The incredible story behind Princess Beatrice's vintage wedding gown

Find out all about royal couturier Norman Hartnell

When Princess Beatrice was pictured in her vintage Norman Hartnell gown on her intimate royal wedding day, there was no doubt that it sent the clearest message of love and respect to her grandmother the Queen. The bride - wearing the diamond tiara that Her Majesty wore on her own wedding day - chose to subvert the modern tradition of royals working with contemporary designers to create a bespoke wedding gown, instead raiding her grandmother's incredible archive and wearing a piece of history on her special day.

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WATCH: Princess Beatrice's wedding photos

It even later emerged that she did once have another gown – perhaps a bespoke creation from a modern designer - but had a change of heart and turned to vintage instead.

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While Beatrice's entire wedding look was sweetly sentimental, her choice of Norman Hartnell as a designer is significant – since he was arguably the most famous royal couturier there ever was, rising to fame and success by dressing members of the royal family and other stars such as Marlene Dietrich.


Beatrice wore an embellished Norman Hartnell gown from the Queen's archive

Vintage fashion expert and auctioneer Kerry Taylor tells HELLO! that Hartnell became famous for his beautifully sparkling gowns during his heyday, with designs much like the one Beatrice chose for her wedding.

"Hartnell was the 'King of Bling' in the 1950s and 60s," she said. "His highly embellished gowns – usually smothered in beadwork, sequins and embroidery - made them the perfect choice for royal ceremonial occasions. Norman Hartnell had dressed Queen Elizabeth - then the Duchess of York - from the 1930s onwards and her daughters duly followed in her footsteps."

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The Queen in her own Norman Hartnell wedding dress

She adds that it was the young Princess Elizabeth who truly loved Hartnell's work. "Princess Margaret disliked the bejewelled and more ornate examples, preferring Monsieur Christian Dior," she said.

Cherie Balch, owner of cult vintage clothing store Shrimpton Couture, adds of the Queen's love for Hartnell: "He designed many of the Queen's dresses and she often re-wore them, sometimes with slight style changes as the years progressed."


Her Majesty in Canberra, Australia, February 1954

Of course, that's exactly what Beatrice did with her wedding dress, adding her own style to the ballgown by introducing organza puff sleeves.

"I feel that this shows just how much [the Queen] loved his work more then anything," she adds. "It is one thing to have your pick of dresses from anywhere in the world and another altogether to work so closely with a designer and love his work so much that you re-wear your favourites - especially in the public eye where you know it will be noted and commented on."


Princess Margaret in her Hartnell gown, which did not feature his signature embellishment

And looking at Hartnell's stunning body of work, it's clear why Princess Beatrice fell in love with her chosen gown today - particularly when reflecting on the heavily beaded and sequinned outfits she has worn over the years.

Hartnell's love of embellishment was particularly notable – he was once quoted saying: "I despise simplicity; it is the negation of all that is beautiful."

MORE: Surprising story behind Princess Beatrice's sparkling wedding shoes revealed

And while the royal couturier's legacy gains fresh eyes as he posthumously dresses yet another Princess bride, many vintage insiders hope to see his largely forgotten work gain the recognition it deserves.


The Queen views her wedding dress at an exhibition in 2007

"For some odd reason, his name never has become a household name like Dior or YSL," says Cherie. "Perhaps because his company did not carry on like some of the other heritage companies have, and that for the the most part his work stayed centered in England.

"He was a fascinating and extremely talented couturier whose history should be known. He has an incredibly rich story and his body of work is truly amazing. I hope that now that his name has circled the globe, it awakens a renewed interest in his life and the legacy of beautiful gowns that he has left behind."

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