On November 11, 1985, Princess Diana visited the J.C. Penney in the Springfield, Virginia mall.
“Royals doing mundane things” is, of course, a thriving news genre and really the bulk of a working royal’s job description. However, there is something truly special about the image of Charles and Diana—specifically, of Diana—wandering around the J.C. Penney in a suburban American mall.
Unlike Queen Elizabeth II’s 1957 visit to a supermarket, this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. (Maybe Diana might’ve rambled into a department store on a lark, but one does not get the sense a younger Charles would have ever, in a million years.) They were there to see a “Best of Britain” showcase, which explains the Rolls parked on top of Wedgwood teacups you see in the photo above. J.C. Penney had just purchased $50 million worth of U.K. merch, People reported at the time, and the couple’s appearance was meant to help boost the appeal of British goods in the States. After all, what use is a royal family if you can’t deploy them to help sell your nation’s stuff abroad?
Diana did, however, make a small purchase, the Sun-Sentinel reported:
Princess Diana bought an $8 silk scarf during a royal tour of the J.C. Penney store here Monday, setting off a mini-fashion frenzy when the doors opened to her devoted fans.
Twenty minutes after she and Prince Charles finished viewing the store`s ``Best of Britain`` promotion, 75 red women`s ties with black polka dots — the store`s entire stock had been snatched from the shelves.
``We were hoping, but we didn’t really expect her to buy anything,`` said Betsy Leonhard, senior merchandising manager for the Springfield store which was closed to the public during the royal tour.