Monday, February 10th, 1840, dawned gray and rainy in London. Even now, at this early hour, endless streams of humanity flooded into the city from all directions, each person jostling in the downpour to find a place on the packed sidewalks. Rain could do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the ever-growing crowd. Beloved Queen Victoria was to marry her first cousin, the handsome and charming Prince Albert and the mood was like Christmas. Everyone, it seemed, was part of the festivities and no one was to be denied their role — no matter how sodden they had become.
At precisely noon, the sharp crack of a royal twenty-one gun salute announced that the Queen had entered her carriage. As the procession moved along its route from Buckingham Palace to St. James, the crowd roared its encouragement and best wishes.
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By all accounts the wedding went well – His Serene Highness in a red field marshal’s uniform with large rosettes of white satin on his shoulders and blushing Victoria in wedding gown of rich white satin, trimmed with orange flower blossoms. Confirming her approval, the next morning Victoria wrote ecstatically,
I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
In appreciation, the Queen distributed pieces of wedding cake to many of those who had been involved in the preparations for the event, including the gentlemen and boys of the Chapel Royal.
That wedding cake — a fruit cake — remains the Holy Grail of wedding cake collectors the world over. Of the thousands of souvenir boxes that once celebrated that special day 170-plus years ago, only one is known to survive and it is not for sale. It is in the collection of Queen Elizabeth, displayed for the first time in 2007 as part of an exhibit at Windsor Castle.
It’s important to note that collectible wedding cake is not your everyday wedding cake. They are not crumbling chunks wrapped in grease-spotted napkins and stuffed in a jacket pocket. These are perfectly sliced blocks of cake wrapped in tissue and presented in small boxes. Often the cake is covered by a doily and enclosed with a card offering the bride’s and groom’s best wishes.
According to Liz Holderman, a worthologist who has researched the subject in some depth, the price of royal wedding cake varies like that of any other collectible. Pieces of cake from the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, she says, have sold for anywhere between $255 and $1,375, depending on condition. Cake from the Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson nuptials sold for $250 last year. Coming in at an eye-popping $7,500 was a piece of William’s and Kate’s brandy-soaked wedding cake.
Wedding cake collecting is not restricted to British royalty, either. A keepsake cake box from the 1967 wedding of presidential daughter Lynda Bird Johnson recently sold for $90. It came from the estate of University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal.
Whatever side of the Atlantic your cake comes from it is, says Holderman, a “delectable collectible.”
We wish we had said that.
Joe Miller, AtticExplorer.com
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