On this day 34 years ago, Charles, Prince of Wales, married Lady Diana Spencer in London, at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The couple arrived from Buckingham Palace via horse-drawn carriage while the world—including my Californian mother—lost their minds with excitement.
In 1981, my parents, whose names happen to be Charles and Diane, were stationed at Lakenheath Air Force base in Suffolk, England. The Los Angeles natives had adjusted pretty well to British life after three years in the rainy country and even welcomed a daughter, me, into the world amid the incomparable international public relations monster that is a British royal wedding.
During that time, the royal couple were inescapable as the press trailed them, documenting every stage of their courtship, including Prince Charles’ on-going side relationship with then-Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall.
As for Princess Diana, the world was in love with her. According to my mother, Prince Charles was an old maid of sorts and it was clear that he needed to get hitched or he was going to ruin his chance at producing a male heir to his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s throne.
“It was absolutely the wedding of the century! You saw what it was like when Prince William married Kate, now imagine that but even bigger,” recalls my mother. “You have to know Prince Charles wasn’t a youngster! The idea at the time was ‘Finally he’s chosen a wife!’ even though he was dating Camilla on the side the whole time.”
Princess Diana, on the other hand, was like an beautiful fashionable angel who’d come down from heaven.
“Diana was so nice, pretty and agreeable to everybody everywhere,” she says. “The causes she adopted like AIDS and HIV awareness were so great, and she was hands-on as she travelled around the world volunteering. You could tell she wasn’t just going through the motions.”
Fashion-wise, Princess Diana set trends with her gowns, hats and her very of-the-moment spectator pumps.
“I loved her too and I wasn’t even British! I was like ‘What’s she wearing?’ What’s she doing?’” she says. “Diana really set the tone for so many things concerning fashion too. Whenever she cut her hair, people began cutting their hair like hers; whatever she wore, people would go out and buy it.”
Concerning Princes William and Harry, it was clear to my mother that Princess Diana was very hand-on, which was a bit of a departure from royal tradition.
“She wanted to raise her children herself and have an input on who they were,” my mother recalls. “Diana was just well loved from the beginning. That’s why people were not tickled with Charles and his antics, because he continued to see Camilla but had this beautiful princess at home. No one understood.”
“But back then, watching Charles and Diana get married was like a living fairy tale,” she continues. “The beautiful girl marries the Prince, she becomes a Princess. Diana was so lady-like and cool. You felt warm and fuzzy about her and proud that she was your Princess. It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
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