Byways . . . . . . . .
June, when orange blossom and roses are out in fragrant bloom, is the traditional month for weddings. June, when the weather is balmy and brides are driven to church in open- top cars and horse- drawn carriages. But not all weddings take place in this beautiful month. Queen Victoria chose to marry Prince Albert in the chill of February.
She is reported to have set the fashion for white weddings when, on 10th February 1840, dressed in a pure white satin wedding dress, she was conveyed by horse- drawn carriage to the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, where she married her beloved Albert.
It is interesting to note that she proposed to him the previous October. It was a love match most certainly judging from a letter she wrote the day after her marriage. The letter, expounding her great happiness, was sent to her Uncle Leopold who had first introduced them. In it she refers to her new husband as an angel and that to look into his eyes was enough to make her adore him. Her great delight, she told her uncle, was to make Albert happy.
The British weather certainly lived up to its reputation on Victoria’s wedding day. In a short note written that morning she exclaimed, “What weather!” and expressed the hope that the heavy rain would ease later. But undoubtedly she would have been quite unperturbed by the winter weather as she was driven to her wedding in the horse- drawn carriage.
In the Victorian era, a bride and groom could certainly choose a landau and pair, complete with groom and coachman, but for royal weddings, landaus were usually drawn by four white horses. However, there was a wide choice and the bride could choose from hansom cabs, phaetons, broughams, carriages, coaches and wagonettes.
The landau, a firm favourite, is
a most graceful style of carriage. It originated about 1757, seemingly in Landau, in Germany. It boasts a hood that is constructed in two sections to the front and rear that can be folded down in inclement weather.
When Lady Elizabeth BowesLyon, our late Queen Mother, married the Duke of York in the spring of 1923, she chose to ride in style to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony in a closed landau. But on her return to the Palace as a married lady, the landau was driven along at a sedate pace and was open to public view.
Much further back during Roman times there was no regal carriage awaiting the bride. Although she would have been married wearing a white dress, here the similarity to our 21st- century brides ended. On her feet she would have worn deep golden sandals with a veil of the same colour. This colour was associated with the goddess Hymen, said to be the goddess of fertility, who presided over weddings. To enhance this aspect, in her hand the bride would have carried three ears of wheat. This was looked upon as a great symbol of fertility. After the ceremony she would be escorted to her new husband’s house and the bridal party would proceed to carry her over the threshold. But whereas in the Roman marriage, both the man and woman had
to be in agreement, the AngloSaxon girl fared very much poorer. Although the Anglo Saxon word “wed” actually means a pledge, it was common practice for these unfortunate young women to be captured and/ or purchased and find themselves caught up on horseback and ridden away with — whether they wished to or not.
In more recent times, 30 or 40 years ago, brides wanted to arrive at the church or register office in a grand manner. The fashion then was to be assisted from their seat of honour in the back of a white Jaguar, Daimler, Rolls- Royce or limousine. Whilst arriving for the wedding in a large expensive motor car was guaranteed to make a girl feel regal, today’s brides have complete freedom to choose how they wish to travel to the ceremony on their special day.
Many choose an early model of the motor car such as a 1930 Beauford Tourer or 1912 Landaulette, usually driven by a fully uniformed chauffeur. But things have come full circle and in the 1990s it was by no means unusual for the truly romantic bride to choose to arrive by elegant horsedrawn carriage, such as the landau.
Increasingly popular now, however, are marriages abroad. For
the adventurous 21st- century woman leaving our shores to marry at an exotic foreign venue, it is truly a case of the world being her oyster. The only problem being, which location to choose.
For a fairytale wedding, she may choose to go to Florida and be transported by Disney’s Cinderella glass coach drawn by four dapplegrey horses and attended by cream costumed and bewigged footmen. Or she can choose to actually marry on board whilst cruising through the Yasawa Islands in Fiji.
To marry Down Under in Sydney, she will be conveyed into matrimony by sedan chair, or should she choose Sri Lanka, an elephant will attend the wedding and after the ceremony, carry the bride and her new husband away on its back. And she doesn’t have to have been born in Rarotonga in the South Pacific to experience the unique traditional wedding. In Rarotonga she can expect to be carried to the ceremony by warriors in a decorated outrigger canoe. Nor need she have been born in Mauritius to be married at sea aboard a catamaran.
But if her heart is here in Britain, she can still opt for the unusual such as the couple who married in Leicestershire and arrived at church by bullock cart, or the Gloucestershire lady who was taken
to church by a pair of Longhorn oxen. If she is a feisty lady, like the one from Armley, near Leeds, she could have a blessing service deep down in the earth at Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire. No traditional transport in sight here, just the bosun’s chair. And certainly no romantic white gown to adorn her, but the necessary garb of black wetsuit complete with helmet and miner’s lamp to light her way to marriage.
But whatever mode of conveyance and wherever in the world the loveknot is tied, the one essential thing a girl needs to carry her through is the love of a good man. Then, on her wedding day, she really can be transported with love. The author’s novel “Dead Certainty” a horse- racing mystery is now available from Severn House Publishers, price £ 19.99 ( hardback).
A bride may choose a chauffeur- driven limousine such as the 1930s Beauford Tourer in the foreground.
A carriage pulled by two plumed horses — perfect for travelling on a winter’s day.
A landau is an elegant choice of wedding transport, which has been popular for royal weddings.
For something completely different this Gloucestershire bride was taken to church in a cart pulled by a pair of Longhorn oxen.