Amid all the Meghan Markle mania as of late, a few co-workers have asked why Americans are so obsessed with royals—particularly royal weddings: 23 million Americans tuned in to watch William marry Kate Middleton (at 6 a.m. ET, no less). My personal guess is the "fairytale" aspect. Growing up, our storybooks were flooded with princesses and princes, kings and queens, and Cinderella-type stories where women were "saved" by a suitor on a white horse. Perhaps the allure is that these fictional characters, once only known to us in the pages of a paperback, actually exist to some degree. The reality may not be pumpkin-turned–golden carriage, but the magic, in a more palpable sense, is still there.
Royal families also provide a form of escapism. "I think that looking at happy couples and young children and families forming, the positive aspects of what it means to be human, is nice and gives us a respite from the headlines, sensationalism, and hourly breaking news about what's going on in our own country," licensed clinical psychologist Donna Rockwell tells Huffington Post. So with Harry and Meghan's nuptials less than two weeks away, we thought we'd provide even more of an escape by taking a retroactive look at past royal weddings (there are so many that we couldn't include them all, but we think you'll enjoy these regal brides).
Albert Frederick Arthur George (later known as King George VI) married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who later became queen, in 1923. They had two daughters, Elizabeth (the present queen of England) and Margaret (who was second in line to the throne but passed away in 2002). On their wedding day, Elizabeth was the picture of 1920s beauty: a short bob with pin curls; long, straight brows; and a forehead-wrapping headpiece. Fun fact: Adolf Hitler called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe" for standing in solidarity with the British public fighting for liberty. No wonder George was so drawn to her.
Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II's sister, was previously proposed to by Group Captain Peter Townsend, a Royal Air Force officer, but the Church of England refused to marry them because he was a divorcé. She eventually left him and married photographer Antony Armstrong Jones, who would later become Earl of Snowdon, but they eventually divorced. Despite being a "controversial" member of the royal family, we can all agree she was a vision for her marriage to Jones—dark lipstick, a precise updo, and a stunning crown are what bridal beauty dreams are made of. (It's rumored Meghan will take after Princess Margaret's boundary-pushing style for her upcoming wedding.)
In 1947, Queen Elizabeth II married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark (who was actually her distant cousin—they're both great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria). On the day of her wedding, her tiara snapped in half—being a royal, of course, the court jeweler was summoned to fix it, and all was well. Judging by her beaming smile and perfectly intact simple yet elegant makeup, the ceremony went off without a hitch.
Perhaps one of the most iconic wedding dresses to date, Grace Kelly, a Hitchcock Blonde turned real-life princess, met her husband, Prince Rainier III, at the Cannes Film Festival. Her cherry red lips, sleek updo, and Juliet cap in lieu of a crown will serve as Pinterest wedding board fodder for decades to come.
Princess Diana was the people's princess, no matter what country you were from. Her marriage (and later divorce) was complicated, but there's no denying she was like something out of a storybook on her wedding day. Her signature short hair was worn down and her makeup was kept simple, but the overall result was nothing short of stunning.
Prince Félix of Luxembourg married Claire Lademacher, a bioethics researcher in 2012, making her a Princess of Luxembourg with the style of Royal Highness. Her tiara is a royal heirloom, having been worn by several brides prior. Her makeup was kept simple save for a pop of bright pink on her lips.
Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano married Felipe, the Prince of Asturias, after a 10-year marriage to a high school literature teacher that ended in divorce. When Felipe's father, King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated his throne, Felipe and Letizia became King and Queen. She's the first Queen of Spain to have been born a commoner. Letizia's elegant updo and natural makeup were fitting for her understated wedding gown.
Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan is somewhat of an Instagram style star, with over 4.4 million followers and a distinct sense of fashion. Prior to marrying King Abdullah, she worked for Citibank and Apple doing marketing. The couple wed at a "lavish" ceremony just six months after meeting—one of the bride's assistants later revealed Rania's updo was so high that she had trouble getting into the car.
Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco married King Mohammed VI in 2001 and was granted the title of Princess Lalla, with the style of Royal Highness on her marriage. She wore dotted face paint along her cheeks and in-between her brows, a traditional look past Moroccan princesses have also worn, as well as long cascading curls.
Last but not least, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Kate was jaw-dropping on her widely anticipated wedding day. To make sure her skin was glowing, she got a bee venom facial from English beautician Deborah Mitchell days before. And get this—she actually did her own makeup. We've got to hand it to her—the soft smoky eye and the matching pink lips and cheeks turned out great.
Up next, take a look at Meghan Markle's jaw-defining pre-wedding treatment.