Five years before she would become queen of England, 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth said “I do” to Philip Mountbatten. The engagement was announced in July 1947, hard on the heels of the Second World War in bruised and battered Britain.
They were to be married just four months later, so there was little time to plan and get a dress made. Rationing was still in effect for all, including the Royal Family. However, Princess Elizabeth was awarded an additional 200 ration coupons from the government to help pay for the celebration and to buy material for the gown.
Designer Norman Hartnell created a dress made from ivory silk, duchesse satin and silver thread. It featured crystals, 10,000 seed pearls, a fitted bodice, a heart-shaped neckline, long sleeves and a 15-foot train.
The postwar princess:
- Following news of the engagement, well-wishers from around Britain sent their own ration coupons to Princess Elizabeth in the mail. However, it was illegal to transfer coupons between households, so the young royal sent them all back.
- A team of 350 women created the dress in only seven weeks. In 2016, the wedding dress and coronation gown went on display at Buckingham Palace as part of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations.
- According to the Royal Collection Trust, the gown was meant to symbolize "rebirth and growth" in Britain after the war.