Wedding of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

On 2nd May 1816, Princess Charlotte of Wales married her soulmate, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield. Robert Huish, in his Memoirs of Her late Royal Highness Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales, shares a very detailed account of the event:

The following were the preliminary arrangements for the royal nuptials, the ceremony to be as public as certain circumstances could render it—About fifty of the most distinguished personages to attend, besides the Royal Family, consisting of the Queen,the Prince Regent, the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia, the Duchess of York, and the rest of the Royal House. All the members of the cabinet, with their ladies; the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the foreign ambassadors, and no other persons. In one of the crimson state rooms, the cabinet and foreign ministers were to be assembled; in another room, the Queen and the Princesses; in the third, the Prince Regent and his great officers of state.

A grand dinner was to be prepared at Carlton-House, after which the ceremony of the marriage, to take place about nine o’clock, in the state chamber of the palace, where the Prince Regent receives the addresses; the marriage ceremony to be performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and afterwards attested with the usual formalities. Her Majesty, the Prince Regent the bride and bridegroom, and the great officers of state, were to return to the council-chamber, when they and the foreign ministers would pay their compliments to the illustrious pair, who were soon afterwards to leave Carlton-House. […]

The wedding dress was a slip of white and silver atlas, worn under a dress of transparent silk net, elegantly embroidered in silver lama, with a border to correspond, tastefully worked in bunches of flowers, to form festoons round the bottom; the sleeves and neck trimmed with a most rich suit of Brussels point lace. The mantua was two yards and a half long, made of rich silver and white atlas, trimmed the same as the dress to correspond. After the ceremony, her Royal Highness was to put on a dress of very rich white silk, trimmed with broad satin trimming at the bottom, at the top of which were two rows of broad Brussels point lace. The sleeves of this dress were short and full, intermixed with point lace, the neck trimmed with point to match. The pelisse which the royal Bride was to travel in, on her Royal Highness leaving Carlton-House for Oatlands, was of rich white satin, lined with sarcenet, and trimmed all round with broad ermine. […]

The jewellery was of the most magnificent description, consisting of a beautiful wreath for the head, composed of rose-buds and leaves, of the most superb brilliants; a necklace of a single row of large brilliants of the finest lustre, with large drop ear-rings to correspond, and a brilliant cestus of great value. Her Royal Highness had also a pearl necklace, and bracelets with diamond clasps, equally splendid. Her Royal Highness’s casket contained other ornaments, consisting of coloured stones, richly encircled with jewels. She had, besides, a rich diamond armlet, presented by the Prince of Coburg Saalfeld. It was computed that the wedding-dress alone cost above £10,000.

The important day at length arrived, looked forward to by many with the most anxious wishes, and by the nation at large with the fondest hopes. Early in the morning, all the streets in the vicinity of the royal residences were crowded with people anxious to obtain a view of the royal bride and bridegroom. But the eager curiosity and anxious desire of the people to see the Prince, with whose person they had hitherto had but few opportunities of being acquainted, constituted the grand and prominent feature of public feeling. The line from Charing-Cross to Carlton House, and those along the Mall in St. James’s Park were fully occupied, and the fineness of the day corresponding with the interest of the occasion, contributed to increase the multitude.

The open space in the Stable Yard, in front of Clarence-House, the residence of the Prince of Coburg Saalfeld, was crowded to excess with well dressed people of all classes. The repeated cheers, and other marks of applause which they expressed, evinced an impatient desire to see his Highness, who, in the most condescending and gentlemanlike manner, frequently complied with their wishes, by coming out upon the balcony and politely bowing to the people, all of whom had a full view of his person. From ten in the morning till five in the afternoon, with the exception of two hours, during which he rode out in his plain green chariot, he made his appearance three or four times in an hour on the balcony of the first floor. […] He was dressed in a blue coat, with a thin buff waistcoat, and grey pantaloons. […]

The Princess Charlotte, who in the morning had sat to Turnerelli for her bust, dressed at Buckingham House; and a few minutes before eight in the evening, she descended the grand stair-case, conducted by the Princess Augusta on her right and Colonel Stephenson on her left, and proceeded to the entrance of the grand hall, where she was met by the Queen. They entered a carriage; the Queen and the Princess Charlotte sat behind; Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth occupied the front, Princesses Mary and Sophia of Gloucester followed in another carriage: they were escorted by a party of life-guards. As may well be imagined, the crowd in the park exceeded all description. Their numerous appearance occasioned the Princess Charlotte to exclaim, “Bless me, what a crowd !” The people cheered her loudly all the way to Carlton-House, but the greatest order and decorum prevailed. The royal ladies entered Carlton-House, through the garden-gate, where they were most affectionately received by His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, at eight o’clock in the evening.

The Prince of Coburg Saalfeld quitted the Duke of Clarence’s house, about half-past eight, with two royal carriages. In the first was Lord James Murray, lord in waiting to his Serene Highness; Colonel Adenbroke, his Serene Highness’s secretary; and Sir Robert Gardner, his Serene Highness’s equerry. In the other carriage was Prince Leopold, accompanied by Baron Just the Saxon minister at this court, and Mr. Chester the assistant master of the ceremonies. When his Highness came out to get into his carriage, great enthusiasm was manifested by the female spectators, whose hearty good wishes were not confined to the waving of handkerchiefs, or other ordinary expressions of congratulation; but proceeded to the homely though sincere declaration of the interest they felt in his hopes and future felicity, by approaching him closely, patting him on the back, and invoking upon him blessings of every description.

Attempts were also made to take off the horses from the Prince’s carriage, and draw him, in the accustomed spirit of English good-will, to Carlton-House. From these attempts, however, the populace were persuaded to desist, though Prince Leopold appeared perfectly ready to allow any indulgence which the joyful feelings of the populace inclined them to require. His Serene Highness received abundant proofs of public regard on his way to Carlton-House, in continual cheerings and congratulations; and, when he passed within the colonnade, the band played God save the King. […] The attendants at Carlton-House, belonging to the royal household, guards, yeomen, footmen, &c, appeared in state costumes, and the great hall was brilliantly illuminated.

The following were the ceremonies within Carlton House:—The Queen and Royal Family, his Highness the Duke of Orleans, and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld, were introduced to the Prince Regent, on their arrival, in his Royal Highness’s private closet. The royal servants, &c, lined the apartments from the grand crimson saloon, where the marriage service was afterwards celebrated. The saloon had been prepared and fitted up for the occasion with an elegant temporary altar, suitable to the august ceremony, which was covered with crimson velvet, and placed near one of the fire-places.

The crimson velvet cushions and the splendidly bound prayer-books, &c. were brought from the Chapel Royal, St. James’s, as well as the massy candlesticks, and other church plate from the military chapel at Whitehall. The serjeant of the Chapel-Royal attended also in his office of verger. . The Prince Regent, and all the Royal Family, with his particular attendants, entered the three grand rooms next to the apartment in which the throne was erected. Her Majesty, with the female branches of the Royal Family, and their attendants, were conducted to the next anti-room. Among the attendants, were Lady John Murray and Lady Emily Murray, the cabinet ministers, the foreign ambassadors and envoys; and their ladies also attended by particular invitation, and proceeded to the grand crimson room.

At the time appointed for her Majesty to leave the closet, her full attendants were conducted across the grand hall; and also the full attendants upon the Prince Regent, except those in waiting upon the Queen and Prince Regent. The Princess Charlotte and Prince of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld remained in the closet after the procession moved to the suit of rooms towards the altar. […]

When the ceremony was to commence, the Lord Chamberlain returned to the closet, and conducted the Prince of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld to the altar. His Lordship then went again to conduct the Princess Charlotte, and was accompanied by the Duke of Clarence, who conducted his royal niece, leaning upon his arm, to the altar, where she was received by the Prince Regent; his Royal Highness then took his place by the side of the illustrious pair. Behind the Royal Dukes stood the Lord Chancellor, Lords Castlereagh, Sidmouth, and Melville; the Earls of Westmorland, Harrowby, Mulgrave, and Bathurst; Mr. Vansittart, Mr. Bathurst, and Mr. Pole, the Cabinet Ministers.

On the other side of the altar was the Queen, for whom a chair of state was placed. On her right hand, were the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, and Mary, the Duchess of York, and her Royal Highness the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, Behind her Majesty were her Lord and Vice Cham berlains, and the Ladies of the Household. On the left of the altar, stood the Royal Dukes of York, Clarence, and Kent, (the Dukes of Cumberland and Sussex, and his Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, were not present.) The Archbishop of Canterbury was close to the altar, and behind him the Archbishop of York; the Bishop of London was on the right of the altar, the Bishop of Exeter as Clerk of the Closet, and the Bishop of Salisbury the preceptor of the Princess Charlotte.

The Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, the Foreign Ambassadors, and the great officers of the household, stood in front of die altar at some distance. Two crimson velvet stools were placed in front of the altar. The illustrious personages had all taken their stations by a little after nine o’clock, when the service began. The ceremony was then performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishop of London. The Princess Charlotte was given away by her Royal Father the Prince Regent. His Royal Highness appeared in excellent health. He was dressed in regimentals, and wore all his Orders. […]

The Prince of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld wore at the wedding a full British uniform, decorated with the insignia of the new Hanoverian Order of die Guelphs, which was conferred upon him by the Prince Regent at the same time with the Duke of Wellington, Prince Blucher, Marquis of Anglesea, Lord Stewart, Prince Hardenberg, and Prince Metternich. He also wore the emblems of knighthood of Saxony, Austria, Russia, the Netherlands, Prussia, Bavaria, Wertemberg, and Denmark. His Serene Highness wore a magnificent sword and belt, ornamented with diamonds, and studded with various gems.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte advanced to the altar with steadiness, and went through the ceremony with a chastened joy, giving the responses with great clearness, so as to be heard distinctly by every person present. Prince Leopold was not heard so distinctly, and exhibited rather more than common diffidence. On the termination of the marriage ceremony, the Princess Charlotte embraced her Father, and went up to the Queen, whose hand she kissed with great respect. She also kissed the Princesses, particularly distinguishing the Princess Mary; she then shook hands with her uncles, and retired arm-in-arm with the Prince her husband.

The ceremony was scarcely concluded, when the brazen throats of the guns on the parade of St. James’s Park, and the battery of the Tower, announced in royal salutes, to the metropolis, the auspicious event. The ladies who attended as bridemaids to the Princess Charlotte, were Lady Charlotte Cholmondeley, Lady Caroline Pratt, Lady Susan Ryder, the Hon. Miss Law, and Miss Manners, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The royal pair remained but a short time at CarltonHouse after the ceremony was over, and set off about eleven o’clock for Oatlands, where they intended to reside during the honey-moon.

Her Majesty gave directions for bride-cakes, which had been preparing for some time, to be sent to the individuals of the royal establishments at the Queen’s Palace, Windsor, her private establishment at Frogmore and at Kew Palace, amounting in the whole to nearly 500 persons, to commemorate the marriage of her royal grand-daughter. […] It was not, however, only in the metropolis, but in many other parts of England, that the nuptial day of the Princess Charlotte was celebrated by every demonstration of joy. Wherever her influence had been felt, there the smile of congratulation was apparent; and the blessings of the poor and the unfortunate, whom she had assisted, were in secret pronounced upon her.

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