Royal wedding bouquets through the years - who carried which flowers?

As we wait in anticipation to see what flowers Meghan Markle has at her royal wedding, we look at the best bouquets – and their meanings – from royals past.

Wedding bouquets come in all shapes, sizes, colours and creations. With the marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on the horizon in May, what flowers, we wonder, will Meghan carry down the aisle?

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It’s not as easy as just picking her favourites, says Anna-Liisa Evans at Springbank Florists, exhibitor at Bride: The Wedding Show Tatton Park.

"There is much symbolism surrounding the flower choices for each wedding bouquet, together with their obvious natural beauty and fabulous fragrance, and no traditional bride is complete without a bouquet."

Rumour has it that she has already chosen peonies, white garden roses and foxgloves.

 

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But if Meghan needs a little floral inspiration anyway, we’ve delved into the archives to take a look the floral fancies other royals have carried through the year – and asked a florist for their insight.

Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet

Let's roll it back to 1840, and the wedding of Queen Victoria. Marrying her first cousin, Prince Albert, at St James' Palace, she carried a small but sweet posy of snowdrops, believed to be the Prince’s favourite flower.

She didn't, however, carry myrtle, which is something of a myth - it's tradition for a royal bride to carry a sprig of myrtle in their wedding bouquet, which many believe is because Queen Victoria did. She didn't, but she was gifted a royal myrtle plant by Prince Albert’s grandmother. Since the wedding of her eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, royal brides tend to include a sprig of this in their bouquets.

The Queen’s wedding bouquet

For her marriage to Philip Mountbatten in 1947, the Queen chose a bouquet of exotic orchids: cattleya, cyripedium and odontoglossum – all British grown - plus, of course, myrtle.

“Queen Elizabeth’s bouquet was a very structured wired creation of rare orchids, a real luxury at the time since Britain was still recovering from the war with most land given over to growing food and not flowers,” adds Anna-Liisa.

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Princess Diana’s wedding bouquet

The 80s love of excess was in full force at the 1981 wedding of Princess Di, from her David Emmanuel gown to her flower choice.

“Princess Diana’s bouquet reflected the 80s craze for all things big and beautiful,” comments Anna-Liisa. “With a cascading cacophony of heavily fragrant flowers including gardenias, stephanotis, freesia and lily of the valley, the bouquet complimented the dress - big and bouffant.”

Duchess of York’s wedding bouquet

Sarah Ferguson’s wedding to Prince Andrew in 1986 might not have had the same fanfare as Diana’s, but her bouquet was spot-on for being traditional of the time as well as of royal tradition.

“Sarah carried an S-shaped bouquet created from gardenias, cream lilies, yellow roses, lilies of the valley and a sprig of myrtle – traditional in all British royal wedding bouquets.”

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Zara Phillips' wedding bouquet

“Zara Phillips' bouquet is probably the most popular amongst brides as it can be created using a number of flower varieties and complements many different styles of wedding dresses,” says Lauren Probert, head florist at Appleyard London.

“This can vary from a very simple and traditional rose hand-tied bouquet or made to look more rustic with mixed varieties of flowers like Zara's which is made up of calla lilies and eryngium. This bouquet is very cost effective and it's more affordable then the labour-intensive wired bouquets of other royals.”

Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding bouquet

Anna-Liisa comments: “Kate's choice was less structured, although still very fragrant, instead eschewing the previous trend for orchid heavy bouquets for something created out of fabulous delicate homegrown seasonal flowers. Its subtlety made it no less impressive.”

As for the choice of each flower, Lauren decodes them: “All of the flowers were chosen by Kate with reference to the rather twee language of flowers, a floral code made popular by Queen Victoria.

“So the signature lily of the valley means trustworthy, myrtle hope and love, hornbeams resilience and field maples humility and reserve. Not only twee but also pitfall-laden: lilac is for youthful innocence or disappointment, depending on which version you believe!”

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