Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer

Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer on their wedding day.
Date 29 July 1981, 11:20 am BST
Location St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Participants Charles, Prince of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer, Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, The Princess Anne, The Prince Andrew, The Prince Edward, The 8th Earl Spencer, Frances Shand Kydd, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes, Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp

The wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer took place on Wednesday 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom. The ceremony was a traditional Church of England wedding service. Notable figures in attendance included many members of royal families from across the world, republican heads of state, and members of the bride's and groom's families. Their marriage was widely billed as a "fairytale wedding" and the "wedding of the century". It was watched by an estimated global TV audience of 750 million.[1][2] The United Kingdom had a national holiday on that day to mark the wedding. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.


The Prince of Wales had known Lady Diana Spencer for several years. He took serious interest in her as a potential bride when they were guests at a country weekend, where she watched him play polo. He invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia as their relationship began to develop. This was followed by an invitation to Balmoral Castle, the Windsor family's Scottish home, to meet his family. Diana was well received at Balmoral by The Queen, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The couple then had several dates in London. Diana and Charles had been seeing each other for about six months when he proposed on 3 February 1981 in the nursery at Windsor Castle. Diana had planned a holiday for the next week, and Charles hoped she would use the time to consider her answer.[3] Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks.[4]

Their engagement became official on 24 February 1981, after Diana selected an elegant, large £30,000 engagement ring that consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-karat white gold.[5] Many copies of the ring have been made in well-established jewellery shops and high-street fashion chains worldwide.[6]


3,500 guests made up the congregation at St Paul's Cathedral.[3] Charles and Diana selected St Paul's over Westminster Abbey, the traditional site of royal weddings, because St Paul's offered more seating and permitted a longer procession through the streets of London.

The ceremony was a traditional Church of England wedding service, presided over by the Most Reverend Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Very Reverend Alan Webster, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. An estimated 750 million people watched the ceremony worldwide,[1] and this figure allegedly rose to a billion when the radio audience is added in, although there are no means of verifying these figures.[3] Two million spectators lined the route of Diana's procession from Clarence House, with 4,000 police and 2,201 military officers to manage the crowds.[3]

All of the Queen's governors-general, as well as Europe's crowned heads, attended, with the exception of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. (The Spanish king was advised not to attend by his government because the newlyweds' honeymoon included a stopover in the disputed territory of Gibraltar). Most of Europe's elected heads of state were among the guests, with the exceptions of the President of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis (who declined because Greece's exiled monarch, Constantine II, a kinsman and friend of the bridegroom, had been invited as "King of the Hellenes"), and the President of Ireland, Patrick Hillery (who was advised by Taoiseach Charles Haughey not to attend because of the dispute over the status of Northern Ireland).[fn 1]

Then-First Lady Nancy Reagan represented the United States at the wedding.[7]

Regiments from the Commonwealth realms participated in the procession, including the Royal Regiment of Canada.[8]

Lady Diana arrived at the cathedral in the Glass Coach with her father, John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, and escorted by six mounted Metropolitan Police officers.[3] She arrived almost on time for the 11:20 BST ceremony.[1] The carriage was too small to hold the two of them comfortably due to her voluminous dress and train. She made the three-and-a-half minute walk up the red-carpeted aisle with the sumptuous 25 ft (8 m) train of gown behind her.

Diana accidentally changed the order of Charles's names during her vows, saying "Philip Charles Arthur George" instead of the correct "Charles Philip Arthur George".[1] Charles also made an error. He said he would offer her "thy goods" instead of "my worldly goods".[9] She did not promise to "obey" him as part of the traditional vows. That word was eliminated at the couple's request, which caused a sensation at the time.[10]

Other church representatives present who gave prayers following the service were a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, Cardinal Basil Hume, the Right Reverend Andrew Doig and the Reverend Harry Williams CR.[11]

Three choirs, three orchestras and a fanfare ensemble played the music for the service. These were the Bach Choir, the Choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, the Choir of the Chapel Royal, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra and a fanfare ensemble from the Royal Military School.[12] The choirs were conducted by Barry Rose, the choirmaster at St. Paul's Cathedral. The cathedral's organist, Christopher Dearnley; and its sub-organist, John Scott; played the organ. The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra were conducted by Sir David Willcocks, who was the director of the Royal College of Music; Richard Popplewell, the organist at Chapel Royal; and Sir Colin Davis, who was the musical director of Covent Garden.[12][11] Music and songs used during the wedding included the "Prince of Denmark's March", "I Vow to Thee, My Country", "Pomp and Circumstance No.4" and the British National Anthem.[11]


Diana's wedding dress was valued at £9000[13] (equivalent to £31,110 in 2015),[14] The dress was made of ivory silk taffeta, decorated with lace, hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. It was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and had a 25-foot train of ivory taffeta and antique lace. Charles wore his full dress naval commander uniform.[15]

The bride wore her Spencer family's heirloom tiara.[16] According to her brother, Charles Spencer, Diana was unused to wearing a tiara and it gave her a headache.[17]

Diana was reported to have spilled perfume all over her wedding dress.[18] The official parfumeur of the royal wedding was the House of Houbigant, the oldest French fragrance company.


The royal couple had seven bridal attendants. Eleven-year-old Lord Nicholas Windsor, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and eight-year-old Edward van Cutsem, godsons of the Prince of Wales, were page boys. Diana's bridesmaids were seventeen-year-old Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, daughter of the Earl of Snowdon and Princess Margaret;[15] thirteen-year-old India Hicks, the granddaughter of the Earl Mountbatten of Burma and daughter of David and Lady Pamela Hicks; six-year-old Catherine Cameron, daughter of Donald and Lady Cecil Cameron and granddaughter of the Marquess of Lothian; eleven year-old Sarah-Jane Gaselee, daughter of Nick Gaselee and his wife; and five-year-old Clementine Hambro, daughter of Rupert Hambro and the Hon Mrs Hambro (now Countess Peel) and granddaughter of Lord and Lady Soames and great-granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. Andrew and Edward were the Prince of Wales's supporters (the equivalent of "best man" for a royal wedding).


The couple and 120 guests went to Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast following the ceremony.[3] Diana and Charles made a traditional appearance on a balcony of Buckingham Palace at 13:10 BST, and delighted the crowd when they kissed.[1][3]

The couple had 27 wedding cakes. The official wedding cake was supplied by the Naval Armed Forces. David Avery, head baker at the Royal Naval cooking school in Chatham Kent, made the cake over 14 weeks. They made two identical cakes in case one was damaged. The couple's other wedding cake was created by Belgian pastry chef S. G. Sender, who was known as the "cakemaker to the kings".[19] Another wedding cake was created by Chef Nicholas Lodge; Chef Nicholas had previously made the Queen Mother's 80th Birthday Cake and would be commissioned to create a Christening Cake for Prince Harry.[20]

A "just married" sign was attached to the landau by Princes Andrew and Edward, which raised smiles as the married couple was driven over Westminster Bridge to catch the train from Waterloo Station to Romsey in Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.[1]

Royal guests


The couple left from Waterloo station in the British Royal Train + 975025 Caroline. They travelled to Broadlands, where Prince Charles's parents had spent their wedding night in 1947.[15] They stayed there for three days,[15] then flew to Gibraltar, where they boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia for an eleven-day cruise of the Mediterranean, visiting Tunisia, Sardinia, Greece and Egypt. Then they flew to Scotland, where the rest of the royal family had gathered at Balmoral Castle, and spent time in a hunting lodge on the estate. During that time, the press was given an arranged opportunity to take pictures.


  1. The period when the advice was given coincided with a change of government. Traditionally Irish presidents and British royalty did not meet publicly because of the Northern Ireland issue.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Charles and Diana marry". BBC News. 29 July 1981. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  2. "International Special Report: Princess Diana, 1961-1997". The Washington Post. 30 January 1999. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Princess Diana's Wedding, Jone Johnson Lewis,
  4. Diana: Her True Story, Commemorative Edition, by Andrew Morton, 1997, Simon & Schuster
  5. "International Special Report: Princess Diana, 1961–1997". The Washington Post. 30 January 1999. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  6. Richard, Kay (17 November 2010). "Haunted by Diana's shadow". Mail Online. UK.
  8. "Command: Regimental Sergeant Major". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
  9. "So which Royal bride spilled perfume all over her dress? Try our quiz as you wait for the wedding". Mail Online. UK. 29 April 2011.
  10. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York City: Basic Books. p. 98. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
  11. 1 2 3 Royal Wedding, The Times 29 July 1981, p, 15
  12. 1 2 Rothstein, Edward (22 July 1981). "Anthem is Composed for Royal Bridal". The New York Times.
  13. "Princess Diana, Princess of Wales: Diana's wedding". Princess Diana. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  14. UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Downie Jr., Leonard (29 July 1981). "Britain Celebrates, Charles Takes a Bride". The Washington Post. London. p. A01. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  17. "Wearing tiara caused Princess Diana wedding day headache, brother reveals". Daily Mail. 18 May 2012.
  18. "So which Royal bride spilled perfume all over her dress? Try our quiz as you wait for the wedding". Mail Online. UK. 29 April 2011.
  19. "Belgian "cakemaker to the kings" dies". Expatica. 20 July 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  20. "About Nicholas Lodge".
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