Lifestyle

Lost Australian history: when the princess married her prince in 1947

As an outpost of the British Empire, post-war Australia got itself in a spin for the November 20, 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth to her third cousin Philip Mountbatten on November 20, 1947.

The princess was still 5 years away from being crowned as Queen when her engagement was announced to the world by her father King George VI:

"It is with the greatest pleasure that the King and Queen announce the betrothal of their dearly beloved daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to Lieut. Philip Mountbatten, R.N., son of the late Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Andrew (Princess Anne of Battenberg), to which the union the King has gladly given his consent."

Elizabeth first met her husband when she was only 13 and both Philip and Elizabeth were great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria. She was just 21 when she married and the pair were together for 73 years before her husband passed in 2021.

What to give the royal couple? A spin over wedding presents

Back in 1947, Australians idolised the royals and our state and federal governments got themselves into a flap about giving exactly the right wedding gift to the young princess after World War II, when it was decided an "austerity wedding" was needed in the name of good public relations.

The royal wedding feast has to be cancelled in line with the King's determination that the royals couldn't splash flashy wealth or jewels around at a time  when food was still rationed amid post-war shortages.

Elizabeth's wedding dress, designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, was acquired using rationing coupons to make a public display of restraint during a time of scarcity.

The New South Wales Government quickly formed a committee to come up with a suitable wedding gift for the princess and wanted to give a painting or opal necklace to the princess in honour of her wedding.

The Office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Canberra poo-pooed such luxuries:

Our view is that it would be a mistake to give anything in the way of jewellery or such like, but much better if you feel able to concentrate on something that is characteristically Australian. They are setting up housekeeping in a wing at Windsor Castle, and our priority one would be, say blankets or woollen goods, rugs etc., of your finest merino, which would be exceedingly acceptable at the present time we feel sure…

These letters reveal the discussions and thoughts of what would be appropriate to give the princess as a gift for her austerity wedding.

The Girl Guides of Australia sent the ingredients for the official royal wedding cake while the Governor of Queensland sent 500 tins of pineapple from his home-state.

The Victorian state government commissioned ex-servicemen apprentices to build a dressing table from native blackwood timber. Western Australia reportedly sent jarrah wood panelling for the walls of the royal bedroom. South Australia created a silver tea and coffee service with accompanying cabinet

The Australian Government sent silver dishes to the royals, Queensland sent canned pineapples and the New South Wales Government sent woollen blankets made from our prime merino sheep.

Watch the video showcasing all the wedding gifts sent to wish Elizabeth and Philip well on their wedding. It seems thinks weren't as austere as the public relations people may have liked ...

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