Hartnell transformed the florals of Botticelli's "Primavera" into a gown of white crystals and pearls. But it wasn't easy. There were diplomatic questions in the still-miserable aftermath of the war, Holt wrote. Customs impounded 10,000 seed pearls from the U.S., and journalists were assured that the origins of the silk produced in Kent and woven in Essex were worms from "nationalist" China rather than "enemy" Japan.
Thousands in the U.K. sent in their ration coupons for Princess Elizabeth to use for dress materials. That would have been illegal, so she saved up her own and asked the government for 200 extra, Holt told The Associated Press.
"It showed the thirst there was in the country for this big moment of glamour," she said. "In recent years, we have known the queen and Prince Philip as this sweet old couple but we have to remember, in that time they were this dazzling, glamorous new couple on the scene."
The wedding was not without behind-the-scenes drama. Queen Mary's Fringe tiara, made by Elizabeth's grandmother from a necklace given to Mary by Queen Victoria, snapped right before the ceremony and was rushed off to crown jeweler Garrard for repair.
The dress, and the wedding, offered "a real moment of hope," Holt said.