Prince Charles marries Lady Diana

Prince Charles marries Lady Diana

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Nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tune in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the couple’s romance was for the moment the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.

Before long, however, the fairy-tale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world’s tabloid media. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, two months after Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to divorce, the prince and princess reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of “princess,” Diana agreed to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

READ MORE: How Prince Charles and Lady Diana's Wedding Became a Global Phenomenon

In the year following the divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way of achieving her dream of becoming “a queen in people’s hearts,” but on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. Tests conducted by French police indicated that the driver, who also died in the crash, was intoxicated and likely caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.

On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles wed his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, in a private civil ceremony. The ceremony had originally been planned for April 8, but had to be rescheduled so as not to conflict with the funeral of Pope John Paul II. After the civil ceremony, which the queen did not attend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams blessed the union on behalf of the Church of England in a separate blessing ceremony. An estimated 750 guests attended the event, which was held at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and was attended by both of Charles’ parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Though Camilla technically became the Princess of Wales with the marriage, she has announced her preference for the title Duchess of Cornwall, in deference to the beloved late princess. Should Charles become king, she will become Queen Camilla, though she has already announced her intention to use the title Princess Consort, most likely in response to public opinion polls showing resistance to the idea of a Queen Camilla.

READ MORE: The Hidden Dark Side of Charles and Diana’s Relationship

The Truth About Princess Diana And Prince Charles' Dating History

As much as we love following royal romances, bearing witness (virtually, anyway) to the royal weddings, and supplementing our want for more with episodes of The Crown, there are some moments in royal history that stand in stark contrast to the fairy tale-ness of it all. Namely, a few key points in Princess Diana and Prince Charles' dating history.

Let's be honest, Prince Charles has somewhat of a reputation as a womanizer — The Evening Standard reports he dated more than 20 women before marrying Lady Diana in 1981. But, from the outside looking in, their courtship likely seemed picture perfect at the time. In fact, a 1981 article in The Daily Times noted, "By all accounts, Charles and Diana are well-suited for each other. Both love the outdoors, skiing, music, and dancing, and neither smokes." It's just that simple, right? Not exactly. From the very start, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were much less compatible than they let on.

When did Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married?

Following their official engagement on 24 February 1981, Charles and Diana wasted no time in becoming husband and wife. Just months later, on Wednesday 29 July 1981, 3,500 guests turned out to watch the Prince and Princess exchange nuptials.

Charles and Diana married at Westminster Abbey. Credit: PA

Charles forgot to kiss Diana at their wedding

The first kiss as husband and wife is always a big deal. Tracie Domino, a wedding planner and founder of Tracie Domino Events, told Brides that she even recommends practicing the ceremony smooch with your fiancé prior to the big day. This is important to avoid an awkward moment, she explained. However, even an awkward kiss would surely be better than no kiss at all, right?

According to History, Prince Charles forgot — forgot! — to kiss his new bride after they exchanged vows at the altar. Consequently, this is how the balcony kiss tradition came to be. As a way to rectify the situation, Charles and Diana took to the balcony of Buckingham Palace to lock lips in front of cheering crowds. It must be a bit embarrassing for Charles that one of the sweetest royal wedding rituals — one that his own son recreated when marrying Kate Middleton — was born out of his forgetfulness. Oh, Charles.

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When did Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married?

The pair wed on Wednesday, July 29, 1981.

Given that Charles is the heir apparent to the British monarchy, this was a massive occasion for the Royal Family.

It was watched by an estimated global TV audience of 750 million people, and there were worldwide street parties to mark the day.

They didn’t pursue each other romantically immediately and began dating in 1980.

The pair had been dating for about six months when Charles proposed on February 3, 1981.

Their engagement became official on February 24, 1981.

A Complete Timeline Of Prince Charles' & Camilla's Scandal-Filled Relationship

The Crown Season 4 depicts their messy love triangle with Diana.

People believed for years that Camilla Shand was the unwanted interloper in Prince Charles' and the late Princess Diana's relationship. But The Crown Season 4 shows the reality. "People always assume Charles cheated on Diana with Camilla,” showrunner Peter Morgan told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s absolutely the wrong way round. He was deeply in love with Camilla and forced to marry Diana.”

Their romance has now lasted for 50 years, but their history is winding and complicated. If you find yourself confused about what happened when while watching The Crown, here's a full breakdown of how their relationship unfolded.

In The Crown's third season, Charles and Camilla lock eyes while playing polo at Windsor Park and immediately feel a spark. Unhappy with how her boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles treats her, Camilla begins a relationship with Charles, who later describes her as "the one."

This is most likely accurate, though reports vary about how exactly they met. According to Time, a 22-year-old Charles met a 24-year-old Camilla at a polo match in Windsor Great Park in 1970, and the couple started dating some time after. But a 1992 People article claimed that they actually met at a 1972 party, where Camilla reportedly told Charles, "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.”

Regardless, the two's romance unfolded mostly through private meetings and phone calls — a necessary move, as Camilla wasn't aristocratic and thus not considered a great match for Charles. "He loved the fact that she smiled with her eyes as well as her mouth and laughed at the same silly things as he did," royal biographer Penny Junor wrote in The Duchess: The Untold Story. "In short, he was very taken with her, and after that first meeting he began ringing her up.”

The Crown's historical advisor Robert Lacey wrote in the The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 2that 1972 was a big year for the couple. They often went to nightclubs and visited Camilla's family on weekends as well as Lord Mountbatten's Hampshire estate. But according to biographer Sarah Bradford, Lord Mountbatten grew concerned once he realized how serious Charles was about Camilla. So as shown in The Crown Season 3, he arranged for Charles to be assigned to the West Indies for eight months in an attempt to break them apart.

Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, and his relationship with Camilla seemed to die off when he had to report back to duty in 1973. "Although the smitten prince courted her for six months, he failed to propose before returning to sea in February 1973," People reported in 1992. “He dithered and hedged his bets until Camilla gave up on him,” Junor added.

As a result, Camilla married her former boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles on July 4, 1973. Camilla and Charles remained friends, but Junor wrote that the news devastated Charles. “It seemed to him particularly cruel, he wrote in one letter, that after ‘such a blissful, peaceful and mutually happy relationship’, fate had decreed that it should last a mere six months."

Charles formally met Diana Spencer for the first time in November 1977, but it wasn't romantic. Diana was just 16, and Charles was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah, at the time. Charles and Diana began dating in July 1980 when Diana turned 18. They only met 13 times before Charles proposed, per Business Insider.

Camilla was never far from Charles' life though. As The Telegraph reported in 2005, "Curiously, and with an ominousness that was to become clear only years later, Andrew and Camilla Parker Bowles were present at most of Charles and Diana's courtship venues — Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor, at the homes of friends."

Charles proposed to Diana on Feb. 6, 1981 and The Guardian suggested he even did it in Camilla's garden. When asked if he and Diana were in love during an interview announcing their engagement, Diana said yes while Charles cryptically added, "Whatever in love means."

According to ABC's 2017 special The Last 100 Days of Diana, Camilla was present at Charles and Diana's wedding, despite Diana not wanting her to attend. Diana and Charles went on to have two children, William and Harry.

Per ABC's documentary, Charles and Camilla resumed their affair sometime around 1986. Diana knew about it. In a 1995 BBC One interview, she famously said, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

The public became aware of the affair in 1992 when tapes of conversations between Charles and Camilla were leaked. Andrew Morton’s shocking book Diana: Her True Storywas released the same year, detailing Diana’s jealousy over Charles’ involvement with Camilla. In one interview, Diana said she tried to confront Camilla at a party in 1989. "I was terrified of her. I said, 'I know what's going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that,'" Diana told Morton, per People. "She said to me: 'You've got everything you ever wanted. You've got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you've got two beautiful children, what more do you want?' So I said, 'I want my husband.'"

The 1992 People article speculated that if Charles divorced Diana, he would likely not be allowed to remarry. In December of that year, Prime Minister John Major announced Charles and Diana's official separation.

Camilla and Charles' relationship became even more public spectacle in January 1993 when a transcript of a sexually explicit 1989 phone conversation between the two was published by tabloids, leading to the scandal known as Camillagate. "I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out," Charles was heard saying in the recording.

Charles admitted to adultery in a 1994 TV documentary. Per The New York Times, he called Camilla "a great friend of mine" and said she will "continue to be a friend for a very long time."

Per The New York Times, Camilla and her husband officially divorced in January 1995. That same year, Diana admitted to having her own affair with polo player James Hewitt in a BBC interview. In December, the Queen sent a letter to Diana and Charles saying that a speedy divorce was in the interest of all parties involved.

Diana tragically died on Aug. 31, 1997 following a traffic collision in Paris.

The Guardianreported that Charles introduced Camilla to his sons in 1998 and that they were working on a "transparent campaign" to introduce Camilla to the public. But Charles' parents still didn't approve of the relationship. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip disapprove of their son's once-adulterous relationship with Parker Bowles and stayed away" from Charles' 50th birthday party.

Camilla and Charles went public for the first time in January 1999. The two were photographed together leaving a birthday party for Camilla's sister at the Ritz Hotel in London. They were spotted at more events after that, attending theater shows and social functions together.

The Queen attended King Constantine of Greece's birthday party where Camilla was also in attendance, which many took as a sign she finally approved of the relationship.

Charles and Camilla kissed for the first time in public at an event for The National Osteoporosis Society at Somerset House in London.

Charles had been living with Camilla at Clarence House since 2003, and in February 2005 he announced their engagement. They got married on April 9 of that year in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. Though the Queen and Prince Philip didn't attend, they were at the subsequent blessing at St. George's Chapel.

Because Diana held the title of Princess of Wales, Camilla received the title Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. But in a 2010 interview, Charles suggested that Camilla could be called Queen if he becomes King. "Does the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen of England if and when you become the monarch?" NBC's Brian Williams asked, to which the Prince answered, "That's well…we'll see won't we? That could be."

The royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer

LONDON -- Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981.

It is estimated that the wedding drew a global television and radio audience of 1 billion people and hundreds of thousands lined the route from Buckingham Palace to the cathedral.

The ceremony was officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of St Paul's.

Diana had five bridesmaids: Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, India Hicks, Catherine Cameron, Sarah-Jane Gaselee and Clementine Hambro. Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were Prince Charles' Supporters, a royal custom instead of a Best Man.

The bride wore a Victorian dress that featured layers of silk taffeta, puffy sleeves and a 25-foot train. It was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel.

The couple broke tradition by becoming the first royals to forgo the "obey" line in their vows, according to Vanity Fair. And even though Charles forgot to seal his vows with a kiss, the couple created a new tradition of kissing in public on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

The reception was held at Buckingham Place. The couple had 27 cakes with an official wedding cake that was a five-foot-tall layered fruitcake, according to Vanity Fair.

Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne in 300 years.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s wedding: everything you need to know

In what was hailed as the wedding of the century, Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles married on 29 July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral in front of 2,600 guests and a global television audience of 750 million. Here, ahead of the fourth series of The Crown, which will introduce Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer, historian Tracy Borman brings you everything you need to know about Diana and Charles’s fairy tale wedding…

This competition is now closed

Published: October 20, 2020 at 12:19 pm

It was a blisteringly hot July day and I was on my annual family holiday to Dorset. But instead of heading to the beach, as we had every other day, we were clustered around the small black-and-white television in our self-catering flat, eagerly waiting for the wedding of the century to begin. We were not alone. An estimated 750 million people around the world were tuning in, and at least one million more had flocked to London to catch a glimpse of the wedding procession.

The bride and groom of this ‘fairy tale’ wedding were Lady Diana Spencer (affectionately known as ‘Shy Di’) and Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Their wedding generated a greater swell of public interest than any other in modern royal history. But it also broke with a number of long-established royal traditions. It was held at St Paul’s Cathedral rather than Westminster Abbey – the first time a royal wedding had been held there since Henry VII’s son Arthur married Catherine of Aragon on 14 November 1501. Diana was also the first British citizen to marry the heir to the throne in more than 300 years the last had been Anne Hyde, who married the future James II in 1660. (Tragically, these two women would share something else in common as both died in their thirties and never became queen.)

When, where and how did Charles propose to Diana?

Charles proposed to Diana on 6 February 1981 at Windsor Castle. Diana thought at first that Charles was joking but nevertheless accepted, and was shocked when she later realised he meant it.

The couple’s engagement was kept secret for the next three weeks, probably to allow time to prepare for the official announcement. Diana later claimed that she and Charles had met only 13 times before they became engaged.

What style was Diana’s engagement ring?

It was a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire stone set with 14 solitaire diamonds and a white gold band. It was created by the then-crown jeweller The House of Garrard and the design was inspired by Queen Victoria’s sapphire-and-diamond cluster brooch, a wedding present from Prince Albert in 1840.

It was one of the few royal engagement rings not to be custom-made and was available for anyone to buy. Although it has been said that Diana selected it because it reminded her of her mother’s engagement ring, another theory is that she was drawn to its large size.

The ring originally cost £30,000 and is estimated to be worth almost £400,000 today.

Diana continued to wear the ring even after her divorce from Prince Charles. Her eldest son, Prince William, later gave the ring to his fiancée, Kate Middleton.

What was Diana’s wedding ring made from?

The gold for the princess’s wedding band followed royal tradition and was made from one of the last soft nuggets of Welsh gold, mined at Clogau St David’s gold mine, which ceased production in 1998. That same Welsh gold nugget had been used for the wedding bands of Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Anne, among many other royals. Diana’s ring was engraved on the inside with the message: “I Love You, Diana”.

The real history behind The Crown

Want to know even more about the real events from history that inspired the drama? Read more from the experts…

Why did Diana and Charles decide to get married at St Paul’s Cathedral?

The main reason for the choice was that St Paul’s Cathedral offered more seating – an important consideration given that there was to be a very large number of guests.

How much freedom did Diana and Charles have in planning the wedding?

Because Prince Charles was heir to the British throne, the event was automatically deemed a ‘state occasion’, formally requiring the invitation of the crowned monarchs of Europe and most of the elected heads of state. The ceremony was a traditional Church of England wedding service, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, and the Dean of St Paul’s, Alan Webster. The event followed full royal protocol and does not appear to have included many personal touches by the royal couple.

The organisation of royal weddings traditionally falls to the Lord Chamberlain in his capacity as ‘Impressario of Pageantry to the Queen’. Among the myriad and complex duties involved is the drafting of the guest list, which then goes to the Queen for approval before the invitation cards are sent out.

How much did the wedding cost and who paid for it?

The wedding is thought to have cost £57 million, making it the most expensive in royal history. To compare, William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 cost around £23.7 million and Harry and Meghan’s in 2018 cost £32 million.

Estimates of security costs for Diana and Charles’s wedding vary wildly from £500,000 to £20 million. More than 2,000 police officers were on duty on the day. All along the two-mile procession route, every room in every building had been checked each day over the previous fortnight, and every person using those rooms had been vetted by the police. St Paul’s Cathedral was searched by police officers and dogs trained to sniff out explosives. Helicopters hovered overhead and there were police watching from rooftops and windows along the route. Armed police disguised as footmen travelled with the Queen’s and Prince Charles’s coaches.

Who designed Diana’s wedding dress?

Diana chose the relatively unknown David Emanuel and his then-wife Elizabeth to design her dress because she was fond of a chiffon blouse they had designed for her first official photoshoot following the engagement. The Emanuels’ professed aim was to create “something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved”. They were said to have been influenced by Botticelli, Renoir and Degas, as well as photographs of some of the most romantic women in history – including Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1940).

How long did it take to make? How much would the dress have cost?

Diana’s wedding dress was a closely guarded secret. The Emanuels had a maximum of five months to work on it, given the timing of the engagement and wedding. Due in part to the level of secrecy required, they kept a very small team including two seamstresses. They also consulted Maureen Baker, who had made Princess Anne’s wedding dress in 1973, and commissioned Stephen Walters of Suffolk to weave the silk taffeta.

Fashioned from ivory silk taffeta, the dress was hand-embroidered with 10,000 tiny mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls and fringed with antique lace. There were multiple layers of tulle under the skirt, which contrasted with the fitted bodice and puff-sleeves, and a 25-foot train (one of the longest in royal history). An 18-carat gold horseshoe was sewn into the petticoat for luck.

Antique hand-made Carrickmacross lace that had belonged to Queen Mary [who married the future George V in July 1893] was used to trim the gown, and it was topped off with a 40-foot long veil. The dress cost in the region of £11,000 and in 2019 was valued at £151,000. It is today in the care of William and Harry.

Diana’s wedding shoes were the work of shoemaker Clive Shilton and took as long to create as the dress. They were studded with 542 sequins and 132 pearls, and the soles were painted with a ‘C’ and ‘D’. To complete the ensemble, Diana wore the Spencer family tiara and her mother’s diamond earrings.

Diana had to have 15 dress fittings in total. Before the wedding day her waist size dropped from 29 inches to 23.5 inches and the designers had to sew her into the dress due to the weight loss. Diana is known to have struggled with bulimia, a condition she would be afflicted with for several years.

Diana also had a spare wedding dress, which would have acted as a stand-in if the dress design had been leaked before the big day. The Emanuels didn’t tell Diana about the back-up dress. It was made from the same ivory silk taffeta and had ruffles around the neck but was much less extravagant than the show-stopping gown Diana wore on the day. The Emanuels had also designed a matching parasol in case of bad weather – although in the end Diana didn’t need to use it.

The wedding bouquet, meanwhile, was made up of white and gold flowers, including orchids, lily of the valley and Earl Mountbatten roses. It also contained the traditional sprig of myrtle, symbol of love, taken from bushes grown from cuttings from Queen Victoria’s bouquet. The bouquet was later placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Why was Diana’s dress so wrinkled?

According to writer Andrew Morton, in Diana: Her True Story (1992), the Emanuels realised too late that they had forgotten to allow for the train’s length in relation to the size of the coach Diana and her father rode in to the ceremony. They found it difficult to fit inside, particularly as both Diana and her father were tall, and the train was badly crushed despite Diana’s efforts. This accounted for the visible wrinkles in the wedding gown when she arrived at the cathedral.

Speaking in a 2018 documentary Invitation to a Royal Wedding, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham, David Emanuel admitted: “We did know it would crease a bit but when I saw Diana arrive at St Paul’s and we saw the creases I actually felt faint.”

How many guests attended the wedding? What notable figures did the guest-list include?

The wedding of Diana and Charles was attended by 2,600 people. The guest list included numerous foreign royals and heads of state, and notable figures such as Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Charles’s ex-girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Who was in the wedding party?

The royal couple had seven bridal attendants, including two page boys. There were five bridesmaids, the youngest of whom was five-year-old Clementine Hambro, great-granddaughter of Winston Churchill. Princes Andrew and Edward were supporters (the equivalent of best man for a royal wedding) for their elder brother Charles.

What happened on the day?

At 10.22am the Queen and the royal family were taken to St Paul’s Cathedral in eight carriages. The Prince of Wales travelled in a gold-encrusted coach. Diana arrived with her father in the Glass coach (one of the principal State carriages of the British monarch) almost on time for the 11.20am ceremony. As the orchestra played ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ by Jeremiah Clarke, Diana was escorted by her father, John, Earl Spencer, on the three-and-a-half minute walk down the aisle.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds were driven to Buckingham Palace in the open-topped 1902 State Landau. This was a break with tradition because a carriage was more usually employed at the start of state visits to London or Windsor.

Shortly after their arrival, at 1.10pm, the bride and groom, together with members of both families and the bridesmaids and page boys, made the traditional appearance on the balcony of the palace. Later that day, they left the palace for their honeymoon in the Landau, which had been affixed with a ‘just married’ sign by Princes Andrew and Edward.

What changes did Diana and Charles make to their wedding vows?

Diana was the first royal to remove the word ‘obey’ from her wedding vows. This was at the request of both Charles and Diana. It was unprecedented in royal weddings and caused a sensation.

On the day, both Diana and Charles made mistakes in their wedding vows: Diana accidentally referred to her husband by the wrong name, calling him Philip Charles Arthur George instead of Charles Philip Arthur George, while Prince Charles told his princess he would offer her “thy goods” instead of “my worldly goods”.

What food was served at the wedding?

In keeping with royal wedding tradition, the dishes served at the wedding breakfast bore the names of royal family members. ‘Supreme de Volaille Princesse de Galles’ (‘Princess of Wales chicken supreme’) was the main course, consisting of a chicken breast stuffed with lamb mousse. The traditional British summertime favourite, strawberries and cream, was served for dessert.

There were a staggering 27 wedding cakes. The main one, created by the Naval Armed Forces, was five feet tall – it reportedly took half an hour to crack all the eggs required.

This special cake featured the initials ‘C’ and ‘D’ the prince’s coat of arms and the Spencer family crest. Each tier was decorated with plaques showing places and motifs connected with the couple. According to tradition, the top tier was saved for the christening of their first child. On the wedding day the cake was sliced by Prince Charles with a ceremonial sword.

The Naval Armed Forces made two identical versions of the main cake in case one was damaged. Numerous slices of the couple’s wedding cake have since been auctioned off, the most recent being in Bristol in 2016 where it fetched around £1,500.

Among the wedding gifts that arrived from all over the globe was a brass paperweight from Dartmoor Prison in the shape of a ball and chain.