The wedding that stopped the world
In 1981, the whole world stopped to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. The Australian Women’s Weekly’s court correspondent Anne Matheson was there to witness the historic occasion. As Charles and Diana’s youngest son enters into married life, we take a look back at her beautiful and evocative report of the time.
It was a day that will live on in the memories of all those who saw it, whether they were among the privileged guests in St Paul’s Cathedral, the crowds who cheered the bridal procession through the streets, or the estimated 750 million all over the world who watched it on television. The bride came to her wedding in a breathtakingly beautiful dress that spelled romance in every rustle of the parchment taffeta, the whisper of tulle underpinnings, the soft fall of the veil and the long, long train that swept back nearly out of sight of the royal family seated opposite the bride’s family, the Spencers, father, mother, brother and married sisters.
It was a day of such joy and happiness and strong emotion that many tears rose and sometimes spilled. The Queen brushed a tear from her eye and Prince Charles sounded quite emotional as the great organ played his favourite hymn, Christ is Made the Sure Foundation.
The wedding dress was worked with old lace, which had been Queen Mary’s and came back into royal use through the Royal School of Needlework, its custodian since Queen Mary handed it over. The fitted bodice, frilled, curved neckline that showed off the bride’s beautiful swan-like neck, the intricate embroidery and lace, and the full puff sleeves and elaborate flouncing were wonderfully romantic. It was the perfect dress for a fairytale princess.
How could it be otherwise? This was a wedding to which everyone brought so much goodwill, which glossed over old hurts, and set a golden path for the Prince and Princess, whose life together started with joyful harmony.
Lady Diana wore the Spencer family tiara and, for something old, her mother’s earrings. She stepped out and down the aisle unhesitatingly with a firm tread that steadied her ailing father, the Earl Spencer, not yet fully recovered from a massive brain haemorrhage he suffered three years earlier. Beneath the volume of stiff taffeta and fine tulle were her delicate wedding slippers that could have been from a Renaissance painting. They were embroidered all over, and rosette and ruffle trimmed, with tiny fluted heels, for a bride not a centimetre shorter than her groom.
How she could have coped with the 7.5m long train without the selfpossessed assistance of Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones cannot be contemplated. It flowed and moved with a will of its own when not