)

More from us: Glamorous Photos of History’s Most Famous and Iconic Wedding Gowns

Now you know the backstory of how Queen Elizabeth II obtained her gorgeous wedding gown. It’s just one of the many magical things to happen within her and Philip’s more than 70-year marriage.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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