Late Victorian Fancy Dress: The Devonshire House Ball in 1897

The Devonshire House Costume Ball of 1897 was one of the most anticipated social events of 1897. To stress the importance of th magnificent affair, the London Photographic Firm Lafayette was invited to take studio-style photographs of the guests in their costumes, which ranged from mythical goddesses, figures from paintings, and historical kings and queens.

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The Duke of York, later King George V (1865-1936), as “The Queen’s Champion” and the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary (1867-1953)  as “a Lady at the Court of Marguerite de Valois” at the Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball, 1897 via

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Frances Evelyn (Daisy), the countess of Warwick, chose Marie Antoinette as her costume for the elegant and highly anticipated evening. The costume, made by Worth of Paris, was studded with real diamonds and used both gold and antique lace via

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Lady Randolph Churchill (1854-1921), née Jennie Jerome in a Worth Parisian Costume, as Empress Theodora, while attending the Devonshire House Ball, 1897 via

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Consuelo Marlborough (née Vanderbilt), dressed for the Devonshire House Ball, 1897 via

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Mary Teresa (‘Daisy’) (Cornwallis-West), Princess of Pless dressed as Queen of Sheba for the Devonshire House Ball via

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Miss Goelet as Scheherazade via

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The ethereal beauty of Mrs J Graham Menzies in the role of Titania, Queen of the Fairies via

Queen Victorias Wedding 10th of February 1840

Queen Victoria first met her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1836, and they became engaged during his second visit to England in 1839. Their wedding ceremony took place on 10 February 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.

Queen Victoria chose to marry Prince Albert in a white silk satin gown featuring Honiton lace, an unusual color choice for bridal gowns at the time; she started the white wedding gown tradition that remains today. On her wedding morning, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal:

Dressed….I wore a white satin gown with a very deep flounce of Honiton, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch.

She also wore a wreath of orange blossoms (symbolising purity) and myrtle (symbolising love and domestic happiness), and these became the most common flowers carried and worn in Victorian weddings.

Their wedding day itself was inauspicious, a heavy rain falling; but immense multitudes assembled to gaze upon the processions. The bridal procession from Buckingham Palace to St. James’s begun to move through the triumphal arch at 12 o’clock. It was the first wedding of a reigning Queen in England since 1554.

Queen Victoria spent the evening after her wedding lying down with a headache, but wrote ecstatically in her diary:

I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!

Her marriage to Prince Albert brought nine children between 1840 and 1857. Most of her children married into other Royal families of Europe.

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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their return from the marriage service at St James’s Palace, London, 10th February 1840. Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock via

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A middle aged Victoria and Albert recreate their wedding day via

Princess Victoria Mary of Teck by Lafayette (1893)

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Queen Mary (1867-1953) when Princess Victoria Mary of Teck by Lafayette, 1893 via

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Queen Mary (1867-1953) when Princess Victoria Mary of Teck by Lafayette, 1893 via

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Wedding Photos (1947)

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip wedding photos, November 20, 1947 via

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip wedding photos, November 20, 1947 via

Vintage Portraits of British Princesses by Cecil Beaton

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Princess Elizabeth by Cecil Beaton, Gelatin silver print, Buckingham Palace, March 1945. Museum no. E.1361-2010, © V&A Images via

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Princess Margaret by Cecil Beaton bromide print, 1950 20 3/4 in. x 15 7/8 in. (527 mm x 403 mm) Purchased, 1987 NPG P349 © V&A Images via

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Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent by Cecil Beaton bromide print on white card mount, 1939 9 7/8 in. x 8 in. (252 mm x 203 mm) Given by Cecil Beaton, 1968 NPG x21151 © V&A Images via

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Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester by Cecil Beaton bromide print on white card mount, 1961 8 3/4 in. x 5 7/8 in. (223 mm x 150 mm) Given by Cecil Beaton, 1968
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