The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer has frequently been referred to as the “wedding of the century” and, 39 years later, the historic ceremony is still at the forefront of people’s minds.
The relationship between the two royals has a starring role in season four of The Crown, as the Netflix series revisits their famous, and often tumultuous, marriage.
But, despite previews of the latest season giving viewers a glimpse of Emma Corrin wearing a recreation of Diana’s wedding gown, the actual ceremony is nowhere to be seen in the series.
Instead, a voiceover of a priest making his sermon is heard, while the family gets ready at Buckingham Palace. Charles (played by Josh O’Connor), who was still in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles (played by Emerald Fennell) at the time, can be seen sharing a glance at his mother Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) before getting married. Meanwhile, Diana is seen putting on her now iconic wedding dress as she prepares to leave the palace, with her long train trailing behind her.
Although the couple divorced in 1996, their wedding day will forever be remembered, but what exactly happened, who designed Diana’s dress and did anything go wrong? Here is everything you need to know.
When and where did Charles and Diana get married?
Charles and Diana got married on 29 July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The ceremony was a traditional Church of England wedding service. The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alan Webster, presided at the service, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, conducted the marriage.
(AFP via Getty Images)
The wedding took place just five months after their engagement was officially announced. Diana claimed to have only seen Charles 13 times between the beginning of their courtship and their wedding.
How many people watched the wedding?
According to the BBC, the wedding festivities were seen by 750 million people in 74 countries, with 28.4 million tuning in from the UK alone. This is compared to the 24 million Brits who watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton in 2011 and 18 million who watched Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle in 2018.
The nuptials also drew crowds of about 600,000 to the streets surrounding St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Was Camilla invited?
Charles did invite his ex-girlfriend to the wedding ceremony but Diana refused to invite Camilla to the more exclusive wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace.
“I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her,” Diana told biographer Andrew Morton for his book Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words.
“So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale grey, veiled pillbox hat, saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair. To this day you know — vivid memory.”
Who were the bridesmaids, page boys and best men?
The royal couple had two pageboys, Lord Nicholas Windsor and Edward van Cutsem, while the bridesmaids were Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, India Hicks, Catherine Cameron, Sarah-Jane Gaselee and Clementine Hambro.
Prince Charles chose his brothers, princes Andrew and Edward, as his best men.
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
India Hicks opened up about her experience as a bridesmaid at the wedding in Rosalind Coward’s book Diana: The Portrait: Anniversary Edition. “I distinctly remember there was a small television on the side of this dressing table, and Diana was seated in front of it, again, dressed in her jeans, and the tiara was being put on her head,” she said.
“She started to shoo anyone who got in the way of the TV screen, out of the way, because, obviously, she was very excited to see herself on television… And then the commercials came on, and there was the ‘Just One Cornetto’ ice-cream commercial. Diana started to sing, and we all started to sing along, too.”
Who else made the guest list?
Approximately 3,500 guests made up the congregation at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Aside from other members of the royal family, other famous guests included Spike Milligan, Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan and Princess Grace. Among other invitees were the couple’s friends and the bride invited the staff of the nursery school in which she had worked prior to the wedding.
What was Diana’s wedding dress like?
The wedding dress was made using ivory silk taffeta, with the neckline and mutton sleeves decorated with lace flounces. It also featured hand-embroidered mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls, which came together to form a heart motif on the gown.
The Princess of Wales seated in her bridal gown at Buckingham Palace after her marriage to Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral
((PA/PA Archive/PA Images))
On the royal family’s official website, it states that the embroidered lace panels on the bodice featured lace that had previously belonged to Queen Mary, the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. The Princess completed her bridal ensemble with a diamond tiara from the Spencer family’s personal collection.
The gown also featured a 25-foot train, making it the longest royal wedding dress in history.
David Emanuel has since said that he and Diana consciously chose to create the longest royal wedding train, beating the previous holder’s 20 feet. The train was so long that the Emanuels had to relocate from their studio to an abandoned wing in Buckingham Palace where they had the space to cut the train to size and shape.
How did the wedding break from tradition?
Diana and Charles were the first British royals to forgo the “obey” line in their vows.
Similarly, Charles selected St Paul’s Cathedral as the wedding venue over the more traditional Westminster Abbey because, according to Lady Colin Campbell’s The Real Diana, “it was more beautiful, could hold a full orchestra, and had a world-famous choir.”
It was the first royal wedding to be held at the cathedral since the 1501 nuptials of Prince Arthur (son of King Henry VII) and Princess Catherine.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
On the day, a nervous Princess Diana accidentally referred to her husband by the wrong name, calling him Philip Charles Arthur George instead of Charles Philip Arthur George. Meanwhile, Prince Charles made a mistake, telling Diana he would offer her “thy goods” instead of “my worldly goods.”
The couple also forgot to seal their vows with a kiss, but made up for it hours later when they began a new tradition – kissing in public view on the Buckingham Palace balcony.