Seventy-three years ago today, the Queen married Prince Philip in a stunning Norman Hartnell dress

By Monique Jessen
November 20, 2020 03:21 PM
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When Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey to marry Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, it was the first big celebration of the postwar era and everyone was dying to catch a glimpse of the dress. Despite rationing and the fact that it was made in less than three months, the public was not disappointed.

Here are five fun facts about the future Queen’s magnificent Norman Hartnell wedding dress, which wowed the nation on this day, 73 years ago.

It Was Art-Inspired

The design was inspired by a painting. Hartnell cited Botticelli’s famous painting Primavera, which symbolizes the coming of spring as his inspiration for the design. He invoked this by adorning the gown with wheat and flowers in gold and silver thread.

The then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day
| Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty
Primavera by Sandro Botticelli
| Credit: Alinari Archives/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty

Wartime Spirit of a Nation

She might have been the future Queen, but during the late 1940s, wartime rationing was still in place for everyone, including the royal family. So, Elizabeth collected clothing coupons to pay for the dress — with a little help from the government who granted her 200 extra. In a sweet gesture, hundreds of people across the U.K. sent the royal fiancée their coupons although they were all returned.

Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten on their wedding day
| Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty

It Was a Rush Job

While the 21-year-old princess had been engaged since the beginning of July, the intricate ivory silk dress and 15-foot train embroidered in pearl, crystal and applique duchess satin, was made by Hartnell and his team in less than three months, as the final design was only approved in mid-August. The heavily embellished design featured 1,000 seed pearls and featured a heart-shaped neckline, low v-pointed waist and a floor-length panelled skirt.

British royal couturier Norman Hartnell
| Credit: Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Getty

The Tiara Disaster

On the morning of the wedding, as Elizabeth was getting her hair and tiara arranged, disaster struck and her chosen tiara snapped. The priceless Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara on loan from her mother was quickly rushed to the Garrard workshop to be fixed. After a little welding magic, it was returned back to the princess, just in time for her to wear it down the aisle. If you look closely, the hasty fix left a slight gap towards the center of the diamond frame.

Princess Elizabeth on her wedding day on Nov 20, 1947
| Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty

A Team Effort

Three-hundred and fifty women worked on the design, which Hartnell called “the most beautiful dress I ever made.” According to Betty Foster, one of the seamstresses at the atelier, the British couturier let every woman at the workshop place one small stitch in the exquisite gown before it was delivered to Buckingham Palace “just so that they could say they had worked on the wedding dress.”