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Royal wedding dresses: The most iconic (and the most expensive!) gowns in history

From the Duchess of Cambridge to Princess Diana, the Queen and Queen Letizia, we take a look back at the evolution of royal bridal looks...

Leanne Bayley

Finding the right wedding dress to walk down the aisle in is the most important decision for any bride. And when the eyes of the whole world are on you, that choice becomes all the more crucial. Since Meghan Markle finally stepped out for her royal wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday 19 May, all we can think about is our favourite brides over the years! Scroll down to take a look back at the royal beauties who have wowed with their gowns... 

Meghan Markle's wedding dress

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After months of speculation, Prince Harry's bride Meghan Markle finally revealed that she had chosen Clare Waight Keller of iconic Parisian fashion house Givenchy to design her wedding dress - opting for a slim-fitting, bateau-neck gown with sleeves, and a show-stopping veil. The designer said of the task: "It is truly an honour to have been given the opportunity to closely collaborate with Meghan Markle on such a remarkable occasion. We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasize the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history, as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts. In contrast, the delicate floral beauty of the veil was a vision Meghan and I shared, a special gesture embracing the commonwealth flora, ascending the circumference of the silk tulle."

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MEGHAN MARKLE'S WEDDING DRESS

Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress

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When British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell was asked to design the Queen's bridal gown, his aim was to create "the most beautiful dress" he had ever made. Her Majesty, who was Princess Elizabeth at the time, wore the ivory silk masterpiece that was decorated with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls. It incorporated a 15 foot star-patterned train, woven in Braintree in Essex and inspired by the famous Renaissance painting of Primavera by Botticelli, symbolising rebirth and growth after the war. The Princess had collected clothing coupons to pay for the dress as Britain was still subject to rationing at the time of her November 1947 wedding.

Kate Middleton's wedding dress

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The Duchess of Cambridge expressed her desire to combine modernity with tradition in her gown, which was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The result was an exquisite creation which featured a nipped-in waist, lace sleeves, floral motifs and a full flowing skirt and train.

WANT MORE? The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress maker talks creating the gown

Princess Diana's wedding dress

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Princess Diana's record-breakingly long train on her David and Elizabeth Emanuel-designed dress was a tight fit inside the glass coach which transported her to her wedding. Even her father had difficulty squeezing in alongside all 7.62m of it. It could have been a very different picture, though, if details of the dress had leaked – a back-up dress was made just in case.

RELATED: This is how Princess Diana’s wedding dress was kept secret back in 1981

Sophie, Countess of Wessex's wedding dress 

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Five months after the announcement of their engagement, Britain's Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones were married in Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel on Saturday 19 June, 1999. For her wedding to the Queen's youngest son, the former PR wore a simple ivory silk and organza dress-coat created by Samantha Shaw, featuring 325,000 crystals and pearls fastened along the neck, full-length sleeves and train. As well as her corseted V-neck gown, Sophie wore a cathedral-length veil, sprinkled with more crystals, and a diamond tiara from the Queen's private collection. She was also adorned with a black-and-white pearl necklace and matching earrings designed by Edward as a wedding gift. 

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ROYAL WEDDING

Princess Sofia's wedding dress

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Sofia Hellqvist arrived at Stockholm's royal chapel for her wedding to Prince Carl Philip of Sweden on a Saturday afternoon in June 2015. All eyes were on the brunette beauty as she stepped out in her stunning wedding gown – made from silk crepe overlaid with Italian silk organza – to tie the knot with the Swedish prince. The bridal gown, which was created by Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt, featured intricate couture lace made by José María Ruiz and a beautiful train that was hand-cut and then hand-stitched in the deisnger's atelier in Stockholm. The dress was made in not one but three shades of white.

WANT MORE? The best moments from the Swedish royal wedding

Charlene of Monaco's wedding dress

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Having first met in 2000, Albert and Charlene made it official when they were married in a civil ceremony 11 years later. The couple tied the knot in the Throne Room of the royal palace, with Charlene looking nothing short of princess-perfect. In a beautifully cut sky-blue suit that oozed understated glamour, Charlene was radiant as she made her first appearance as a royal on the palace balcony. It had been 55 years since a new sovereign princess had greeted the people of Monaco from that exact spot.

Fashion commentators were quick to dub the colour "Charlene blue" and the princess later explained: "It's a collaboration between me and Karl Lagerfeld. We wanted something to match the colour of my eyes. It's my creation and I'm proud of it."

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On 2 July 2011, Charlene stepped out in a silk Giorgio Armani bridal gown. It was simple, yet dazzling; regal yet unassuming. True to form, down-to-earth Charlene had gone for understated sophistication. The dress, which required months of handiwork, was cut from 130 metres of silk, studded with 40,000 crystals and embellished with 20,000 teardrops fashioned from mother-of-pearl.

Queen Máxima of the Netherlands's wedding dress

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Willem-Alexander's bride found her perfect gown courtesy of one of the world's top designers. Princess Maxima of the Netherlands married her royal love on 2 February, 2002, in Amsterdam wearing a Valentino couture long-sleeved ivory gown, with a train inset with beautiful embroidered flowers. Her tiara was made especially for the occasion – its base was taken from one owned by Queen Emma, and the stars from one owned by Emma's daughter, Queen Wilhelmina, Queen Beatrix's grandmother. 

Camilla Parker Bowles’ wedding dress

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The Duchess of Cornwall wore an elegant white coat and matching scalloped-edged dress by Robinson Valentine for her civil ceremony to Prince Charles in April 2005, when the pair married at Windsor's Guildhall. Two years later in June 2007, the Duchess stepped out in the same outfit as she attended the opening of the National Assembly of Wales. Camilla swapped her show-stopping wedding hat for another wide-brimmed one, and this time wore a triple string of pearls and a different pair of shoes. She did, however, wear the same diamond brooch that featured the Prince of Wales feathers. She is the only royal to have recycled her wedding dress.

Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco's wedding dress

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When Grace Kelly walked down the aisle to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, the blonde beauty captivated audiences with her show-stopping wedding dress. The gown, designed by Helen Rose of MGM, was the epitome of romance and instantly transformed the Hollywood star into real-life European royalty. Grace's dress was more complex than it looked – underneath the sheer lace bodice was another strapless one made of silk crepe, while three layers of integrated petticoats gave the skirt its distinctive volume. The fabrics used ranged from silk tulle, pearl-encrusted rose point lace, delicate Valenciennes lace and dull luster of peau de soie satin.

RELATED: Take a look inside Grace Kelly's former childhood home

Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson's wedding dress

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Sarah Ferguson wore a dress made from ivory duchesse satin and featuring heavy beading for her wedding to Prince Andrew, Duke of York on 23 July, 1986, at Westminster Abbey. The wedding dress, which she designed herself, featured a long train, fitted bodice, and a scooped neckline. Adorably, an embroidered letter ‘A’ was also visible on the dress.

Princess Masako of Japan's wedding dress

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Harvard graduate Masako Owada became a member of Japan's Imperial Family on 9 June, 1993, when she married Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko's first son, Crown Prince Naruhito. For the couple's traditional Shinto ceremony, the bride wore a traditional silk bridal kimono – made up of a dozen layers – which eventually weighed 14 kilograms and cost over $100,000. Masako completed her extravagant attire with elegant long gloves and beautifully decorative jewellery including an ornate diamond tiara and necklace.

Queen Rania of Jordan's wedding dress

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Just five months after she locked eyes on her handsome future husband at a dinner party, Rania Al-Yassin married Jordan's prince – later king – Abdullah bin Al-Hussein on 10 June, 1993. The beautiful bride, who became queen in March 1999, wore a gown created by famous Lebanese designer Elie Saab.

Queen Letizia Ortiz of Spain's wedding dress

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Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano married Spain's Crown Prince Felipe in a Roman Catholic ceremony on 22 May, 2004. The former journalist chose a wedding gown by veteran Spanish designer Manuel Pertegaz to wear to her nuptials, featuring an impressive train, fitted bodice and an unusual high collar.

Mary Donaldson of Denmark's wedding dress

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Mary Donaldson of Denmark married Crown Prince Frederik on 14 May, 2004 at the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mary's wedding dress was created by Danish designer Uffe Frank, and was made of an ivory duchess satin with a scoop neckline. The gorgous design featured a a slim-fit bodice and lily-like sleeves.

Princess Martha Louise's wedding dress

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The bride married author Ari Behn in May 2002 wearing a two-piece wedding outfit featuring a dress and jacket – created for her by Oslo-based designer Wenche Lyche. The costume was inspired by the shape and colour of the Martha lily; the Swarovski-embroidered bridal jacket was made of off-white duchess satin, a three-metre train tapered to a pointed arch, while the gown was of white silk crepe. The bride – whose bouquet consisted mainly of lilies – also paid tribute to her royal heritage by holding her veil in place with a tiara originally belonging to Queen Maud.

Princess Mette-Marit's wedding dress

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Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit wore a wedding dress inspired by the one worn by groom Crown Prince Haakon's great grandmother, Queen Maud, for her marriage in 1896. Created by designer Ove Harder Finseth and seamstress Anna Bratland, the gown was made of thick silk crepe and draped in soft silk tulle, and featured a bodice and a flared skirt. The train reached two metres, while her veil was made from six metres of silk. Adorning her head on her big day – held on 25 August, 2001, in Oslo Cathedral – was a beautiful antique tiara, presented as a gift from her in-laws, Harald and Sonja. 

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