The wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Frances Spencer took place on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral, London, England. Their marriage was widely billed as a "fairytale wedding" and the "wedding of the century". It was watched by a global television audience of 750 million. Diana was the first British commoner to marry the heir to the English or Scottish throne since James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, married Mary I of Scotland, the heir presumptive to the English throne. The United Kingdom had a national holiday on that day to mark the wedding. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris along with her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul on 31 August 1997, and on 9 April 2005, Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Prince Charles had known Diana for several years, but he first took a serious interest in her as a potential bride during the summer of 1980, when they were guests at a country weekend, where she watched him play polo. The relationship developed as he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia, followed by an invitation to Balmoral Castle, the Windsor family's Scottish home, to meet his family. Diana was well received at Balmoral by Queen Elizabeth II, by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and 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 at a dinner for two at Buckingham Palace. He knew she planned a vacation for the next week, and hoped she'd use the time to consider her answer. Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks.
Their engagement became official on 24 February 1981, after Diana selected a large £30,000 ring consisting of 14 diamonds surrounding a sapphire, similar to her mother's engagement ring.
There were 3,500 people in the congregation at St Paul's Cathedral. It was held at St Paul's rather than Westminster Abbey, which is generally used for royal nuptials, because St Paul's offered more seating. The service was a traditional Church of England wedding service. Another 750 million people watched the ceremony worldwide, making it the most popular programme ever broadcast, and this figure rose to a billion when the radio audience is added in. Two million spectators lined the route of Diana's procession from Clarence House, with 4,000 police and 2,200 military officers to manage the crowds.
Lady Diana arrived at the cathedral in a glass coach with her father, John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, escorted by five mounted military police officers. She arrived almost on time for the 11:20 BST ceremony. The carriage was too small to comfortably hold the two of them in her dress and train.
She made the three-and-a-half minute walk up the red-carpeted aisle with the sumptuous 25 ft (7.62 m) train of gown behind her.
At the altar Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles's names, saying Philip Charles Arthur George instead. She also did not say she would "obey," which caused a sensation at the time.
The couple's wedding cake was created by Belgian pastry chef S. G. Sender, who was known as the "cakemaker to the kings".
Diana's wedding dress, valued at £9000, was a puff ball meringue wedding dress, with huge puffed sleeves and a frilly neckline. The dress was made of 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.
After the ceremony, the couple went to Buckingham Palace for a dinner for 120. Appearing on a balcony at 1310 BST, Diana and Charles kissed for the crowd below.
Afterwards they enjoyed toasts and a wedding breakfast with 120 family guests. A "just married" sign attached to the landau by Princes Andrew and Edward raised smiles as the married couple were driven over Westminster Bridge to get the train to Romsey in Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.
Wedding guest list
Officiants at the wedding of Diana and Charles included the Archbishop of Canterbury and 25 other clerics from many denominations.
Crowds of 600,000 people filled the streets of London to catch a glimpse of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on their wedding day.
The couple were married at St Paul's Cathedral before an invited congregation of 3,500 and an estimated global TV audience of 750 million - making it the most popular programme ever broadcast.
Britons enjoyed a national holiday to mark the occasion.
Lady Diana, 20, arrived almost on time for the 1120 BST ceremony after making the journey from Clarence House in the Glass Coach with her father, Earl Spencer.
She made the three-and-a-half minute walk up the red-carpeted aisle with the sumptuous 25 ft (7.62 m) train of her Emmanuel designed, ivory taffeta and antique lace gown flowing behind her.
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie led the traditional Church of England service, but he was assisted by clergymen from many denominations.
The bride's nerves showed briefly when she mixed up the Prince's names - calling him Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip.
Charles, 32, in the full dress uniform of a naval commander, slightly muddled his vows too, referring to "thy goods" rather than "my worldly goods".
After a brief private signing ceremony the Prince and Princess of Wales walked back down the aisle to the refrain of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance.
The newlyweds took the open-topped state landau to Buckingham Palace where they emerged on the balcony at 1310 BST to give the crowds the kiss they had been longing to see.
Afterwards Charles and Diana retired from the public gaze to enjoy toasts and a wedding breakfast with 120 family guests.
A "just married" sign attached to the landau by Princes Andrew and Edward raised smiles as the married couple were driven over Westminster Bridge to get the train to Romsey in Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.
Nearing his mid-thirties, Charles, Prince of Wales, was under increasing pressure to marry. 19 year old Lady Diana Spencer, who had played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child, seemed to have all the necessary qualities of a future Queen, and their romance blossomed in 1980. In less than a year, Prince Charles proposed to Diana in the nursery of Windsor Castle. In Diana’s own words,
“He said, ‘Will you marry me?’ and I laughed. I remember thinking, ‘This is a joke,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay,’ and laughed. He was deadly serious. He said, ‘You do realize that one day you will be queen.’ And a voice said to me inside, ‘You won’t be queen, but you’ll have a tough role.’ So I said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I love you so much, I love you so much.’ He said, ‘Whatever love means.’”
Their engagement was announced in the gardens of Buckingham Palace on February 24th, 1981, and Diana showed off her white gold engagement ring, which was dominated by an oval sapphire embraced by fourteen diamonds.
The marriage ceremony took place at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29th July, 1981 before 3500 guests, and an estimated television audience of 750 million people. Britons enjoyed a national holiday to mark the occasion. The ceremony was described as “the stuff of which fairy tales is made” by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne in over 300 years. Her sumptuous wedding dress, designed by the Emmanuels, featured a 25-foot train. The story behind the creation of her dress has been revealed in the book, A Dress for Diana.
Following the ceremony, the new Prince and Princess of Wales appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and appeased the crowd with a kiss. A traditional royal wedding breakfast followed for 120 family guests after which the Prince and Princess of Wales departed for their honeymoon. Their honeymoon was spent at the Mountbatten family home at Broadlands, Hampshire, on a 12 day cruise through the Mediterranean and at the Queen’s Balmoral Estate.
In less than a year, the couple had their first child, Prince William, who was born on 21 June 1982. Their second son, Prince Harry, was born on 15 September 1984.
By this time however, their marriage was in trouble, most notably because of Prince Charles continued relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, who would eventually become his wife. By the late 1980’s, the couple had effectively separated, however the separation was not announced until 9th December 1992. Around this time, Diana spoke publicly about their troubled marriage, causing a worldwide media sensation. Prince Charles spoke out about the marriage in 1994. They were formally divorced on 28th August 1996.
Tragically, on August 31st 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. Despite being divorced, Prince Charles over-ruled palace protocol by insisting that Diana be given a formal royal funeral, even accompanying his ex-wife’s body home from Paris, and subsequently was praised by many for his handling of the events and their aftermath.