Hapsburg Imperial Bridal Veil, 1881
The month of June marks the start of the summer wedding season. This week’s Smithsonian Snapshot highlights the 1881 Hapsburg Imperial Bridal Veil.
On May 10, 1881, Princess Stéphanie of Belgium wore this handmade veil for her wedding to Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf. It measures 100 inches wide by 123 inches long.
The Princess’ mother, Queen Marie Henriette, commissioned Léon Sacré, a famous 19th-century Brussels lace merchant, to have the veil designed and made by the best Flemish needle lace makers for the wedding.
To represent the union of the Crown Prince and Princess, 21 coats of arms of Belgium and the Austro-Hungarian Empire line the border of the veil—the Lion of Belgium and the Austro-Hungarian double-headed eagle crest lie at the center. These symbols are surrounded by elaborate ferns, lilies, roses and other floral motifs.
Marjorie Merriweather Post, the founder of the Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C., bought the lace veil around 1925 for the wedding of her oldest daughter. It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1964.
The veil is currently on display during the National Museum of American History’s monthly behind-the-scenes lace tours.