Princess Anne, Meghan Markle and more divorcée brides' decision to wear white second wedding dresses

Meghan Markle, Queen Camilla and Princess Anne at their royal weddings
Meghan Markle, Queen Camilla and Princess Anne at their royal weddings (Getty)

White has long been a colour synonymous with brides, but despite it being traditionally chosen for the first wedding dress, many avoid the colour for their second weddings.

Aside from being associated with the bride's innocence, the hue can also be considered as boring and some brides want to use their second weddings as an opportunity to push the boundaries and take more risks with colourful or unconventional outfits. But not the likes of Queen Camilla and Meghan Markle, who chose to wear ivory frocks following their divorces.

Join us as we take a look at the meanings behind their carefully chosen bridal white wedding gowns…

Royal history

Wearing white is a tradition started by the royal family, which could be one of the key reasons many have continued to don the colour for their multiple weddings.

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she wrote in her journal: "I wore a white satin gown with a very deep flounce of Honiton lace, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch."

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According to Jennifer Steadman, curator of the exhibition 'Victorian Fashion Crosses the Pond', her colour choice was to highlight her innocence.

"She wanted to be seen as [Albert's] wife, so she didn’t wear the red ermine robe of state. She wore white. After that, all representations in... fashion magazines picked up on that. The white wedding dress became the standard symbol for innocence and romance."

However, others have suggested the colour - which was considered simple at the time - was driven by her desire to show off the intricate design and support England's lace industry.

"Before bleaching techniques were mastered, white was a rare and expensive color, more a symbol of wealth than purity," explained Julia Baird explained in Victoria The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire.

"Victoria was not the first to wear it, but she made it popular by example. Lace makers across England were thrilled by the sudden surge in the popularity of their handiwork."

Princess Anne's midi dress

Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence on their wedding day, 1992
Princess Anne wore a short white wedding dress to marry Timothy Laurence in 1992 (Raw/Nre/Shutterstock)

The Princess Royal remarried ten years before the Church of England allowed it in 2002. After the late Queen Elizabeth II's daughter divorced her first husband Mark Phillips – with whom she shares children Peter and Zara – Anne wed Timothy Laurence at Crathie Kirk in Scotland.

The couple eloped as the Church of Scotland did not object to the remarriage of divorced people with living ex-spouses. Despite their untraditional nuptials, Anne continued to choose a white frock, modernising the look by lifting the hem to a midi length and adding a matching coat and black court shoes.

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips smiling at each other while leaving the west door of Westminster Abbey in London after their wedding ceremony.
The royal married her first husband Captain Mark Phillips in 1973 (Getty)

It was in stark contrast to her first wedding dress, which was a Tudor-style wedding dress designed by Maureen Baker at Susan Small with a high collar and trumpet sleeves.

Queen Camilla's silk coat dress

Charles wore his beloved signet ring on his wedding day
The bride wore a cream coat dress and a blue and gold frock for her royal wedding (Getty Images)

The Church of England's 2002 change meant that King Charles and Queen Camilla could get married in 2005. The King had previously wed Princess Diana in 1981 before finalising their split in 1996, while Camilla was married to Andrew Parker Bowles from 1973 to 1995.

Rare photos of Camilla's nuptials with Andrew show her wearing an ivory gown with a pie-crust neckline and a ruffled hem, while she chose two very different outfits by London designers Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine for her royal wedding.

Camilla Shand and Captain Andrew Parker Bowles on their wedding day
Camilla was previously married to Andrew Parker Bowles (Getty)

First, Camilla wore a pale cream silk chiffon dress with a matching coat for the civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, before changing into a grey silk coat dress finished with intricate gold embroidery for a service of blessing at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Not only did this mark a move away from bridal white, but she finished her unconventional outfit by replacing a tiara with two hats.

Meghan Markle's pure white gown

Harry and Meghan leave chapel after wedding
The Duchess of Sussex wore a white Givenchy wedding dress (Getty)

Although Anne and Camilla had white or off-white outfits, their nuptials defied convention enough to make it clear that they were marking their second wedding.

Meanwhile, there was reportedly controversy behind palace doors around Prince Harry's wife Meghan Markle's chosen bridal outfit.

The former Suits actress married her first husband Trevor Engelson in Jamaica in 2011 wearing a strapless white dress with a silver jewelled belt. Four years after their divorce, Meghan was a striking bride once again to wed the Duke of Sussex at St George's Chapel in 2018 wearing two "pure white" gowns.

The first was a bateau-neck dress by Givenchy, while the second was a backless, halterneck frock by Stella McCartney. Katie Nicholl reported in her book The New Royals that the late Queen was "surprised" by the American divorcée's decision since she expected her to follow suit with other formerly married royals and wear off-white.

Ingrid Seward reiterated this while discussing her new book, My Mother and I, on GB News. She claimed the former monarch was "cross" over the gown, stating "you could see it in her face." She added: "It suggests you’re pure and you haven’t been married before or anything. Meghan was dressing up as if she was very virginal. She didn’t like it because she knew it wasn’t too true.”

This doesn't marry (pun not intended) with the rumour that the Queen was one of the very few people to see royal wedding dresses before the big day to give her nod of approval. If this was the case, the monarch would have had an opportunity to air her feelings.

Wedding dresses aside, Prince Harry did hint that there was some controversy over Meghan's outfit in his book Spare. "There had been spirited arguments in the back corridors of the Palace about whether or not Meg could – or should – wear a veil. 'Not possible,' some said. For a divorcée, a veil was thought to be out of the question.

"But the powers that be, unexpectedly, showed some flexibility on the subject."

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