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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

Wedding cake

A hand-coloured lithograph of one of the royal wedding cakes produced for the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on 10 February 1840. Lettered below with title, publication details and a description of the cake and its decoration.<br /><br />This

One of the wedding cakes produces for the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert ©

In ancient Rome, bread was broken over the head of the bride to bring good luck to the married couple. Throughout history this tradition has evolved, resulting in the multi-tiered and impressively decorated structures that are today known as 'wedding cakes'.

The traditional recipe for an English wedding cake is a fruit cake. This type of cake has a long shelf life. In fact, a tier of the wedding cake is often saved for the Christening of the couple's future offspring. Dignitaries and guests were also often given slices of wedding cake in boxes as souvenirs, whilst notables who were not able to attend the wedding were sent their slice in the post. Queen Victoria's wedding cake was also distributed to many who were involved in wedding preparations.

Royal wedding cakes are not only exquisitely decorated; they are also heavy with symbolism. Queen Victoria's cake bore the figure of Britannia as well as shields decorated with the coats of arms of the bride and groom, made of icing sugar. The base of Edward VII and Princess Alexandra's cake was adorned with the rose, thistle and shamrock as well as the British and Denmark coats of arms. Queen Elizabeth II's wedding cake, in addition to decorations of roses, cupids and royal insignias, was made of ingredients sent from across the British Empire.