Royal Weddings through The Years: Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip, 1947
The royal wedding last weekend prompted me to delve into one of our latest releases Service Newspapers of World War Two to explore the headlines that were sent from home to battlefield to report on the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh (i.e. Queenie and Prince Philip).
This issue of the Union Jackâ€™s Greece Edition contained a special Royal Wedding Supplement that was circulated amongst servicemen on the day of the wedding (20th November 1947).
Amidst the confinements of war, 28 members of foreign Royal Houses were still able to grace the occasion with their presence alongside â€˜more film stars than have ever invaded Britain at one timeâ€™ who arrived on the Queen Mary. Some modesty was exercised, however, with a reported â€˜austerity breakfast at the Palaceâ€™. Still, I canâ€™t help but suspect that Spam and carrot lollies were not on the menu.
It seems the austerity versus lavishness debate was something of a hot topic at the time. A B.T.A. edition of Union Jack in July of 1947 featured an article reporting that 86.3% of Daily Express readers voted that the royal wedding should be a lavish affair, whilst only 13.7% voted for an austerity wedding.
Yet, the narrative of economizing continued with a later Union Jack headline reading â€˜Austerity at Royal Weddingâ€™. The article describes how the wedding was â€˜run on austerity linesâ€™ by changing the number of bridesmaids â€˜from at least half a dozen to about sixâ€™ and reducing the size and weight of the cake unveiled at Princess Elizabethâ€™s parentsâ€™ wedding which was an opulent nine feet high, weighing in at 800 pounds. Just the 8 feet for young Lizzie then.
Having said this, the happy couple did have an unroyally small number of guests with just 800 attending the ceremony and less than 100 attending the wedding breakfast. 1,900 invites were sent out for Kate Middleton and Prince Williamâ€™s wedding and a whopping 3,500 made up the congregation at Lady Diana and Prince Charlesâ€™s wedding. Megan and Harry exercised a little more restraint with only 600 invitees.
One thing that was certainly not cut back on was public celebration. The 1947 ceremony was the first royal wedding service in history to be broadcast to the masses, both at home and overseas. 200 million radio listeners across the globe tuned in to the radio broadcast. I wonder whether the broadcasting world of the time ever envisaged that Meghan and Harryâ€™s big day would elicit the 3.4 million Tweets that were sent during the ceremony alone!
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