In the second big wedding of the year for the British royal family, Princess Eugenie tied the knot with Jack Brooksbank in Windsor on October 12, 2018. But while several details of the day had already been revealed before the happy couple walked down the aisle, Eugenie had a surprise for those watching. And it was all to do with the cut of her dress…
Picking a dress is often one of the biggest decisions a bride will make during preparations for her big day. And there’s a lot of choice out there: everything from the color and shape of the gown to its material and detailing may need to be considered. But sometimes there are specific factors that play a part in the decision process.
And for Eugenie, there was one feature that may have influenced her choice of dress design for the special occasion. By way of its cut, the gown would expose an episode in her life previously concealed from the world. In addition, the princess reportedly hoped that her style statement would act as a tribute to those who had helped her through the difficult period she had endured.
Before the wedding, however, there was much speculation about the designer that Eugenie had chosen to craft her dress. European fashion house Ralph & Russo was touted as a possibility, as was British star Stella McCartney. But as the bride emerged from the wedding car, the truth finally emerged.
Eugenie had picked British company Peter Pilotto to design her dress for the day, with the result being widely praised. The elegant gown boasted a full, white skirt and a sweeping train; the emerald tiara that Eugenie also sported was stunning as well. But there was one aspect of the dress’ design that would make waves.
More than a decade and a half prior to her marriage, Eugenie had been given a diagnosis of scoliosis – a condition in which the spine is twisted. As a result, then, the then 12-year-old princess had a procedure to correct the curvature. The eight-hour surgery saw a pair of titanium rods – held in place with screws – implanted into her spine.
Furthermore, the operation left Eugenie with a long scar down the middle of her back. But instead of hiding the mark with a clever design, she bravely chose to have it on show during her wedding day – as the back of her dress was open. Ahead of the occasion, the princess also told British TV show This Morning, “I had an operation when I was 12 on my back, and you’ll see on Friday [at the wedding]. But it’s a lovely way to honor the people who looked after me.”
On the website of London’s Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Eugenie further explained how she had felt before the procedure. She revealed, “I can still vividly remember how nervous I felt in the days and weeks before the operation.” Even so, the princess added, “My abiding memories of the [hospital] where the surgery was carried out are happy ones.”
And in June 2018 Eugenie opened up on Instagram, commemorating International Scoliosis Awareness Day by revealing X-rays of her spine. In the post, she also paid tribute to the medical professionals who had helped her, writing, “I also want to honor the incredible staff at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital who work tirelessly to save lives and make people better. They made me better.”
Then, when the big day arrived, the princess showed off her scar to the world. Other members of the family were naturally in attendance, too, including Eugenie’s father, Prince Andrew, and her mother, Sarah Ferguson. The ceremony came just months after Prince Harry and Megan Markle had exchanged their vows at the same venue: St. George’s Chapel.
Meanwhile, Eugenie’s sister, Beatrice, took the role of maid of honor, while two of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, made an adorable page boy and flower girl, respectively. And other special guests would be present to support the princess on the day of her wedding.
Staff members of the RNOH – including Dr. Jan Lehovsky – also accepted invitations. Lehovsky had worked to help improve Eugenie’s posture when she was younger, and he would go on to call the royal a “role model” for how she has dealt with her condition.
While speaking to the BBC in October 2018, Lehovsky said, “Most of the patients affected by scoliosis are young girls, and [Eugenie is] a real role model for them. She’s someone who can inspire them, which is so important for the young ladies coming through the surgery.”
Ferguson would also confirm that RNOH team members were at the wedding as a way to honor the great job they had done for her daughter all those years ago. The mother of the bride told the Evening Standard before the day, “[Eugenie] is walking up that aisle with a straight back because of [the RNOH medical staff]. She certainly will be an extraordinary example of great work from the RNOH.”
The care given to Eugenie by the RNOH has even encouraged her to get further involved with the facility. In her statement on the hospital’s website, the princess revealed that she would be “giving [her] name to [RNOH’s] new state-of-the-art facility, Princess Eugenie House.” What’s more, Eugenie wasn’t the only survivor of scoliosis in St. George’s Chapel during the big occasion.
Young Britain’s Got Talent performer Julia Carlile was also given an invite after the princess learned that she too has suffered from scoliosis. The teenager appeared on the talent show in 2017 with her dance troupe Mersey Girls and has admitted that she was embarrassed about her curved back in the past.
After Carlile had appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, though, judge Simon Cowell footed the bill for her to head to the U.S. for an operation. The procedure was ultimately a successful one, with Carlile able to start dancing again just three months after her surgery.
Another brave woman could also relate to Eugenie’s experience with scoliosis. Camilla Seckin had faced the possibility of being confined to a wheelchair by her thirties; like Eugenie, though, she had corrective surgery at RNOH. “I felt very insecure about my appearance,” Seckin told the BBC. “But I feel confident now, and I’m not ashamed of having the condition.”
Furthermore, Seckin understands how isolated scoliosis sufferers can feel when going through treatment. The teaching assistant has admitted, though, that “building a network with people who have had the surgery has really helped.” She added to the BBC, “I can still do things despite my condition.”
And Eugenie’s subtle nod to her diagnosis through her dress has brought further attention to scoliosis. The princess can act as an example, too, of how those with the condition can benefit greatly from surgery. Indeed, as the royal has said on the RNOH website, “Children can look at me now and know that the operation works.”