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Tying the knot in style - 70 years of European royal weddings

Whether they end happily ever after or in a high-profile divorce, royal weddings have caused a stir for centuries. With William and Kate due to tie the knot on Friday, DW takes a look at 70 years of iconic royal unions.

Invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Previous extravaganzas give Will and Kate a lot to live up to

Over the last 70 years, a decade hasn’t gone by without at least one highly anticipated, highly priced and highly patriotic royal wedding.

In anticipation of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding on Friday, Deutsche Welle has trawled through the wedding timeline to hand pick the most iconic European royal marriages. The timeline kicks off back in 1947 with the wedding of the Prince's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

1940s - Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten

In 1947, Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey to exchange vows with fellow royal Philip Mountbatten, born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. At 21, Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of King George VI and heir to the throne.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

The balcony of Buckingham Palace has seen many such scenes

The blue-blooded pair tied the knot before 2,000 invited guests. A further 200 million people worldwide tuned in their wireless sets to listen to a live broadcast of the ceremony.

With the wedding taking place only two years after the end of the Second World War, even the future Queen of England had to be seen to be making cutbacks. The material used for the duchesse satin bridal gown, equipped with motifs of star lilies and orange blossoms, was only obtained with the help of Princes Elizabeth's ration coupons.

But the couple cashed in nevertheless, with more than 2,500 wedding presents arriving from around the world, along with over 10,000 telegrams of congratulations.

Elizabeth acceded to the throne after her father's death in 1952 and was crowned before throngs of admirers the following year.

1950s - Prince Rainer III of Monaco marries Grace Kelly

Prince Rainer III of Monaco and Grace Kelly

Monaco's Grimaldi dynasty was united with Hollywood royalty

In 1956, tabloid newspapers everywhere thanked their lucky stars for a celebrity marriage made in heaven, when Prince Rainer III of Monaco married Hollywood screen siren Grace Kelly. The couple were wed in a civil ceremony in the throne room in the Palace of Monaco.

From her wedding day to her untimely death in a car crash in 1982, the Oscar-winning film star was barely off the front pages of the tabloids.

The couple had three children, Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. Prince Albert II is due to marry South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in July this year.

1960s - Prince Juan Carlos of Spain marries Princess Sofia of Greece

Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia

The marriage of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia took place in Athens

When Princess Sofia first met her future husband, Juan Carlos of Spain, she didn't speak a word of Spanish.

Neverthless, it seems safe to assume that she fully comprehended the events of May 14, 1962 when the conversationally challenged pair tied the knot.

The couple reached the top of Spain's royal ladder when they became King and Queen of Spain in 1975.

1970s - Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden marries Silvia Sommerlath

Carl Gustaf may have chosen to marry a commoner, but his union with German bride Silvia Sommerlath in 1976 was a highlight of the decade in both Sweden and Germany.

Sommerlath, an interpreter, met her king four years earlier at the Munich Olympics. The happy couple have reigned supreme in Sweden ever since.

1980s - Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer

Billed as the wedding of the century, heir to the British throne Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in a wedding extravaganza in 1981.

Prince Charles and Princess Dianca kiss on the palace balcony

This fairytale romance was not to last

In true 1980s style, the wedding was bigger and better than anything seen before. Even the church was upgraded from the traditional Royal wedding venue. In place of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral was deemed a more suitable choice due to the fact that it could hold more people and allowed for a longer procession route. And this turned out to be more than necessary as Diana's gown boasted a train of over seven and a half meters.

The ceremony was attended by royalty and heads of state from around the world and was broadcast to a global television audience of an estimated 750 million people.

Sadly, our 1980s wedding of the decade ended in divorce in 1996 after four years of separation. Princess Diana, known as the 'People's Princess' died in a car crash a year later. Prince Charles went on to marry Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.

1990s - Prince Edward marries Sophie Rhys-Jones

An odd choice perhaps as, as unlike the other royals in this list, the Queen of England's youngest son, Edward, is unlikely ever to become King. But European royal weddings were few and far between in the 1990s.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex owe their place on the list in part to the fact that Edward is the only one of the Queen's children not to have divorced.

Despite being an uncharacteristically low key affair, Prince Edward's marriage to public relations executive Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 still drew the crowds.

Noughties - Prince Felipe de Bourbon marries Letizia Ortiz

Princess Letizia looks at the Spanish Crown Prince Felipe

The Spanish TV presenter gave up her career when she married Prince Felipe

Spain's crown prince and heir to the throne married journalist and former TV news presenter Letizia Ortiz in May 2004 in a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony.

Now known as Princess Letizia of Asturias, the bride made history in Spain by becoming the first commoner in line to be Queen.

2011 - Prince William to marry Catherine Middleton

In a wedding set to rival that of his parents, Prince William is due to marry Kate Middleton on April 29.

The final rehearsal took place on Wednesday evening in Westerminster Abbey, while outside the first campers were staking their claim for the best positions for the real thing.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Susan Houlton

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