For orchid lovers there wasn’t much of interest in the recent Royal wedding … or was there?
I’m sure you have your own opinion of the event at Windsor Castle, but I think we’ll probably all agree that the bride’s veil was stupendous, all 5 metres of it!
Clare Waight Keller, artistic director at Givenchy and designer of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress, with a sample of the hand-embroidered lace that made up the veil.
According to a press release from Kensington Palace, Ms Markle – now the Duchess of Sussex – expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony. Clare Waight Keller designed a veil that represented the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular composition – and including many orchids.
The veil was made from silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza. Each flower was worked flat, in three dimensions with the embroiderers spending hundreds of hours meticulously sewing – and washing their hands every 30 minutes – to keep the tulle and threads pristine.
In addition to the flora of the Commonwealth, Ms Markle also selected two personal favourites: Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), which grows in the grounds of Kensington Palace in front of Nottingham Cottage (where she lives with Prince Harry); and the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), representing the US state where Ms Markle was born.
Symmetrically placed at the very front of the veil, embroidered crops of wheat symbolised love and charity (and from what I understand are also a motif for fertility!).
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The embroidery can be seen in this photo of the bride entering St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and, below, as she leaves.
The press release says: “Significant time was spent researching the flora of each Commonwealth country and much care was taken by Ms Waight Keller to ensure that every flower is unique”. But when the first two orchids in the list from Africa are so generic, they might be the first Google hits her staff got – in 2012 the people of Kenya were canvassed as to what their national flower might be. One suggestion, among many, was the “tropical orchid” (Phalaenopsis as far as I can make out) as the country grows so many for export.
The orchids on the veil were: “White variety orchid” from Gambia; “tropical orchid” from Kenya; Tropicbird orchid (Angraecum eburnum) from the Seychelles; Vanda Miss Joaquim from Singapore; the Black Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata, syn. Encyclia cochleata) from Belize; and Sepik Blue Orchid (Dendrobium lasianthera) from Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand was represented by the kowhai flower. Read the full list of flowers here.
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Despite the extravagant use of flowers at the entry to St George’s Chapel, as can be seen above, the bride carried only a small posy bouquet. which apparently did not include orchids.
The bridal bouquet carried by the Duchess of Sussex at her wedding was then laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the west nave of Westminster Abbey in London.
The Palace press release notes that Prince Harry handpicked several flowers from the couple’s private garden to add to the bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock. The spring blooms include forget-me-nots which were the favourite flower of Diana, Princess of Wales. The bouquet also including scented sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine and astrantia, and sprigs of myrtle, bound with a naturally dyed, raw silk ribbon.
The myrtle sprigs are from stems planted at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, and from a plant grown from the myrtle used in The Queen’s wedding bouquet of 1947. The myrtle was first carried by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, when she married in 1858.