Today, July 29th, marks the 39th wedding anniversary of Prince Charles of Wales, heir to the British throne, to 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Not only were the nuptials a monumental day in British history, but one of the most-watched weddings of all time.
Billed the “fairytale wedding,” excitement around the occasion spilled into the streets of London, as 600,000 citizens lined up hoping to get a glimpse of the bride and groom on their way from Clarence House to the Cathedral. The spectacle didn’t end there, as over 750 million people from 74 countries also tuned in from their TV sets.
The congregation was made up of 3,500 guests, including Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, the crowned heads of Europe, the Spencer family, important members of the British aristocracy, and many more. Without a doubt, this was the wedding of the century.
Diana was joined by bridesmaids and flower girls India Hicks, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, Catherine Cameron, Sarah-Jane Gaselee and 5-year-old Clementine Hambro (who is the great-grandaughter of Winston Churchill and one of Diana's kindergarten students, pictured below being carried through Buckingham Palace), who were dressed in almost as much taffeta and ruffles as the bride herself.
Diana’s wedding dress matched the spectacle of the day, as it was so big it could barely fit in the horse-drawn carriage. As one of the best-kept secrets in fashion, with even her own brother seeing the dress for the first time on the wedding day, the awaiting crowds fawned over the larger-than-life gown and the 25-foot train (the longest in royal history) trailing behind it.
Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel—who also happened to make the dress Diana wore to her first public engagement—the gown was adorned with 542 sequins and 132 pearls, and was paired with a 153-yard veil and 19th-century tiara.
The Spencer Tiara, a family heirloom gifted to Diana's grandmother, Cynthia Hamilton, on her wedding day in 1919, was also worn by Diana's sister, Lady Sarah, as well as Victoria Lockwood (who married Charles Spencer in 1989). The tiara represents the deep heritage of one of England's oldest aristocratic families, and helps cement the identity Diana embodied throughout her life, and legacy, as the people’s princess.
After the ceremony, where Charles and Diana shocked the world by leaving the word "obey" out of Diana's vows and deviating from traditional royal wedding protocol, the newly married Prince and Princess of Wales enjoyed a celebratory luncheon with 120 guests at Buckingham Palace before appearing on the balcony at 13:10 BST, delighting the crowd with a kiss (the kiss to begin all royal post-wedding balcony kisses).
Following this now-famous smooch, the wedding party ate cake (in fact, a total of 27 cakes were made for the occassion, with the official cake having been created by the Naval Armed Forces) before the royal couple rode away in their fairytale carriage to begin their eleven-day honeymoon cruise of the Mediterranean.