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In preparation for the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton, StyleList will profile 20 of the greatest modern royal weddings, one every Friday, between now and Apr. 29. We begin with possibly the most significant royal wedding of the 20th century: that of William's grandparents.

Before there was Kate Middleton and Prince William or Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles, there was Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

The British monarch and her husband of more than 60 years, sweethearts since their teens, married in a state ceremony before over 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947.

Of course, the wedding fashions were fit for a royal:


Elizabeth's Norman Hartnell wedding gown, while opulent by any measure with its 15-foot train, was also a fashion statement about post-World War II England: The lead-by-example future sovereign saved up war-era "ration coupons" to acquire the fabric needed for her ivory duchesse satin gown.

The theatrically trained Hartnell wrote in his autobiography that the inspiration for the royal wedding dress was Botticelli's "Primavera," an allegorical figure signifying the coming of spring. For a nation only barely emerging from the "winter" of the Second World War -- food rationing would not be completely abolished in the United Kingdom until 1954 -- it was a powerful metaphor for hope.

Hartnell translated flora on the "Primavera" into a modern pattern of white crystals, silver thread and thousands of pearls -- his famous line on restraint was "to me, simplicity is the death of the soul." The rich embroidery included flowers representing the four lands of the United Kingdom as well as the countries of the British Commonwealth: shamrocks for Ireland, thistles for Scotland, maple leaves for Canada and English Tudor roses.

Because of short supplies in war-torn Britain, the 10,000 miniature pearls that Hartnell used to decorate the bodice and train were imported from the United States.

The queen-to-be's silk tulle veil was held in place by her grandmother's tiara. Her bouquet of white orchids included a sprig of myrtle from a bush planted from Queen Victoria's bridal bouquet . And her high-heel shoes were ivory duchesse satin embellished with silver and pearls.

Elizabeth's parents gave her a strand of classic pearls to wear as a necklace, and her groom sealed the marriage with a band of Welsh gold, which complemented her large, square-cut-diamond-and-platinum engagement ring.

As it often is with the royals, there was a little prenuptial scandal: The palace had to quash rumors that the future queen's wedding silk was made by enemy worms in Japan or Italy. (The history books say friendly worms of Nationalist China spun the fabric.)

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After the ceremony, the bride and groom feted at a Buckingham Palace ballroom, and used the prince's ceremonial sword to slice into the 9-foot-high, four-tier wedding cake made with ingredients contributed by Australian Girl Guides. Slices of the cake were later shared with schools and institutions.

Did the queen love her wedding frock? She must have. Five years later, upon her father's death, she gave Hartnell the royal nod to stitch her coronation robes. Her sister, Princess Margaret, also turned to the designer when she married Anthony Armstrong Jones in 1960.

Speaking of monarchical history, read how the revealing dress Middleton wore when she met her prince charming is now a valuable royal artifact.

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(But click here for royal weddings that didn't end happily ever after.)