History

Elizabeth, Princess (later Queen Elizabeth II) & HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

On the 20th of November 1947, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), elder daughter of King George VI, was married to Prince Philip of Greece (later Duke of Edinburgh). The hymns were “Praise my soul, the King of Heaven” and “The Lord’s my Shepherd” and the couple left the Church to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

Princess Elizabeth was the 10th royal bride to be married in the Abbey.  On April 26 1923 her parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (then the Duke and Duchess of York) had been married here. The bells of St Margaret’s church hailed the arrival of the carriage procession. The ceremony started at 11.30am, the bride having arrived in the Irish State Coach from Buckingham Palace with her father.  She wore a white dress designed by Norman Hartnell from silk spun at Lullingstone Castle in Kent, with a veil, a tiara of pearls and diamonds and a very long train appliqued with a design of stars, Tudor roses and wheat. For austerity reasons, after years of war, very little extra seating was provided and about 2,000 guests attended.  The bride's procession, with 8 bridesmaids and 2 pages, entered the Abbey to a fanfare specially composed by Sir Arnold Bax and the hymn "Praise my soul, the King of Heaven".  The bridegroom, Lt. Philip Mountbatten, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, had already entered the Abbey quietly by the Poets' Corner door.

The Dean of Westminster, Dr Alan Don, read the opening sentences of the service according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher, by permission of the Dean, conducted the remainder of the ceremony.  Psalm 67 (God be merciful unto us and bless us) was sung to a setting by E.C.Bairstow and later the motet "We wait for thy loving kindness, O God" by Dr William McKie, Organist and Master of the Choristers of the Abbey, was sung before the address given by the Archbishop of York, Dr Garbett.  The hymn "The Lord's my shepherd" (to the then relatively unknown Scottish tune Crimond) followed and after a fanfare and the National Anthem the royal couple passed into St Edward's Chapel to sign the register.  The anthem "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" by S.S.Wesley was sung by the Abbey choir and members of the choirs of the Chapel Royal and St George's Chapel Windsor who were assembled in the organ loft.  After signing, the procession made its way out of the Abbey to Mendelssohn's Wedding March.  The grave of the Unknown Warrior was the only stone that was not covered by the special carpet. The day after the wedding Princess Elizabeth followed a royal tradition started by her mother of sending her wedding bouquet back to the Abbey to be laid on this grave.

In contrast to recent royal weddings the only flowers in the Abbey were in large vases either side of the High Altar (white lilies and chrysanthemums, pink carnations, roses, variegated ivy and camellia foliage).  The Altar was hung with the white dorsal given in 1911 by King George V and Queen Mary for their coronation and the 1937 coronation frontal given by the Princess' parents.  The Abbey plate was displayed on the altar.  The King allowed only the procession to be filmed and only still photography was permitted during the actual service.  Radio commentators shared the organ loft with the choir.

The Queen and Prince Philip have attended thanksgiving services at the Abbey to commemorate their Silver wedding and Golden wedding anniversaries.

Further information:

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

The Order of Service (PDF, 479 KB)