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From Queen Victoria to Meghan Markle: all you need to know about British royal wedding bouquets, and why each one carries a sprig of myrtle

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 5/7/2020 Yeu-Gynn Yeung
a person wearing a wedding cake: Most princesses have chosen to incorporate myrtle in their wedding bouquet, including Princess Diana (above), Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice. Photo: @theprincesschronicle/ Instagram Most princesses have chosen to incorporate myrtle in their wedding bouquet, including Princess Diana (above), Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice. Photo: @theprincesschronicle/ Instagram

Few events inspire such a sense of romance and intrigue as British royal weddings. From the first-ever wedding broadcast of Princess Margaret and photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's in 2018, the whole world watches in anticipation as royal brides walk down the aisle, past the magnificent wedding arch, hands clasping their bouquet of white blooms.

Royal wedding flowers have interesting stories of their own too. STYLE finds out why every bouquet always carries a sprig of one type of flower from Queen Victoria's garden, why two wedding bouquets are made for every occasion, and other interesting facts about how these flowers are intertwined with royal wedding traditions.

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Every royal wedding bouquet carries a sprig of myrtle

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Since the mid-1800s, every royal wedding bouquet has had a sprig of myrtle, beginning with Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. After the wedding, her Majesty planted myrtles from her bouquet in her own garden.

The plant has thrived, even until now, 180 years after, and is said to symbolise luck and fidelity. Most princesses have chosen to incorporate myrtle in their wedding bouquet, including Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Meghan Markle, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice.

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Royal brides place their bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

In 1923, Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon unknowingly began this tradition. As Lady Elizabeth entered Westminster Abbey on her wedding day, she stopped to lay her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. This was a tribute to her brother, Fergus, who died at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The tomb itself contains the body of an unidentified soldier from France, a symbol of the lives that were lost to war.

Lady Elizabeth then became the only royal bride to walk down the aisle without her wedding bouquet. Many brides have adapted the tradition since then, but have chosen to lay their flowers on the tomb as they leave the church instead of when they enter, after official wedding photographs are taken.

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Wedding bouquets come in pairs

Royal bouquets have been made in pairs since Princess Diana's wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. This was actually Queen Elizabeth's idea, after an incident at her 1947 wedding, in which her original wedding bouquet did not make it to the official photographs.

The queen's bouquet was lost in the middle of her honeymoon, before the official wedding photographs were taken. Fortunately, she'd had another bouquet made for the photo session but it just wasn't the same.

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The royals spend a lot of money on wedding flowers

Meghan Markle's wedding flowers alone were estimated at GBP110,000 (US$135,685), including the wedding arch, decor, and display. Some of her blooms were hand-picked by Prince Harry from the couple's private garden at Kensington Palace.

The selection included peonies (one of the world's most expensive flowers), white garden roses, and forget-me-nots, a favourite bloom of late Princess Diana. Meghan and Harry's wedding flowers were done by sustainable luxury florist Philippa Craddock and her team.

The Sussexes took a step further to make their wedding flowers more meaningful by donating the bunch to St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney. A representative from the hospice called it a "lovely gesture".

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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