From Grace Kelly to Meghan Markle, these royal brides’ gowns will go down in history
When it comes to royals, not just any old bridal gown will do. Often bespoke and designed by some of the most sought-after fashion designers in the world, the best royal wedding dresses of all time are made to wow, creating a lasting moment in sartorial history.
They span a wide range of titles, decades and countries, ranging from Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco's iconic 1956 Helen Rose masterpiece to the most popular royal dresses of the decade as worn by Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton.
While the style will vary from royal bride to royal bride (Princess Margaret's Norman Hartnell gown was once called "the simplest royal wedding gown in history," while Princess Charlene of Monaco's Giorgio Armani creation took a team of seamstresses more than three months to put together and boasted 40,000 Swarovski crystals), they are all utterly unforgettable.
Here are the best royal wedding dresses of all time.
Princess Diana broke records with the wedding dress she wore to marry King Charles III in 1981. She walked down the aisle in an ivory and silk taffeta Elizabeth and David Emanuel gown with antique lace that was once worn by Queen Mary. Its train trailed 25 feet behind her — the longest train ever worn by a British royal bride — and had to be folded like a bedsheet to fit into the carriage.
So cumbersome was the train that Diana told bridesmaid India Hicks to do her "best" while carrying it down the aisle. "We knew what that meant: If we pulled too much, straightening the material, her tiara and veil would slip," Hicks told Harper's Bazaar in 2018. "But if we didn't pull enough, the effect of the train would be lost."
Additionally, the gown featured a ruffled neckline, a puffy skirt and voluminous sleeves. Inside were two hidden gems: a blue bow at the waistband for her "something blue" and a little gold horseshoe as a good luck charm.
The people's princess also wore a custom tulle veil that was hand-stitched with 10,000 micro-pearls to create what Elizabeth Emanuel later called a "fairy dust effect" to Vogue U.K. "We used the same sequins on the gown itself, so that it would also sparkle as Diana walked down the aisle," she said.
Princess Diana finished her bridal look with her family's Spencer Tiara, previously worn by her sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, and her former sister-in-law, Victoria Lockwood.
Kate Middleton wore a custom gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen to wed Prince William in 2011. The ivory ballgown featured a Victorian-style lace bodice with a V-neckline, a skirt that was padded at the hips to resemble an opening flower and a nearly 9-foot-long train.
The dress's English Cluny and French Chantilly lace was hand-cut and hand-appliquéd with a rose, a thistle, a daffodil and a shamrock to represent the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. This was accomplished using an old Irish Carrickmacross lace-making technique that Kate claimed as her "something old," per BBC. Meanwhile, a blue ribbon was sewn into the dress's interior as her "something blue."
With such intricate detailing, embroiderers were reportedly required to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the garment clean, with needles being renewed every three hours.
Queen Elizabeth II lent the Princess of Wales the Cartier halo tiara for the occasion, which featured 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 139 baguette diamonds. The tiara was purchased by King George VI for the late Queen's mother and was presented to Queen Elizabeth on her 18th birthday.
One might expect Meghan Markle's wedding dress — the reigning most popular wedding dress of the decade — to be overly opulent, but the Clare Waight Keller-designed piece was surprisingly simple. Reportedly inspired by a gown of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy's, it was free of lace and embellishments, relying instead on its sleek bateau neckline, three-quarter sleeves and 9-foot train for its "wow" factor.
Between its pure white hue and delicate double-bonded silk cady material, those sewing the gown took special care: They were instructed to wash their hands every 30 minutes "to keep the tulle and threads pristine." Waight Keller later explained, "Over a period of time, you build up oils on your hand and when you work on something of such purity — absolute pure white — you need to keep it immaculately clean ... There were many people involved in the workmanship, and obviously it took an enormous amount of hours to do it."
The bride's 16-foot veil was highly symbolic as it was designed to represent the 53 countries of the Commonwealth as well as Markle's home state of California. "We both loved the story of that," Waight Keller said. "It also meant that every single one of those countries also journeyed up the aisle with her. It was a really poetic moment."
The veil also contained a hidden piece of fabric from Meghan's first date with Prince Harry. "Somewhere in here there's a piece of blue fabric that's stitched inside," the Duchess of Sussex said in the HBO documentary Queen of the World.
Embroidered crops of wheat, which symbolize love and charity, were also worked into the front of the veil.
For her "something old" and "something borrowed," Meghan wore the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau tiara from Queen Elizabeth's own collection, which was crafted in 1931 with a center brooch that dates back to 1893. Given to Princess Mary as a wedding gift by the County of Lincoln, it was later bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip in the wake of World War II, which meant the government was still rationing clothing — including with the royal family. The monarch collected extra coupons to pay for the gown, 200 of which were bestowed upon her by the government for the special occasion. With them, designer Norman Hartnell created a dress fit for a royal with his team of 350 women in less than three months. In fact, the designer would go on to call the piece "the most beautiful dress [he] ever made."
Inspired by the Botticelli painting "Primavera," which symbolizes the coming of spring — an apt metaphor for a nation coming out of war — the gown featured a bodice of star flowers, roses, jasmine blossoms and ears of wheat encrusted with diamanté and 10,000 seed pearls. The ivory silk design also boasted a sweetheart neckline and long sleeves and was just as lovely on its way out, thanks to the 22 buttons that lined the back and its 15-foot train.
The Queen's "something borrowed" came from the Queen Mary diamond fringe tiara, which once belonged to her grandmother, Mary of Teck. Though it snapped ahead of her nuptials, the bride had it quickly repaired — but a slight gap at the center of the diamond frame remained.
British design duo Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos were behind Princess Eugenie's fairytale gown for her 2018 wedding to Jack Brooksbank, which they created alongside the bride "layer by layer, constructing it from the corset and the complex underskirt to the fitted bodice and full pleated skirt."
The result was a stunning piece from every angle, including a low-cut back to show off a scar Eugenie obtained at the age of 12 from surgery to correct scoliosis. "I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it's really special to stand up for that," the royal said in an interview on This Morning.
With a neckline that folded down at the shoulders and dipped into a low V-back, the dress flowed into a long cathedral train. It also featured several meaningful motifs that were sewn into the jacquard, silk, cotton and viscose fabric, including a thistle for Balmoral Castle in Scotland, ivy for the couple's former home at Ivy Cottage and a shamrock to represent mother Sarah Ferguson's Irish roots.
As for accessories, Eugenie borrowed the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara from the Queen, which matched a pair of diamond-and-emerald drop earrings she received as a gift from Brooksbank. She completed her bridal ensemble with Charlotte Olympia peep-toe heels.
Princess Beatrice's gown for her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi was far more traditional than her sister Eugenie's. In fact, it was first worn by her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, on three occasions. The Queen first wore the dress to a 1961 state dinner at the British Embassy in Rome. The Queen wore the gown again one year later, at the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia, and finally pulled it from the archives in 1966, when she wore it to the State Opening of Parliament.
Originally designed by Norman Hartnell, the vintage ivory peau de soie taffeta gown, which features diamanté and a geometric checked bodice, was altered slightly by the Queen's dressmaker Stewart Parvin and dresser Angela Kelly to include organza sleeves.
Beatrice, the first British royal bride to wear an upcycled gown in recent history, discussed the significance of her choice with Caroline de Guitaut, the curator of an exhibition that featured the historical piece at Windsor Castle two months after the nuptials. "She talked a lot about the upcycling aspect and how that was really important to her given the situation that we all find ourselves in at the moment, with the [COVID-19] pandemic and the compromises being made by everybody," de Guitaut said. "It really was a one-off kind of wedding, the whole concept was just so nice."
Beatrice also donned the Queen Mary diamond fringe tiara, which the Queen wore on her own wedding day. It was also previously worn by Beatrice's aunt, Princess Anne. "The Queen saved this grand tiara specifically for Beatrice. It was always reserved for her as they are exceptionally close," a source told PEOPLE, calling it "arguably the most sentimental [piece] lent from the Queen yet."
Lady Gabriella Windsor
Lady Gabriella Windsor entrusted Luisa Beccaria to create her bespoke blush gown for her 2019 nuptials to financier Thomas Kingston. With a lace overlay, which featured embroidered flowers and jewels over layers of tulle, the color was difficult to nail down, Beccaria explained to Vogue. "It was a lot of work — and to obtain the [correct] color was really complicated," she told the outlet. "We had to put so many different layers of blush and cream organdy tulle so that it looked like just a little touch of blush. … She wanted something modest and not that obvious."
According to the Italian designer, the bride was sure to incorporate Valencienne lace and a modern sensibility. "She fell in love with a certain lace. I had it special embroidered in her own color," she said. "She didn't want to go too much into the past and do something so formal. We tried to incorporate a little bit of tradition, though."
As for the silhouette, the royal wanted to avoid anything too voluminous, so the designer kept the front of the gown "quite skinny." They left the focus on the long train and nearly 20-foot veil, which also had a touch of blush. "We decided to leave Lady Ella's dress very simple in the front," Beccaria added. "And she wanted long sleeves and embroidery that goes over the hand, like a glove."
Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco
Grace Kelly's classic 1956 wedding gown has inspired everyone from Princess Catherine to Miranda Kerr. Gifted to her by her MGM studio bosses and handmade in the studio's ateliers, Kelly's longtime wardrobe designer, Helen Rose, and 30 seamstresses constructed the gown with 300 yards of antique Belgian lace, ivory faille and silk net.
The actress's gown included a high-neck lace bodice that buttoned up the front and was embroidered with hand-sewn seed pearls and a pleated, bell-shaped silk faille taffeta skirt.
In place of a tiara, the princess wore a lace Juliet Cap, also embellished with pearls, beneath a veil stitched at the edges to showcase two lovebirds.
The gown is now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Kelly donated it shortly after the wedding in a nod to her hometown.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
The Duchess of York turned heads at her 1986 wedding to Prince Andrew in a voluminous puff-sleeve gown with a boned, beaded bodice, a 17-foot train and a 20-foot veil, as designed by London-based designer Lindka Cierach.
The dress was also rife with meaning. The bodice was beaded with the letter "S" four times and bumblebees and thistles — symbols from the duchess's new coat of arms — and edged with pearls, the Los Angeles Times reported. The train featured matching embroidery, plus that of anchors and waves in a nod to Andrew's Royal Navy background. At its center was a large "A," also for the groom. "The most important thing to me was that Sarah loved it," Cierach told PEOPLE in 1986. "I wanted her sense of fun to come out in the dress."
However, a few of Fergie's suggestions did not make the gown, including teddy bears, lovebirds and helicopters, all of which were nixed by Cierach.
The gown was estimated to cost roughly $45,000 and took the designer and her team about four months to create, along with a second replica that was made for Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Ferguson paired it with the York Diamond Tiara.
Princess Charlene of Monaco
Two-thousand and five hundred hours of work by three different seamstresses went into the ivory Giorgio Armani gown Princess Charlene of Monaco wore to wed Prince Albert in 2011. And given the 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother-of-pearl teardrops adorning it, it was no wonder.
"My uncle wanted to make sure the dress was timeless and sophisticated," Roberta Armani, Giorgio's niece, told Vogue.
The gown itself, which featured a shoulder-baring neckline and a 16-foot train, used roughly 426 feet of silk. "It was such a huge responsibility that we actually made two dresses, just in case something happened to one of them," Roberta added.
It also had a jaw-dropping 66-foot-long veil, which was kept simple to leave the emphasis on her gown.
As for the bride's hair, Charlene told the magazine that she forwent a tiara in lieu of family heirlooms from her sister-in-law. "Princess Caroline has lent me some beautiful diamond hair clips which belonged to her grandmother," she said.
For the latter half of the evening, Charlene changed into a silk chiffon dress with a four-tier train, also by Armani. "The wedding dress is pretty heavy so I wanted to change into something light, soft and easy to move in for the evening," the princess told Vogue. She later recalled to PEOPLE, "I was like, 'OK, I want to take everything off and go for a swim.' That's what I remember."
Alessandra de Osma
Prince Christian of Hanover and Alessandra de Osma wed in November 2017 in a simple civil ceremony in London, where she wore a tweed coat dress by Chanel. She donned a far more extravagant gown for the couple's three-day wedding celebration in her native Peru the following year.
De Osma walked down the aisle in a white strapless gown with a high mock neck, long sleeves and a full lace overlay by Jorge Vázquez. She paired it with the Hanoverian Floral Tiara, which has belonged to the family for more than two generations, per Town & Country.
Russian fashion designer Ekaterina Malysheva had not one, not two, but three bespoke wedding looks for her 2017 nuptials to Prince Christian's elder brother, Prince Ernst-August Jr. Malysheva commissioned Lebanese designer Sandra Mansour to create all three. "Each piece tells the story and shows a different side to the bride," Mansour told Vogue U.K..
The first look, worn before the ceremony, was made of a gauzy, hand-embroidered lace and inspired by Russian dolls as a nod to Malysheva's culture. For Malysheva's post-wedding gown, Mansour drew inspiration from a previous collection, reimagining one of her own off-the-shoulder designs by adding a pink tinge at the base and a beaded overlay.
The main wedding gown, meanwhile, boasted hand-embroidered chantilly lace with a pearl overlay that took four months to create. It also featured a sweeping fairytale-esque train that fanned out into a circle.
Lady Charlotte Wellesley
One of the more modern royal wedding dresses of note belongs to Lady Charlotte Wellesley, who tied the knot with financier Alejandro Santo Domingo in May 2016. Designed by Emilia Wickstead, the off-white dress boasted a textured wool material and a unique fold-over, off-the-shoulder neckline. She paired it with a cathedral-length polka-dot veil and green heels matching the sashes in her bridal party.
Elisabetta María Rosboch von Wolkenstein
The bride of Belgium's Prince Amedeo, Elisabetta María Rosboch von Wolkenstein, said "I do" to the royal in a Valentino Haute Couture masterpiece with a sheer Swiss-dot fabric overlay, complete with embroidery at the neckline and bust, over a strapless base with a ballgown skirt.
Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece
Nothing but couture would do for Marie-Chantal née Miller, who became Crown Princess of Greece when she exchanged vows with her husband Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece.
The pair married on July 1, 1995, with the bride in a Valentino gown. The high-neck lace dress featured floral motifs and was encrusted with pearls. Its ivory silk skirt was decorated with rose appliqués. Behind the bride was a nearly 15-foot veil, and her mother-in-law Queen Anne-Marie's antique corsage tiara was on her head.
Princess Margaret's wedding dress was not overly extravagant, with Life magazine reportedly calling it "the simplest royal wedding gown in history." The Norman Hartnell creation featured silk organza material and minimal crystal embellishments, focusing on the voluminous skirt and modest V-neckline.
According to Tatler, the gown was designed simply: Margaret asked for a minimalistic gown not to overwhelm her 5-foot-1-inch frame. She wore it with the more intricate Poltimore Tiara. Originally owned by Lady Florence Poltimore, the Garrard piece was purchased for the bride at auction in 1959. "It is not absolutely clear whether Margaret, her sister the Queen, or her mother actually paid for it," Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, a vintage jewelry dealer and scholar, told Town & Country. "Once bought, Margaret couldn't wait to wear it."
Queen Rania of Jordan
Bruce Oldfield was behind the dress Queen Rania of Jordan wore to walk down the aisle at her 1993 wedding to Abdullah II of Jordan at Zahran Palace. The British designer reportedly drew inspiration from Syrian gowns at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, ultimately crafting a voluminous ballgown with a belted waist and a bolero jacket with intricate gold-and-white beading at the neckline, skirt, collar and three-quarter-length sleeves. Though Rania forwent a tiara, she wore a sparkly hairpiece to match her dress, a veil and a pair of gloves that stopped at the wrist.
Queen Soraya of Iran
Queen Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary of Iran's 1951 wedding gown was an absolute work of art. Constructed by Christian Dior, it reportedly featured 6,000 diamonds, 20,000 maribou feathers and 37 yards of silver lamé, per Tatler. All of those embellishments made it quite heavy, and her groom, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and one of his aides had to trim off a portion of the train with scissors just ahead of their wedding ceremony.
Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau
For Princess Mabel van Oranje's big day, she commissioned Viktor & Rolf to create an inimitable bateau neck gown embellished with georgette silk bows, the largest of which could be seen at the end of her nearly 10-foot long train. According to The Guardian, it took the designers 600 hours to finish it in time for the royal to exchange vows with her late husband, Prince Friso, who died from complications of a skiing accident in 2013.
Queen Sonja of Norway
Queen Sonja of Norway's Molstad gown was a reflection of the decade for her 1968 wedding to Crown Prince Harald. The dress featured an A-line cut and high neckline with pearl embellishments, which were also sprinkled along the sleeves. The train was attached at the shoulders for a cape-like effect. In lieu of a tiara, Sonja placed artificial flowers in her hair.
Empress Michiko of Japan
In 1959, all eyes were on a young Michiko Shōda, who became the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family with her wedding to Crown Prince Akihito. For the occasion, she donned a gown with a large bow at the waist as its focal point. The dress was accompanied by a yellow sash of the Order of the Precious Crown and several opulent jewels, including the new royal's sizable Diamond Scroll Tiara.
Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden
Princess Victoria got married to Sweden's Prince Daniel Westling in 2010, and the ivory duchesse silk gown she wore for the ceremony looked as modern as ever with its off-the-shoulder neckline. Designed by Pär Engsheden, the frock also had a 16-foot train that detached for the couple's post-nuptial banquet, according to Vogue.
Victoria paired it with the same Cameo Tiara that her mother, Queen Silvia, wore for her own wedding to King Carl XVI Gustaf in 1976. The piece was originally given to Josephine de Beauharnais by her husband Napoleon Bonaparte.
Princess Ariana Austin Makonnen of Ethiopia
Though Princess Ariana chose an off-the-rack gown by Lazaro for her wedding to Prince Yoel in 2017, she told Vogue that she enjoyed the process of finding it. "Choosing my dress was a lot of fun," she said. "I was with my mom and godsister. We went to three shops in a day, and on the second one, I tried on the Lazaro. We all had an immediate response, but I wanted to keep looking. I went back with one of my bridesmaids the next weekend and got it!"
The ornate dress featured a billowing tulle skirt that pouffed at the back and a beaded bodice in place of jewels. "The beading on the bodice of my dress was incredible, so I wore very little jewelry," the bride said. "Just a simple pair of diamond drop earrings."
'Masenate Mohato Seeiso, Queen Consort of Lesotho
Born Anna Karabo, Lesotho's queen consort 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso looked majestic in her long-sleeved wedding dress to marry King Letsie III in 2000. Its layered, split-front skirt even featured beaded crown embellishments! Up top, a lace bodice gave way to a bejeweled cummerbund.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden, Duchess of Hälsingland
Swedish royal Princess Madeleine has Valentino Haute Couture to thank for the stunner she wore at her 2013 nuptials to Christopher O'Neill. The ivory chantilly lace gown draped down into a 13-foot train covered by an even longer veil, which measured nearly 20 feet and was embroidered with orange blossoms.
"Working with Princess Madeleine has just been so easy," said designer Valentino Garavani. "She is a very lovely girl. She is modern, fun, full of energy and enthusiasm, and she is so beautiful. It has been a pleasure and an honor."
The Queen Consort chose a Robinson Valentine white silk chiffon gown with scalloped edging and a matching white overcoat. She paired it with an ornate cream Philip Treacy hat for the couple's daytime civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall.
For their second ceremony at Windsor Castle, Camilla changed into a floor-length powder blue chiffon Robinson Valentine frock, partially covered by an intricate embroidered blue and gold overcoat. She also wore a golden feather fascinator in her hair.
Princess Camilla, Duchess of Castro
Italy's Princess Camilla, Duchess of Castro, wed Prince Carlo in 1998. Her one-of-a-kind wedding dress consisted of a sheer overlay with floral appliqués across the bodice and in a band at the neck, over a white strapless silhouette with a full skirt. She donned a floral-detailed veil, featuring a sprig of flowers where it attached to her hair.
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark
Mary Donaldson, Crown Princess of Denmark, wore her own bateau-style wedding dress to exchange vows with Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark, in 2004. Made of Duchesse satin, the bride's Uffe Frank gown was ivory and boasted a 19-foot train.
Princess Märtha Louise of Norway
Princess Märtha Louise of Norway wore a two-piece ensemble for her 2002 marriage to Ari Behn.
The removable cream Duchesse satin coat dress by Norwegian designer Wenche Lyche featured a high collar, ruched trumpet sleeves, Swarovski crystals, and a lengthy train. Following the ceremony, the royal removed her coat to reveal a silk crepe Anna Bratland dress underneath. Both pieces were reportedly accessorized by a silk chiffon veil and Queen Maud's pearl and diamond tiara.
The couple divorced in 2017.
Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium
For her 1953 wedding ceremony to Prince Jean of Luxembourg, Princess Josephine-Charlotte was dressed in a full-skirted white gown covered by a separate layer of tulle, a high, ruffled neckline and a long train. She finished the royal wedding look with a tiara, veil and floral bouquet.
Empress Masako of Japan
Empress Masako Owada wore a 12-layer silk wedding kimono to marry Prince Naruhito in 1993, per The Washington Post. However, following the ceremony, she changed into a a white gown by Hanae Morai. The latter featured quarter-length sleeves, a floral print and a 3D rose petal-shaped neckline. Masako wore white opera gloves and atiara.
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood
Queen Elizabeth II's aunt, Mary, Princess Royal, said her "I do's" to Henry Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, in an ivory underdress woven with silver thread. Designed by Reville of London, it was covered with sheer silk fabric and featured crystal beading in the design of a rose trellis, seed pearls, and Honiton lace edging.
The white-and-silver silk train was emblazoned with flowers that represented the British Empire, including the English rose, the Welsh daffodil, the Canadian maple and the New Zealand fern. Indian lotus flowers were also embroidered into the veil.
Princess Mary also wore a flower bridal wreath on her head.
Princess Stéphanie de Lannoy, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
A lavish two-day wedding ceremony, like the one Princess Stéphanie de Lannoy and Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg had, required a lavish dress. Elie Saab delivered for the bride with a lace gown with silver floral embroidery, three-quarter sleeves and a 16-foot train that spanned a large portion of the aisle of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, USA Today reported.
The daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Princess Anne wed Captain Phillips on her brother, King Charles' birthday. For the occasion, which took place at Westminster Abbey, Anne was clad in a white silk chiffon piece by Maureen Baker that featured a mock neck and draped trumpet sleeves as its focal point. A silk net veil and the Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara topped it all off.
Queen Noor of Jordan
Born Lisa Halaby, Queen Noor of Jordan became Noor al Hussein when she wed King Hussein in 1978 while dressed in a boho white silk crepe Dior gown. While it was largely minimalistic, bell sleeves and golden stitching at the chest, sleeves and along the bottom kept it interesting.
Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
Designed by Danish-born Henrik Hviid, Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg's distinctive gown featured a floral lace bodice with oversized stitching over a plain white cummerbund and a sprinkling of embroidered flowers throughout the otherwise smooth skirt.
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