Wedding of King George VI of The United Kingdom and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

by Susan Flantzer

Prince George, Duke of York (the future King George VI of the United Kingdom) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were married on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

Prince Albert’s Family

HRH Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George was born on December 14, 1895, the anniversary of the death in 1861 of his great-grandfather Prince Albert. The baby’s father was George, Duke of York (later George V) and his mother was Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary). In his family, the new baby was always known as Bertie, but he was formally known as Prince Albert.

Queen Victoria received the news with mixed feelings. Her son, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) wrote to his son, the new baby’s father: “Grandmama was rather distressed that this happy event should have taken place on a darkly sad anniversary for us, but I think – as well as most of us in the family here – that it will break the spell of this unlucky date.”

Bertie had four brothers and one sister: Edward (1894) succeeded his father as Edward VIII, abdicated and was then styled HRH The Duke of Windsor; Mary (1897), later Princess Royal, married the 6th Earl of Harewood; Henry (1900), the Duke of Gloucester, married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott; George (1902), the Duke of Kent, married Princess Marina of Greece; John (1905) died of epilepsy complications in 1919.

In 1901, Bertie’s great-grandmother Queen Victoria died and his grandfather succeeded her as Edward VII. Bertie’s father George was created Prince of Wales in 1901. When his grandfather died in 1910, Bertie’s father ascended the throne as George V. Bertie’s elder brother Edward (known in the family as David) was created Prince of Wales in 1911.

Bertie, as a second son, grew up without any specific training for the throne. Following the tradition for second sons in the Royal Family, he entered the Royal Navy in 1913 and saw action during World War I. In 1916 Bertie was created a Knight of the Garter and in 1920 he was created Baron Killarney, Earl of Inverness and Duke of York, the same titles his father had received in 1892. In 1936, Bertie ascended the throne as King George VI upon the abdication of his brother.

Source:
“Brewer’s British Royalty” by David Williamson

Lady Elizabeth’s Family

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, on right, and her brother David, at St. Paul’s Waldenbury in 1905

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born on August 4, 1900, in London. She was the fourth daughter and the ninth of ten children of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (who succeeded his father as 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in 1904) and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck, a descendant of a number of noble families including the Dukes of Portland, the Dukes of Devonshire, the Earls of Oxford and the Kings of Ireland. Little Elizabeth bore the courtesy title of “Honorable” until her father became Earl when she exchanged it for “Lady.”

Elizabeth had three sister and six brothers: Violet (1882) died in childhood; Mary (1883) married Baron Elphinstone; Patrick (1884), the future Earl of Strathmore, married Lady Dorothy Osborne, the daughter of the Duke of Leeds; John Herbert (1886) married Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefuss; Alexander (1887) died unmarried; Fergus (1889) was killed in World War I; Rose (1890) married the Earl of Granville; Michael (1893) married Elizabeth Cator; David (1902) married Rachel Spender-Clay.

Elizabeth was brought up at Glamis Castle and educated privately. She was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Bertie’s sister Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles in 1922.

The Bowes-Lyon family is an old Scottish family. Robert II of Scotland granted Sir John Lyon the Thaneage of Glamis in 1372 as a reward for service. In 1376, Sir John married Joanna, a daughter of Robert II of Scotland. Their grandson Patrick was created Lord Glamis in 1445. The 9th Lord Glamis, also a Patrick, was created Earl of Kinghorne in 1606. His grandson, the 3rd Earl, obtained a charter in 1677 stating that he and his heirs “should in all future ages be styled Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Viscounts Lyon, Barons Glamis, Tannadyce, Sidlaw and Strathdichtie.” The 9th Earl married a Durham heiress, Mary Eleanor Bowes, and, as a condition of the marriage settlement, assumed the surname Bowes. Their sons, the 10th and 11th Earls and their grandson the 12th Earl adopted the surname Lyon-Bowes, but the 13th Earl reversed the order to the current Bowes-Lyon.

Sources:
Glamis Castle, http://www.great-houses-scotland.co.uk/glamis
Bowes Family of Brompton, Northallerton Yorkshire, http://www.bowe.demon.co.uk/Ancientbowes.html
“The Queen” by Elizabeth Longford
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford

The Engagement

Engagement Portrait

Although they had met at a tea party in 1916, Bertie and Elizabeth had their first significant meeting on July 8, 1920, at the Royal Air Force Ball at the Ritz in London. Bertie had come to the ball with his equerry James Stuart, the youngest son of the Earl of Moray. Elizabeth and James were old friends from Scotland and shared a dance. Bertie questioned James about his dance partner and asked to be introduced. Although the meeting did not make much of an impression upon Elizabeth, Bertie fell in love that evening and started courting Elizabeth. He first proposed to her in 1921 and was rejected because Elizabeth feared the changes in her life being a member of the Royal Family would require. Elizabeth served as a bridesmaid in the wedding of Bertie’s sister Mary in February 1922. The following month, Bertie again proposed to her and was turned down once more. On January 2, 1923, after taking Elizabeth to dinner at Claridge’s and the theater, Bertie proposed a third time. After talking to friends and relatives and expressing her feelings in the diary, Elizabeth agreed to marry Bertie on January 14, 1923, although she still had misgivings.

Sources:
“Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: The Official Biography” by William Shawcross
“The Queen Mother” by Elizabeth Longford

The Trousseau

Designers from New York, Paris, London, Rome and Australia contributed to Lady Elizabeth’s trousseau, which included 65 formal gowns, over a hundred morning, tea and evening dresses and 72 fur coats and hats.

The bride-to-be received some spectacular jewels. As an engagement ring, Bertie had given her a large dark oval sapphire from Kashmir surrounded by diamonds. Her father, the Earl of Strathmore, gave her a platinum and diamond tiara with five large roses of gems separated by sprays of diamonds. From King George V, she received a diamond ribbon bow brooch. Her godmother presented her with a diamond and emerald arrow. Bertie also gave her a diamond replica of the badge of his naval cap and a diamond cluster corsage brooch designed as a spray of flowers with three diamond pendants suspended from a chain of platinum.

Sources:
“Thirty Years A Queen”, Geoffrey Wakeford
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley

The Wedding Attire

The bride’s dress was designed by Madame Handley-Seymour of New Bond Street, London. It was a pearl embroidered gown of ivory tinted chiffon moiré. The veil was an old “point de Flandres” veil loaned by Queen Mary. The train was made of machine-made lace from Nottingham in support of industry instead of the traditional handmade lace. Lady Elizabeth wore a double strand of matched pearls around her neck. The bridesmaids’ dresses were made of white chiffon lace also from Nottingham. In their hair, they wore myrtle green leaves and a white rose with a sprig of white heather.

Sources:
“Royal Weddings” by Dulcie M. Ashdown
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford

The Bridesmaids

Lady Elizabeth had an escort of eight bridesmaids.

  • Lady Mary Cambridge, age 26, daughter of Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge and Lady Margaret Grosvenor, niece of Queen Mary and first cousin of the groom
  • Lady May Cambridge, age 17, daughter of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone and Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone, niece of Queen Mary and first cousin of the groom
  • Lady Mary Thynne, age 20, daughter of Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath and Violet Mordaunt
  • Lady Katharine Hamilton, age 23, daughter of James Hamilton, 3rd Duke of Abercorn and Lady Rosalind Bingham
  • The Honourable Diamond Hardinge, age 22, daughter of Charles Hardinge, 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst and Winifred Selina Sturt
  • The Honourable Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, age 11, daughter of Patrick Bowes-Lyon, the future 15th of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and Lady Dorothy Godolphin-Osborne, niece of the bride
  • The Honorable Mary Elizabeth Elphinstone, age 11, Sidney Buller-Fullerton-Elphinstone, 16th Lord Elphinstone and Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon, niece of the bride
  • Miss Elizabeth Cator, age 24, daughter of John Cator and Maud Adeane, later sister-in-law to the bride as The Honourable Mrs. Michael Bowes-Lyon

Sources:
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford
Royal Genealogies, http://ftp.cac.psu.edu/~saw/royal/royalgen.html
Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, http://www.dcs.hull.ac.uk/public/genealogy/royal/

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

The Ceremony

The wedding of HRH The Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was held on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey, London. Before the ceremony, at Buckingham Palace, King George V bestowed upon Bertie the Most Ancient Order of the Thistle, the Scottish counterpart of the Garter, which he had received six years earlier.

The wedding procession started with the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, and the Primate of Scotland. The National Anthem was played followed by Elgar’s Imperial March. As the Royal Family entered the Abbey, the congregation rose. Princess Mary and her husband Viscount Lascelles appeared first followed by Prince George in midshipman’s uniform flanked by Queen Alexandra, the Queen Mother, and her sister Marie, the Dowager Empress of Russia. King George and Queen Mary followed. The King was wearing the full-dress uniform of an admiral. The Queen wore a silver and aquamarine gown with the sash of the Order of the Garter.

Bertie arrived at the Abbey with his brothers the Prince of Wales and Prince Henry. Bertie wore his Royal Air Force Group Captain’s uniform. The Prince of Wales wore a Welsh Guard uniform and Prince Henry wore a Hussar’s uniform. Their grandmother, Queen Alexandra, rose from her seat and embraced all three of her grandsons.

Cheers soon were heard announcing the bride’s arrival. Lady Elizabeth and her father entered the Abbey through the Great West Door. As Lady Elizabeth passed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose remains had been brought from France and buried in the Abbey floor three years earlier, she laid her bouquet of white roses on it. No doubt she was thinking of her brother Fergus and all the other British soldiers who died in World War I.

As Elizabeth proceeded down the aisle, the boys’ choir sang Lead Us, Heavenly Father. Randall Thomas Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury and Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of York waited at the altar to perform the marriage ceremony. After the vows were exchanged, the Archbishop of York addressed the couple: “The warm and generous heart of this people takes you today unto itself. Will you not, in response, take that heart, with all its joys and sorrows, unto your own?”

The choir sang Beloved, Let Us Love One Another, which had been composed by the Westminster Abbey organist Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson for the wedding of Princess Mary the previous year. The newly-married couple proceeded up the Abbey aisle to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

Sources:
“Royal Weddings” by Dulcie M. Ashdown
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford;
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley

The Wedding Guests

British Royal Family and Relatives

  • King George V and Queen Mary, the groom’s parents
  • The Prince of Wales, the groom’s brother
  • The Prince Henry, the groom’s brother
  • The Prince George, the groom’s brother
  • The Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles and Henry Lascelles, Viscount Lascelles, the groom’s sister and her husband
  • The Honourable George Lascelles, the groom’s nephew
  • Queen Alexandra, the groom’s paternal grandmother
  • Louise, The Princess Royal, the groom’s paternal aunt
  • Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife and Prince Arthur of Connaught, the groom’s first cousin and her husband, the groom’s second cousin
  • Alastair Windsor, Earl of Macduff, the groom’s second cousin
  • Princess Maud of Fife, the groom’s first cousin
  • The Princess Victoria, the groom’s paternal aunt
  • The Prince Arthur, The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the groom’s paternal great-uncle, son of Queen Victoria
  • The Lady Patricia Ramsay (Princess Patricia of Connaught) and Captain Sir Alexander Ramsay, the groom’s first cousin once removed and her husband
  • Mr. Alexander Ramsay of Mar, the groom’s second cousin
  • Princess Christian (The Princess Helena), the groom’s paternal great-aunt, daughter of Queen Victoria
  • Princess Helena Victoria, the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Princess Marie Louise, the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • The Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, the groom’s paternal great-aunt, daughter of Queen Victoria
  • The Princess Beatrice, the groom’s paternal great-aunt, daughter of Queen Victoria
  • Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke and Marchioness of Carisbrooke, the groom’s first cousin once removed and his wife
  • Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven (Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine), the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and Marchioness of Milford Haven, the groom’s second cousin and his wife
  • Lord Louis Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten (Edwina Ashley), the groom’s second cousin and his wife
  • Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge and Marchioness of Cambridge, the groom’s maternal uncle and aunt
  • George Cambridge, Earl of Eltham and Countess of Eltham, the groom’s first cousin and his wife
  • Lord Frederick Cambridge, the groom’s first cousin
  • Lady Mary Cambridge, the groom’s first cousin
  • Lady Helena Gibbs (Lady Helena Cambridge) and Mr. John Gibbs, the groom’s first cousin and her husband
  • Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, the groom’s maternal uncle and aunt
  • Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon, the groom’s first cousin
  • Lady May Cambridge, the groom’s first cousin

Foreign Royalty Related to the Groom

  • King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway, the groom’s paternal aunt and her husband
  • Crown Olav Prince of Norway, the groom’s first cousin
  • Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, widower of Princess Margaret of Connaught, the groom’s late first cousin once removed
  • Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Duke of Västerbotten, the groom’s second cousin
  • Princess Ingrid of Sweden, the groom’s second cousin
  • Queen Marie of Romania (Princess Marie of Edinburgh), the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Crown Prince Carol and Crown Princess Helen of Romania, the groom’s second cousin and his second wife, also the groom’s second cousin
  • Prince Michael of Romania, the groom’s third cousin
  • Albert, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Queen Victoria Eugenie (Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg) and King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the groom’s first cousin once removed and her husband
  • Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, the groom’s second cousin
  • Infante Jaime of Spain, the groom’s second cousin
  • Infante Juan of Spain, the groom’s second cousin
  • Infante Gonzalo of Spain, the groom’s second cousin
  • Infanta Beatriz of Spain, the groom’s second cousin
  • Infanta Maria Cristina of Spain, the groom’s second cousin
  • Bernard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, widower of Princess Charlotte of Prussia, the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Princess Heinrich XXX Reuss of Köstritz (Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen), the groom’s second cousin
  • Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia (Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine), the groom’s first cousin once removed and his wife, also the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Prince and Princess Waldemar of Prussia (Princess Calixta of Lippe-Biesterfeld), the groom’s second cousin and his wife
  • Queen Mother Sophie of the Hellenes (Princess Sophie of Prussia), the groom’s first cousin, once removed
  • King George II and Queen Elisabeth of the Hellenes (Princess Elisabeth of Romania), the groom’s second cousin and his wife, also the groom’s second cousin
  • Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark (Aspasia Manos), widow of the groom’s second cousin King Alexander I of the Hellenes
  • Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, the groom’s third cousin
  • The Hereditary Princess of Hesse (Princess Margaret of Prussia), the groom’s first cousin once removed
  • Prince Wolfgang of Hesse, the groom’s second cousin
  • Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig II and Grand Duchess Eleonore of Hesse and by Rhine (Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich), the groom’s first cousin once removed and his wife
  • Queen Dowager Louise of Denmark, widow of the groom’s paternal great-uncle King Frederik VIII of Denmark
  • King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine of Denmark (Princess Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin), the groom’s second cousin and his wife
  • The Duchess of Västergötland  (Princess Ingeborg of Denmark) and Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland, the groom’s second cousin and her husband
  • Queen Dowager Olga of the Hellenes (Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia), the groom’s great-aunt
  • Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna of All the Russias (Princess Dagmar of Denmark), the groom’s great-aunt
  • The Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Princess Thyra of Denmark) and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Ernst August, formerly Crown Prince of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale), the groom’s great-aunt and her husband
  • Prince Valdemar of Denmark, the groom’s great-uncle
  • Prince and Princess Axel of Denmark, the groom’s second cousin and his wife
  • Princess René of Bourbon-Parma (Princess Margaret of Denmark), the groom’s second cousin
  • The Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Elizabeth of Anhalt), widow of the groom’s first cousin once removed Adolphus Friedrich V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz,
  • Princess Julius Ernst of Lippe (Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), second cousin of the groom
  • The Crown Princess (Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) and Crown Prince Danilo of Montenegro, second cousin of the groom and her husband

The Bride’s Family

  • Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Countess of Strathmore
  • and Kinghorne (Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck), the bride’s parents
  • Patrick Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis and Lady Glamis (Lady Dorothy Godolphin-Osborne), the bride’s brother and sister-in-law
  • John Bowes-Lyon, Master of Glamis, the bride’s nephew
  • Mr. Timothy Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s nephew
  • Miss Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s niece
  • Miss Nancy Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s niece
  • The Honorable Mr. and Mrs John Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s brother and sister-in-law
  • Miss Anne Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s niece
  • Miss Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s niece
  • Mr. Michael Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s brother
  • Mr. David Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s brother
  • Lady Elphinstone (Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon) and Sidney Buller-Fullerton-Elphinstone, 16th
  • Lord Elphinstone, the bride’s sister and brother-law
  • John Elphinstone, Master of Elphinstone, the bride’s nephew
  • The Honorable Andrew Elphinstone, the bride’s nephew
  • The Honorable Jean Constance Elphinstone, the bride’s niece
  • Lady Rose Leveson-Gower (Rose Bowes-Lyon) and William Leveson-Gower Esq, the bride’s sister and brother-in-law
  • Mr Granville James Leveson-Gower, the bride’s nephew
  • Miss Mary Cecilia Leveson-Gower, the bride’s niece
  • Mr and Mrs Francis Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s paternal uncle and aunt
  • Miss Muriel Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mr Charles Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mr Geoffrey Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Winnifred Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mr Ronald Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Doris Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Lillian Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mrs Ernest Bowes-Lyon, widow of the bride’s late paternal uncle
  • Mr Hubert Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Susan Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Dorothea Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Joan Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Marjorie Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Ernestine Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mr and Mrs Patrick Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s paternal uncle and aunt
  • Mr Jean Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cosuin
  • Miss Margaret Ann Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Mr and Mrs Malcolm Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s paternal uncle and aunt
  • Miss Clodagh Pamela Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s first cousin
  • Lady Constance Blackburn and Mr Robert Francis Blackburn, the bride’s paternal aunt and uncle
  • Mr Phyllis Blackburn, the bride’s first cousin
  • Miss Claudia Blackburn, the bride’s first cousin
  • Lady Maud Agness Bowes-Lyon, the bride’s paternal aunt
  • Miss Ann Violet Cavendish-Bentinck, the bride’s maternal aunt

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

The Wedding Breakfast

The wedding breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace with the following menu: Consomme a la Windsor, Supremes de Saumon Reine Mary, Cotelettes d’Agneau Prince Albert, Chapons a la Strathmore, Jambon et Langue Decoupes a l’Aspic, Salade Royale, Asperges, Sauce Creme Mousseuse, Fraises Duchesse Elizabeth, Panier de Friandises, Dessert, Cafe.

Fourteen wedding cakes were made for the wedding breakfast. The most elaborate weighed 300 pounds and had nine tiers with a replica of the couple on top. On the first tier were reproductions of Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel. Glamis Castle appeared on the second tier and on the third tier were Masonic emblems in honor of Bertie and the Earl of Strathmore who were both Masons. Cupids ringing tiny silver wedding bells moved up and down ladders leading to the top of the cake. After the breakfast, the couple appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Sources:
“English Royal Cookbook” by Elizabeth Craig
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley

The Honeymoon

During the first part of their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey, Surrey

The couple took the train from Waterloo Station, London to Dorking, Surrey where they stayed at Polesden Lacey, the home of society hostess Mrs. Ronald Greville. They continued their honeymoon with a visit to Glamis Castle where Elizabeth came down with whooping cough. When she recovered, the couple concluded their honeymoon at Frogmore House, Windsor.

Sources:
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley
“Thirty Years A Queen” by Geoffrey Wakeford
“The Queen” by Elizabeth Longford