02 December 2017

Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 2

Now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have selected St. George's Chapel in Windsor for their May 2018 nuptials, I'm looking back at the other royal weddings that have taken place there since the days of Queen Victoria. It is a less well-known venue and much more intimate space (if 800 seats is intimate) than Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Nevertheless, it has hosted 15 royal weddings in the last 150 years. This is the second of two posts. (Read the first one.) This post starts with the turn of the last century and continues through the recent wedding of one of Harry's first cousins. 

10 February 1904
Princess Alice of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck

Alice's parents, Queen Victoria's youngest son Leopold Duke of Albany and Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont were also married at St. George's but her dad died as a result of his hemophilia when Alice was still an infant. Alexander was a descendant of King George III and the brother of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The couple's youngest son died as a baby and their oldest son inherited hemophilia, which caused him never to recover from a car crash as a young man. He died two weeks later, and was buried at St. George's. Their oldest child a daughter called May, however, lived into old age and was a beloved member of the British Royal Family. In 1917, Alexander shed his father's Germanic name and titles, adopting instead his mother Mary Adelaide of Cambridge's name. His brother-in-law gave him the title Earl of Athlone. Like so many other couples married at St. George's, this couple ended up in Canada, where he was Governor General during World War II. Before that, he had served in the same capacity in South Africa. So, they lived on three continents for extended periods. They were married 53 years until his death. She survived until the age of 97, dying in 1981 as the longest lived person born into the British Royal Family. Of course, her husband's nieces-in-law  Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester (102) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (101) both out-survived her but they were born the daughters of Scottish peers.

15 June 1905
Princess Margaret of Connaught and Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden

Margaret and Gustaf Adolf fell in love at first site in Egypt. After wedding in England and honeymooning in Ireland, they went on to Sweden where she devoted herself to learning Swedish history and language. She became very popular and is especially remembered as a hands-on mother, an odd behavior for women of her class at the time. The couple had four sons and one daughter. In 1920, his father succeeded his grandfather as king and they became the Crown Prince and Princess. He later became king but Margaret, unfortunately, never was his queen. During her sixth pregnancy, she had a mastoid operation following an ear infection. The operation led to widespread infection, since antibiotics had not yet been developed, little could be done to save her and the baby. They had been married slightly less than 15 years. Gustav Adolf married her cousin Lady Louise Mountbatten a few years later. They had no children together but Louise was a good stepmother. He became king in 1950 and lived on until 1973. His and Margaret's descendants currently sit on the thrones of both Sweden and Denmark.

2 September 1919
The Lady Helena Cambridge and Major John Evelyn Gibbs

A descendant of King George III and niece of Queen Mary, Helena had been born Princess Helena of Teck but had her name and title changed in the great Anglicizing of the British Royal Family in 1917. Her father was Adolphus of Teck. later Marquess of Cambridge, and Lady Margaret Grosvenor, a daughter of the Duke of Westminster. Her groom was nearly 20 years her senior and was a veteran not just of the recent Great War (or World War I) but also of the Boer Wars, which happened while she was an infant. The couple had no children and were married 13 years until his death. She lived another 37 years, mainly in the home of her older sister, Mary Duchess of Beaufort.

14 December 1957
Miss Anne Abel Smith and Mr. David Liddell Grainger

Nearly four decades elapsed before another royal wedding at the chapel, and this one was only tangentially royal. Anne was a granddaughter of Princess Alice and Prince Alexander above. Far removed from the throne in the line of succession, she and her family were nevertheless close to the main branch of the British Royal Family, particularly because of their blood relationship to Queen Mary, who had died just a few years before this wedding. David was a Scottish politician, but unfortunately not a loyal husband. The couple had four sons and a daughter in the first 10 years of their marriage, but divorced after 23 years. He married his mistress and fathered more children, leaving his estate to the second family when he died in 2007. Anne became a Christian missionary in Africa for a while and now lives in London.

18 July 1992
Lady Helen Windsor and Mr. Timothy Taylor

Embed from Getty Images
Several more decades passed before the next royal wedding, this time between a great-granddaughter of King George V and an art dealer. Helen is the daughter of Queen Elizabeth's first cousin Edward Duke of Kent. Like her husband, she is also an art dealer. Having had two sons together, the couple faced a a crisis early in their marriage when Tim was diagnosed with cancer. He survived and they soon added two daughters to their family. The couple is often seen at art events and charity events throughout London. You can also catch a glimpse of them on the royal balcony for the Queen's annual birthday celebrations and other major royal events.

19 June 1999
The Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
Embed from Getty Images
The next truly royal wedding at the chapel joined the Queen's youngest child with his longtime love. At the time, Edward, who was given a newly created title as The Earl of Wessex, had opted for a private career as a film producer while Sophie kept her career, managing her own PR agency. Unfortunately, they both encountered controversy in their commercial careers for having misused their royal connections. They gave up their jobs to become full-time royals with income provided by the Queen. At first, they struggled to have a family. Sophie's first pregnancy was ectopic and had to be terminated when it became a severe threat to her life. Her second pregnancy delivered prematurely following a placental abruption. Their daughter Louise was delivered by emergency C-section while Edward was overseas and the baby was immediately moved to a special neonatal hospital. She and Sophie both survived. Their next and last child James was delivered without serious issues four years later. Although Louise and James are entitled to royal styles and titles, the couple has opted to have them styled as children of an earl. Sophie and Edward are full-time royals now and often represent that British Royal Family at foreign royal weddings and other royal events outside of Britain. 

9 April 2005
The Prince of Wales and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles

Embed from Getty Images

St. George's Chapel hosted a special religious service of blessing for the marriage of Charles Prince of Wales and his very longtime love Camilla, which had taken place earlier in the day at the local town hall. The couple were not able to marry in a Church of England ceremony because Camilla's ex-husband was still living. Charles and Camilla's romance, however, had started  before either of their first marriages. In their youth, they allowed duty and other obligations to end their affair. She married and had two children and then he did the same. Once they had reconnected, their affair helped contribute to the very public breakdown of his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer. Camilla divorced in 1995 and Charles did the same in 1996. The death of his ex-wife in 1997 likely delayed their marriage while they continued to deal with public outrage over their affair and Diana's tragic, though unrelated, demise. At the time of their wedding, it was announced that Camilla would not use her husband's primary Wales title out of respect for the late Diana and would use only his secondary titles (Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, etc.) and that she would be called Princess Consort rather than Queen upon his accession. Public feeling has been softening toward Camilla since then as she has proven herself to be a solid asset to the family and the people. We may yet raise a toast to Queen Camilla one day, if Charles has his way.

17 May 2008
Mr. Peter Philips and Miss Autumn Kelly

Embed from Getty Images

At first glance, the names of this bride and groom don't sound royal at all. However, Peter is the oldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and the first of her grandchildren to marry. Peter's mother, Anne The Princess Royal refused royal titles for her children. Born Catholic in Canada, Autumn met Peter through their shared interest in Grand Prix auto racing and married two years later. Their wedding sparked a bit of controversy. Firstly, Autumn chose to convert from Catholicism because, at that time, heirs to the throne could not keep their place if they married Catholics. (This has since been changed.) Secondly, they were highly criticized for making a deal to have their wedding photographed by Hello! The fact that they used the money to pay for the wedding, instead of relying on public money, did little to ease concerns. When his sister Zara wished to make a similar arrangement for her own wedding, she was not allowed to do so. Peter and Autumn provided Her Majesty with her first two great-grandchildren, little girls named Savannah and Isla, who are often seen on the sidelines of polo fields and horse shows with their horse-mad relatives. 


  1. I think the date is wrong for Peter Phillips and Autumn. They were married long before 2018!

    1. Oooh typo!! Thanks for alerting me. It's 2008.