July 29, 2009

July 29, 1981

What did you do on the morning of July 29, 1981? If you were like me and a lot of my friends, you got up before the crack of dawn and turned on the television to watch the wedding of the century. Charles and Diana. Prince and Princess.
It took Diana nearly three-and-a-half minutes to walk up the aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The train on her dress was 25 feet long.
Interestingly, 13-year old India Hicks was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding. You can see her in the back.
What is your memory of this day?

38 comments:

  1. I remember my Father coming down in the morning looking bemused at my Mother and I having been up watching it. I pointed to the screen and said - "Daddy, this is what I want!" He pointed to the basement and said "Lindy, the ladder is down there". Hah!

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  2. Linda... that's hilarious!

    All of my neighbours gathered at one house and we drank champagne and ate finger sandwiches. It was such fun.

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  3. We were in California at the time, I remember my mom getting my brother and me up so so early to watch it and we had some sort of fancy breakfast on nice bone china plates and sipped our orange juice from delicate demitasse cups on tv trays as we watched it. I also remember being terrified by all the pomp and circumstance that weddings can cause. I still get nervous at weddings today.

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  4. I watched the nuptials from start to finish and found it deeply romantic. But the dress, frankly, was utter upholstery.

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  5. AAL... That's funny. When I was writing about the Kennedy weddings, there was a quote in the book that said that was what Caroline said her mother said about the 1950's wedding gown she wore!

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  6. I, too, answered the middle of the night summons to watch the fairytale wedding. Nobody does pomp better than the Brits. I wish the marriage had been happier. She deserved better than the Royal treatment.

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  7. I was up early preparing for my 6:00 a.m. shift to start at the steel yard. Quite a transition, from a royal wedding to sorting crushed auto parts.

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  8. I don't know if I watched this one, but I remember Andrew and Sarah's. I remember being conflicted about the beauty of the event vs. my American, anti-royalty feelings.

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  9. I distinctly remember watching it on the television in our kitchen - in fact, I even took pictures of the tv while it was on!

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  10. it was a totally magical morning. One of my friends who was watching with me was taking notes for her own wedding (with a promise extracted that I would play the organ at her wedding!)

    It was over 10 years later that she called me . . . . with the simple phrase "I found a wonderful groom, do you still have your notes for my wedding?"

    And she was the first person to call me the night of the crash in Paris . . . we must have cried to hours.

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  11. I was working for a Member of Congress who had gone into a coma and they closed our office. I was unemployed. It was blistering hot in Washington, D.C. with very high humidity. The kind of day that has you gasping by 8 a.m.

    I went to an early exercise class, came home to watch the event and was miserable that Diana, a girl, had all of "this," and I was at a low point--after what happened to my employer, and needing work, etc. I wanted to be the girl in the poofing dress who would never have a worry for the rest of her life. Yes. I really thought that.

    In defense of the dress: with hindsight, yes, we can say, "How over the top awful." Even Diana reached that viewpoint. But...during that era, evening wear had reverted to a high romanticism; all very Georgiana, Duchcess of Devonshire Gainsborough perfection.

    Later, and working, I used to spend lots of time in London and I went into a famous bookstore on Charing Cross Road called Foyle's. I went upstairs into the dark recesses where the religious books were, and I found Bibles, printed for the wedding, with the wedding information on gold in the cover...and going cheap. These would have been used during the ceremony. I bought one for myself and one for a co-worker.

    As for her accident, it was so odd. I was watching CNN right when it happened and they broke the news for the story. I NEVER watch CNN at that hour.

    In the immediate aftermath, Tom Cruise was calling in directly to CNN (does anyone else remember this?) and blasting the photographers saying "I'VE BEEN IN THAT TUNNEL. THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME. I'VE BEEN CHASED IN THAT SAME SPOT!" ...and all I could think was, "Shut your %&% yap."

    I always wondered about the timing of it all. She died a year to the time of my mother's death, was buried a year later to the time of my mother's burial. I always tie that late August season together with these events. The sumac, as usual, was the first plant to show that fall was coming. The dogwood was just having it's first leaves go red. The light was slanting in it's autumnal angle. Everything in nature was saying, "Summer is over."

    My former neighbor, who retained her British citizenship and had former ties to the British diplomatic community, was invited to the memorial service here in Washington and asked me to go along. I went just for the visuals of seeing what would be said and done. It was all very high COE (Church of England) and stiff reserve, but there was this odd snobbery going on as well...the best I can describe it is "this is OUR mourning; OUR event." Exclusionary. That's the word I'll use.

    Also, I remember this so well and don't know why. When Charles went to Paris to bring her body back, and they were landing at the airfield in England....the jet fumes were warping the view of a field of high golden grass...and black birds flew out of it. I don't know why I remember that, but it struck me visually and had impact. End of summer. End of a season. End of a life.

    I feel horrible guilt when you ask a simple question, and I go blathering on so, but...I've never written any of this out. Hence, the floodgate.

    P.S. On Linda's father and the "ladder." LOVE him. LOVE HIM.

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  12. Wash Cube... Please don't ever feel that you write too much. Your memories of this and Mrs. Kennedy's dress are wonderful insights into history. I always welcome your thoughtful comments and am honoured that you take the time to share with us.

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  13. I was in summer school at the time and completely lost track of time watching it and missed my class. It was a magical event.

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  14. Oh dear, the fairytale wedding to end the myth of fairytale weddings. I agree with AAL about the dress and remember feeling disappointed on the day. That bow on the bodice is chocolate boxy, I could have tied it better! And the silk creased so badly oh. The designer Elizabeth David and her husband were of the moment but relatively inexperienced.

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  15. I sat & watched from beginning to end. It was magical, every girls dream is it not? That is until you actually had to walk in her shoes. I miss her. Thanks for bringing this special day to my attention.

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  16. Since I have sounded ungracious, I did think the bridesmaids and the sailor pageboys were achingly gorgeous. And I loved her going-away outfit.

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  17. I had just moved away from my hometown, so my mum and I decided to watch the wedding and check in with each other periodically by phone. We sat with our coffee, in different cities, chatting and oohing and aahing at the pomp and ceremony. I thought it lovely from start to finish. If only Charles had been a gentleman and treated his wife with kindness. The wedding was truly a visual feast.

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  18. Definitely watched it! Glad you posted on this special event.

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  19. She didn't look dressed as much as she did engulfed.

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  20. I always felt bad for her that her hair flopped that day.

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  21. my first summer in nyc and no tellly in the apt - so i missed it - i was sorry i missed it - what was i thinking? i should have had a morning date with some friends to share their tv - i certainly saw all the pics in all the mags.

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  22. of course hindsight- if only darling Diana had had that gift.She was only 21, just imagine,I am sure the dress was weighty and she must have felt it-in every way, while everyone was enraptured, it seems she wasn't. heartbreaking to me. I do so remember watching,she was just a year older than me-and I thought at the time the dress was perfect- perhaps,unsophisticated me and so like the girl that wore it, in love, unloved. oh-it makes me very sad. She was gorgeous though, and she made up for that dress so many times over, stellar.la

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  23. well, I LOVED her dress and even modeled my own after hers!!!! Oh, the Emmanuels - they were so adorable. Sorry A.L. you just dont' get it. That dress was fabulous - at the time. So romantic. So dreamy. I could cry just thinking about her. I used to own (and still do!) every single book about her, her clothes, her diary, her family, her children, omg- I have tons of books about Diana. I hated to believe the rumors were true. But you know - you just knew there was something "off" about her, but she was suspicious and when your spouse denies what you FEEL is true, it will drive you insane. happened to me in a relationship - the same exact thing (kind of, minus the money and tiaras.)

    When she died, that is coming up soon - Labor Day weekend - we were at Galveston, up late that night, and it was just so pathetic, so unfair. He should have never married her. He was selfish to the core. He always loved Camilla, he should have just waited for Camilla, but then there wouldn't be Wills and Harry and they are such princes! ha!! thanks Meg for letting me rant and rave. You have no idea what a groupie I was for all things Diana.

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  24. one more thing, my mom used to say, I had Jackie, you have Diana - and I think that is so true of woman my age and younger by 10 years at most?

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  25. I totally disagree, Joni. Team Camilla!

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  26. Washington Cube - yes, my Daddy was good with the dry bon mots.

    As for "the dress" - it was the perfect fairy tale, of the moment, dress to my then 18 year old eyes. Lots to say in hindsight (rumpled silk, engulfing, overly voluminous) but it was a big dress for a big day. I was actually most disappointed with her hair. Would have loved to have seen it up or back off the face.

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  27. These comments are as fun as the post. Thanks everyone. To whom did we turn before discovering the design blog world? Blog on . . .

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  28. We were 15 hrs. ahead here in Australia, so it was evening. My 16mth. old son had an ear infection, & I distinctly remember sitting on the sofa rocking him to sleep & watching this young, young girl walking down that aisle. That sweet little baby is now a 29 year old man.

    All I could think about as I watched the wedding was the comment Charles had made to the press when they'd annnounced their engagement. When asked were they in love Diana replied shyly a firm 'Yes' only to be followed quickly by Charles with that frightful throw away line 'Whatever that means.' My heart broke for her - it was doomed from that moment.
    Millie ^_^

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  29. I was really little at the time. Our preschool class was marched into the auditorium with the rest of the parochial school to sit before a bunch of big TV's and watch it. My tush hurt from sitting on the floor down front. but it was spectacular - as was she.

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  30. Karen Junking in GAJuly 30, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    I watched it all and wondered what Lady Di was feeling. I later walked down the aisle at St. Paul's and thought about all she carried along with the weight of that dress.. a sad ending to what was a fairy tale day.

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  31. I was 10 at the time and remember getting up really early to watch the wedding on a tiny little black and white TV with rabbit ears in the loft of our cottage in Maine. Everyone had teased me the night before, but somehow they all ended up there with me in their pjs. Naturally I thought it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

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  32. Re Millie in Australia's recollection of the POWs
    offhand remark about being in love, "whatever that
    is.."
    Positively, without question, doomed from the start.
    Thanks Millie, for reminding us of that bit of candor.
    And thank you Joni, for finding that dress ravishing. It's only hindsight that allows us to see it as a prototype of 1980s excess.

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  33. Millie is so right. That was just so awful while he sat that twirling his signet ring. I'm telling you - when a woman KNOWS but the husband won't admit it, it will drive you insane. They make you think you are crazy. Poor thing. What a tragedy.

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  34. I was in college, and it was my birthday, and my 'then' boyfriend totally forgot my bd. I remember crying and watching this beautiful wedding!

    (And let us not forget that Brad & Jennifer were also married on this day in 2000!:)

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  35. I remember sleeping on the convertible sofa in the front room so I could watch it (it was very early in California) without disturbing my husband or kids! I was totally entranced. I also remember watch Queen Elizabeth II's coronation with my grandmother. It was all grainy and black and white.

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  36. I remember watching Diana emerge from that carriage and thinking her dress looked like a little girl's. It was so disappointed. I wanted it to be stunning. Those poofy sleeves - we all suffered because of those sleeves.

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  37. Wow. I, too, got up at the crack of pre-dawn to watch the wedding. I was in high school at the time. My family thought I was nuts, but half way through, my mother joined me. Her hair was completely floppy by the end. She screwed up his fifteen names. She looked incredibly nervous, young and naive.

    I also watched Andrew and Sarah's wedding. Who could forget the gold embroidered anchor on her train and the embroidered waves at the hem?

    It was a late night, Labor Day weekend, years later, with my new husband, coming home to my widowed father's house, seeing the first reports of her death in Paris. So, like Washington Cube, my mom had died the year before, at about the same time.

    Later that week, back at our home in Washington, DC, we hosted some out-of-town guests. Yes, I woke them at 6 am to watch the funeral. I made tea and muffins. Of the two ceremonies, while heartbreaking, I thought her funeral was most befitting the Princess.

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