With all the attention that the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death has generated recently, it reminded me of the happier times that were the lead up to Charles’ and Di’s wedding day. The day was declared a national holiday, and so the entire UK ground to a halt as crowds of over half a million people lined the streets of London, and everybody else tuned in on TV to watch the event itself. Estimates suggest that the wedding was watched by more than 750 million people world wide. That’s some viewing figure!
The Wedding took place on 29th July 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Charles wore the dress uniform of a Naval commander, whilst Diana wore the world famous Emmanuel designed dress, that had a train that stretched 25 feet! The only minor hitch in the service was when Diana fluffed her lines, getting Prince Charles name’s round the wrong way. Worst thing about this was it was his first name she got wrong, calling him Phillip Charles Arthur George!
After the wedding the Royal family all headed back to Buckingham Palace, with all the key members appearing on the balcony to wave at all the well wishers. What happened after that I don’t know, but I can’t get the thought of the Queen dancing to The Birdie Song and Black Lace out of my head…
The rest of the country meanwhile carried on their own celebrations, with many attending street parties. Long tables were set up in the roads of housing estates and bunting hung from the lamp posts whilst everyone sat down to have lunch with their neighbours and friends, with everyone chipping in food and drink.
Of course, the wedding day wouldn’t have happened without the initial engagement of the couple, which was formally announced on the 24th February 1981. This when the famous engagement photo was taken, with Charles in a fairly plain dark grey suit, and Diana wearing a smart blue outfit (royal blue, of course). This photo got plastered across just about every conceivable piece of tie-in merchandise you could ever think of, and some that you couldn’t. I remember having an otherwise normal notebook with the picture on the cover, and it also appeared on plates, biscuit tins, T-shirts, mugs and countless other useless items.
The memorabilia didn’t end there though. I remember also having a commemorative coin with Charles’ and Diana’s faces on, a ballpoint pen with pictures and date of the wedding on the side, and a Ladybird book with pictures of the wedding day itself. I also recall my Dad coming home one day with a plastic video box, with a nicely printed insert sleeve, so that you could tape the whole wedding off the TV and keep your E180 tape in a nice box, rather than a naff cardboard sleeve with Charles and Di scrawled on the side in wobbly letters, because you stuck the sticker on the tape before writing on it.
It’s sad to think that ultimately it all ended so badly, but at the time it united the nation. Given how the general consensus towards the Royal family is in the UK these days, I don’t think we would have the same level of excitement were a Royal wedding to take place now. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s wedding paled in comparison, but who knows, perhaps when William or Harry get married it might be another matter. Somehow, I doubt it…