The history of the bridal crown

The crown and the wreath

Circle shaped head jewelry were used already in ancient time in almost every culture, first as an ornament and later more symbolically charged. Together with disheveled hair it became a sign of virginity already among the Germanic people.

The crown became a sign of royal dignity and therefore artists began to depict The Holy Father, Christ, Mary and the saints with crowns. At first, the crown on Marys head was not a symbol of virginity, but a royal sign. In later images of Mary one can sometimes see only the virgin wreath in the shape of a thin ribbon with gems, and sometimes both a wreath and a crown.

As a piece of jewelry it is not always easy to separate the wreath from the crown, not the least because there are so many names of the wreath, i.e. coronet, garland and chapelet. Noble women at the European courts could own a large number of crowns and other bejeweled ornaments in the 11th and 12th century, and they were in addition to being beautiful also used to signal power and status.

Bridal crowns

The earliest information of special bridal crowns comes from the 13th century, even if crowns surely has been used earlier by noble brides since they were both a sign of nobility and the very finest head jewelry.

The origin of the bridal crowns is believed to have come from three equally important parts:

  • Fertility magic with oriental origin. The queen was crowned with a wreath of holy fruits to ensure the creation of new heirs.
  • The Germanic wreath of virginity
  • The Church's glorification of Mary

In Sweden the hair was a more important symbol of virginity than the crown in th 15th and 16th century, due to the fact that an unchaste bride could wear a crown at that time, but could not wear her hair let down. Most bridal crowns have an open shape. Occasionally textile, roots or wood appear as materials in the curches bridal crowns.

In Norway, beside crowns of gold plated silver, there have been crowns made of silver plated and tinned brass, and crowns made of wire with pearls and ribbons that were used by those who couldn't afford the silver crown. Unchaste brides and widows were not allowed to wear silver on their heads but in many areas they wore crowns made of cloth with glass beads and lace instead.

In Finland, the preserved metal crowns have an open shape, while the pearl crowns sometimes have a closed shape with jumpers. The use of peasant crowns made out of cloth, tinfoil and artificial flowers have been widespread.

In many places in Europe myrtle crowns replaced the use of gold and silver crowns during the 19th century, but in Sweden both the church crowns, private metal crowns and the new myrtle crowns one could make at home were used. In conclusion, this means that crowns as a part of bridal decoration have been used in Sweden during a period of at least 400 years in all parts of society.

Source: Brudkronor i Linköpings stift by Barbro Hovstadius