History

George VI's wedding

26 April 1923

At the time of his wedding, few would have thought Prince Albert would ever take the throne. In a break from tradition, the future King George VI's marriage to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was a public affair.

Photo: The wedding day of George VI (then Duke of York) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, with the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, George V and Queen Mary, 26 April 1923. (Mary Evans)

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Princess Elizabeth leaves Westminster Abbey in London, with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, after their wedding ceremony, 20 November 1947.

20 November 1947

Elizabeth II's wedding

More information about: George VI's wedding

How the couple met

Albert Frederick Arthur George was born on 14 December 1895. As a child, despite being naturally left-handed, he was forced to write with his right, and his legs were encased in splints to straighten his knock knees.

At the age of 13, he was sent to naval college and eventually saw action as a junior officer in 1916.

In 1920, he met Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the outgoing daughter of a minor Scottish aristocrat. Born 4 August 1900, she spent much of her childhood in Scotland where she developed an interest in gardening, walking, fishing and farming.

Albert was drawn to the young woman, but she only accepted his proposal at the third attempt.

The wedding day

The ceremony took place on 26 April 1923, and the couple became the Duke and Duchess of York.

In a break with tradition, it was decided their wedding would be a public affair at Westminster Abbey instead of at a royal chapel. It is believed this decision was taken to lift the spirits of the nation following the ravages of the Great War (1914-18).

The event took place before the days of television; nor was it broadcast on the radio because the Archbishop of Canterbury was concerned that men might listen to it in public houses.

Elizabeth wore a dress in the fashion of the early 1920s, made by Madame Handley Seymour. Prince Albert wore full RAF dress.

Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the Abbey, and royal brides since have copied this gesture.

The couple honeymooned in Scotland and Surrey.

Life after the wedding

The Duke and Duchess of York's first child was Elizabeth, born 21 April 1926. A second daughter, Margaret, followed on 21 August 1930.

Their family life was altered dramatically by the death of Albert's father, George V, and the subsequent abdication of Edward VIII. As the younger brother, the Duke of York ascended to the throne and became King George VI in December 1936. The Duchess became Queen Elizabeth.

Though untrained for the role, his hard-working and conscientious manner eventually won over the public. During World War II, the Royal Family's refusal to leave Buckingham Palace - despite German bombing raids on London - increased their popularity.

In 1952, the King died aged just 56 after a series of health problems, culminating in lung cancer - he had been a heavy smoker.

His daughter ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II, and his widow became known as the Queen Mother. She continued with her public duties, and also cultivated a passion for horse-racing.

The Queen Mother died peacefully in her sleep in 2002, aged 101. Thousands of mourners queued for hours to pay their respects as she lay in state in Westminster Hall.

Worldwide interest in the life of King George VI increased from late 2010 with the release of The King's Speech, an award-laden film about his battle to overcome his stammer.