Princess Eugenie: ‘I wanted my wedding dress to show my scar’
For many brides what to wear on their big day is one of the most important decisions they’ll make.
Ivory or white? A-line or mermaid? Long or short? Fitted or puffy?
But for Princess Eugenie there was an extra factor at play.
The Queen’s granddaughter had major surgery on her back to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12.
Sixteen years on, and the princess chose to wear a wedding dress that showed her scar, saying she hoped it would honour those who had helped her and inspire others with the condition of scoliosis.
‘I think you can change the way beauty is’
Ahead of the wedding, the princess spoke of the importance of showing “people your scars”.
And earlier this year she revealed for the first time her own X-rays from being treated for scoliosis as a child.
“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 honour the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this,” she told ITV’s This Morning.
“I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it’s really special to stand up for that.”
What is scoliosis and why does it mostly affect young girls?
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to bend to one side, making the back appear rounded and shoulder blades stick out.
It most often starts in children aged 10 to 15 but there is often no known cause. Sometimes it is caused by the bones not forming properly in the womb or other medical conditions, including cerebral palsy.
Three to four children in 1,000 need treatment from a specialist.
The Scoliosis Association UK says about five out of six people with adolescent idiosyncratic scoliosis are female – but it is not known why.
In Princess Eugenie’s case, it required corrective surgery and she had the operation at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
The princess, now 28, has previously spoken of how she felt in the weeks before her surgery, saying it was “a scary prospect for a 12-year-old; I can still vividly remember how nervous I felt”.
“During my operation, which took eight hours, my surgeons inserted eight-inch titanium rods into each side of my spine and one-and-a-half inch screws at the top of my neck. After three days in intensive care, I spent a week on a ward and six days in a wheelchair, but I was walking again after that,” she says in her story on the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital’s website.
The princess has made sure those who helped her – and those who have the condition – are represented at the wedding.
Scoliosis sufferer Julia Carlisle is attending the event, after the pair struck up a friendship when the royal saw the 15-year-old perform with dance group MerseyGirls on Britain’s Got Talent.
Julia said ahead of the dress reveal that it would be a special moment if Eugenie showed off her scar.
“Wow, that would mean so much to me,” she told This Morning.
The teenager said people often wanted to “hide their scars” but it was important to “be proud”.
“It will bring a tear to my eye,” she added.
‘Eugenie can inspire others who are affected’
The princess also invited representatives from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust to attend her wedding to Jack Brooksbank. She’s now also patron of the hospital’s charity.
Jan Lehovsky, consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon at the hospital, who was part of the team who operated on the princess, said: “It’s an honour to be here.
“And it’s so important to have her involved with the charity. Most of the patients affected by scoliosis are young girls and she’s 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.
“Princess Eugenie shows them they can lead a normal life despite having this condition. It’s quite comforting for them and really lifts them.”
Mr Lehovsky said it had been quite lengthy surgery, involving a large team.
Claire Curley, national director of the Scoliosis Association UK, said when people were diagnosed with the condition it could be “very scary”.
“It’s fantastic that Eugenie is feeling confident,” she said.