Critically acclaimed but hounded by accusations of historical inaccuracies, Netflix’s The Crown premiered in 2016. It was 1947 and Princess Elizabeth’s fiancé Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark renounced his titles to marry her. King George VI made him Duke of Edinburgh and was granted the style His Royal Highness. On November 20, 1947, in a ceremony that was broadcast on BBC radio to 200 million people across the globe, Elizabeth and Philip were married at Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding was the highlight of Episode 1 of Season 1 of The Crown.
Naturally, everything—including the wedding gown and jewelry—were mere reproductions. Costume designer Michele Clapton (who has won Emmys in 2012, 2014 and 2016 for Game of Thrones) could not have viewed the real wedding dress from 1947 as it has since deteriorated to an “appalling condition” so, instead, she “studied hours of archival footage to faithfully reproduce details.”
Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara held Elizabeth’s veil in place
There’s a famous anecdote that goes with the tiara that Princess Elizabeth wore on her wedding. It was mentioned in The Crown in a conversation between the princess and the Queen although not in a way that makes a big deal of it. The frame of the tiara snapped when it was being arranged on the head of the princess and it had to be rushed with a police escort to royal jeweller Garrard who managed to weld it together.
How could a piece of royal jewelry be in bad shape? The tiara is old. Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mother Mary, had the tiara made in 1919 from a necklace that was given to her as a gift by Queen Victoria in 1893.
If you search Google for images from the real-life wedding, the tiara shows an awkward gap in front (click to see). Meanwhile, the reproduction for The Crown was perfect.
The wedding dress by Norman Hartnell
Three years after the second world war, England was still reeling and rationing was still in place. Clothes rationing would not end until 1949. For the Royal Wedding in 1947, Elizabeth was allowed an extra 200 coupons for her dress.
Designed by Norman Hartnell, Princess Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding dress featured a 13-foot a star-patterned bridal train, said to have been inspired by a Botticelli painting, that symbolized rebirth after the war. Interestingly, the choice of material for the dress drew controversy.
The Queen Mother had specifically asked that Hartnell should use an unusually rich, lustrous stiff satin which was made at Lullington Castle. The satin was ideal for the train, but Hartnell thought that the dress required a more supple material of a similar tone. He ordered the similar fabric from the Scottish firm of Winterthur near Dunfermline. Difficulties arose when rivals put about the rumour that the Scottish satin was made from ‘enemy silk worms’, either from Italy or possibly Japan. A telephone call to Dunfermline settled the scandal. Mr. Hartnell was assured the silkworms were from Nationalist China and were not ‘enemy silkworms’. [Source]
The ultra conservative wedding dress was impeccably reproduced by Michele Clapton for The Crown.
As a final note, the real Princess Elizabeth did her own make-up for the wedding. Obviously, actress Clair Foy’s make-up for the wedding scene of The Crown was done by a professional.