The wed­ding that stopped the world

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - THE ROYAL WEDDING -

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

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