While the eyes of the world were focused on the funeral of the Queen of England, the Lebanese jeweler Selim Mouzannar appeared on his social networks to remind us of a happy event in history. It was in November 1947. Two years after the end of the Second World War, Princess Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of King George VI, married Philip Mountbatten. England was still suffering from severe shortages of every staple and was under a rationing system.

The government had granted the Princess 200 extra clothing coupons for the wedding dress, and many British people, for whom this ceremony was a sign of the return of life and splendor to England, sent the princess their own coupons by mail. But these tickets were allocated to a specific individual and their use by another person was illegal. So the young princess spent hours writing thank you letters and mailing these gifts back to their senders.

La Primavera, wheat ears and lucky roses

For the stylist Norman Hartnell, in charge of creating the wedding dress, the bride-to-be had to have the most exceptional dress that could exist in such circumstances, regardless of the shortages. His idea was to borrow elements from Botticelli’s Primavera, roses, jasmine, ears of wheat, and to make them good luck charms and promises of prosperity for the entire nation. It was then, says Mouzannar, that Hartnell asked the government to order several meters of Damascus brocade from the Syrian embassy in London.

The skills needed to produce this precious fabric, made of several types and colors of thread, including silver and gold, were developed in China and passed on during the Middle Ages to Damascene artisans as a happy result of Damascus’ position on the Silk Road. In the 19th century, jacquard looms were introduced to the Levant. They allowed the mechanization of brocade weaving thanks to perforated pieces of cardboard which allowed the machine to reproduce any pattern.

Gift of a rebel president

The most famous weaver of the old city of Damascus was Antoun Elias Mezannar, whose family had previously supplied the court of Queen Victoria. He was the main representative of the branch of the Mezannar family that specialized in textiles, while another branch, the branch through which the family name became famous, specialized in the trade of gold and precious jewels. “Mouzannar” means “he who wears a belt”. Indeed, these merchants went around with their treasures tightly wrapped in belts, held close to their bodies.

Antoun, says Mouzannar, made the ivory brocade designed by Norman Hartnell and did so perfectly. In seven weeks, the commissioned piece was ready. At that time, Syria was presided over by Shukri al-Kouatli, a fervent independence fighter who was leading the struggle to free his country from its occupiers. His first goal was to sign a treaty with France so that the French and British soldiers would leave Syria, which finally happened in 1946, a year before Elizabeth’s wedding. He seized the opportunity presented by the wedding to open a new chapter in Syria’s relations with England by offering the precious fabric for the dress.

Three hundred and fifty seamstresses worked on the dress, which was also decorated with 10,000 seed pearls imported from the United States. The bridal dress was finally finished only three months before the ceremony. It had a heart-shaped neckline and long, tight sleeves. It was embellished with a 15-foot-long lace veil, made in Essex. Norman Hartnell didn’t tell the Queen, but he secretly added an extra lucky clover on the left side of the skirt, “so that Her Majesty’s hand could rest upon it during the ceremony,” according to the Royal Collection Trust. The bridal dress is now in the collection of the Buckingham Palace Museum.