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Detail from a portrait of the marriage of Princess Helena

The history of Royal weddings as seen through items in the Royal Collection

Pair of brooches from the orange blossom parure 1839

RCIN 65306

In an exhibition, Kensington Palace

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One of the first gifts Prince Albert sent his fiancée was a gold and porcelain brooch. It takes the form of a sprig of orange blossom, a flower traditionally associated with betrothal. At the wedding the Queen wore sprays of real orange blossom in her hair and on her bodice. Prince Albert continued to give the Queen orange blossom jewellery, another brooch and matching earrings in December 1845 and a headdress in February 1846 (on their anniversary), eventually creating a beautiful set, parts of which she always wore on their wedding anniversary.

Within the language of flowers, the symbolic meaning of ‘Chastity’ attached to orange blossom (Citrus x aurantium) has long been known. Queen Victoria elected to wear orange blossom – her only floral adornment – at her marriage to Prince Albert on 10 February 1840. The Times described her dress of ‘rich white satin, trimmed with orange-flower-blossoms… Her Majesty wore no diamonds on her head, nothing but a simple wreath of orange blossom’.

Queen Victoria’s choice of floral emblem and white silk wedding dress became the standard wedding attire for generations of Victorian brides, and spawned a fashion for orange-blossom jewellery. The most elaborate example of its kind was the suite of orange-blossom jewellery in enamel, gold and porcelain presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert at intervals between 1839 and 1846.