Surprising reason King Charles' mother Queen Elizabeth never tried on star-print wedding dress

The Queen and Prince Philip smiling on their wedding day in November 1947
The Queen and Prince Philip smiling on their wedding day in November 1947 (ITV/Shutterstock)

Today marks a poignant one for King Charles III, whose late parents Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip would have been celebrating their 76th wedding anniversary.

The former monarch, then 21, married the former Prince of Greece and Denmark, 26, on 20 November 1947 in a gorgeous Norman Hartnell gown, which seamstress Betty Foster later revealed she didn't try on in advance.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace.
The late Queen Elizabeth didn't try on her finished 13-foot wedding dress in advance (Getty)

Despite around 350 seamstresses working over a period of seven weeks to create the embellished piece, which was reportedly inspired by Botticelli's painting 'Primavera', then-Princess Elizabeth chose not to have several fittings and alterations in the finished dress.

Instead, Betty told The Telegraph in 2016 that she kept her distance from the finalised gown until her big day as she was reportedly respecting the tradition that it would be unlucky. She explained that Elizabeth had checked in on the progress with her grandmother Queen Mary, mother Queen Elizabeth and sister Princess Margaret, but vendeuse Miss Yvonne travelled to Buckingham Palace to fit it.

queen elizabeth wedding
Princess Elizabeth's star-print wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell (Getty Images)

However, Betty also told Jennifer Robson, author of The Gown, that Elizabeth had, in fact, tried on the gown during the making process.

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"The princess had two fittings with a toile before the dress was embroidered, and then the pieces were sent to the embroidery room, and only then did it come back to the workroom where it was all put together.

princess elizabeth wedding shoes
The royal bride wore peep toe heels (Getty Images)

"Before it was made up I had the task of making the buttons. I sewed all twenty-two buttonholes on the back and I also made the sleeves. Because I’d never made a buttonhole before, I had to practice on scrap bits of fabric.

"Only then was I allowed to work on the already meticulously embroidered dress. I remember sitting at my table and Miss Holliday telling all the other girls that no one was allowed to talk to me whilst I was practising. After the dress had its final fitting, the seams were re-embroidered, because they couldn’t do the embroidery until it had been properly fitted."

She added: "When everything was done, Miss Holliday let the other girls do a stitch or two, just so they could say they had worked on the wedding dress. And then, just before it was delivered to Buckingham Palace, we all got to see it, and the bridesmaids’ dresses, too, because we hadn’t seen them before—they’d been made up in another of the workroom."

The day before the royal wedding, two cars – one containing the wedding dress in a glass box, and another for designer Norman – left his studio at 23 Bruton Street and travelled to the Princess's private suite.

Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey in a stunning ivory silk and duchesse satin gown encrusted with 10,000 seed pearls and a 15ft train with a star-print design. She paired it with the Queen's diamond fringe tiara, which broke hours before the ceremony.

Following their wedding, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip welcomed four children: now-King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. They were married for 73 years before Philip died in 2021 at the age of 99.

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