Weddings through the ages at Glamis

Dressmaker Jerri Charleton from Newcastle with her interpretation of Lady Mary Eleanor Bowes wedding dress. (Picture by Photos on Location, Forfar).
Dressmaker Jerri Charleton from Newcastle with her interpretation of Lady Mary Eleanor Bowes wedding dress. (Picture by Photos on Location, Forfar).

DESIGNER Jerri Charlton made a special visit to Glamis Castle last Friday with a stunning creation which will form part of a new historic wedding exhibition which opens next week.

The exhibition will co-incide with the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on Friday, April 29, with Jerri’s dress giving a stunning insight into the life and times of Lady Mary Eleanor Bowes who married the 9th Earl of Strathmore in 1767.

Jerri travelled north with her 18th century reproduction wedding dress in time for the official opening of the exhibition next Friday.

Mary Eleanor was buried in her original dress in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey in 1800.

Born in 1749, the daughter of wealthy coal baron George Bowes, M.P. Mary Eleanor was his only child and the sole heiress to one of the greatest fortunes in England. She married John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore on her 18th birthday - February 24, 1767 in the Church of St. George, Hanover Square, London.

At the time of her marriage, the dress would have cost £3,000 and the stomacher, or bodice, was worth £10,000 and encrusted with magnificent diamonds.

Jerri created the dress as part of her BA hons Textile Design exhibition in 2009 and this has been on display at the National Trust’s Gibside Chapel since then.

Mary Eleanor Bowes was sometimes referred to as the ‘Unhappy Countess’ because of her rather sad and dramatic life. She was very well educated, a fine linguist and quoted as ‘the most intelligent female botanist of her time’.

Jerri researched in depth historical facts relating to Mary Eleanor and responded to the story by designing a reproduction of an 18th century gown known at the time as the ‘Robe a la francais’ dress.

She embroidered flora and fauna into the dress using silver metallic threads and finally embellished with Swarovski crystals to emulate the magnificence of the diamonds used on the original dress.

Jerri said: “Having read and researched so much about Mary Eleanor and John Lyon, I am absolutely delighted to finally be here at Glamis Castle as it is magnificent. The people have been wonderful and I feel more inspired than ever.” Libby Reynolds from the castle’s marketing department said: “We are thrilled to have such a beautiful gown as part of the exhibition. The story behind the dress and the Countess is particularly intriguing and Jerri is obviously passionate about her work. “Visitors to the castle can view the dress in the Coach House Exhibition Room where it is on show now until early June when it will return to Gibside Chapel.”

The Historic Wedding Exhibition will run until October.

Meanwhile, visitors to the castle on April 29 will be able to watch the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on television screens placed throughout the ancestral home.