On July 29, 1981, my friend Pauline was one of the thousands of people who stood along the streets of London to watch the festivities marking the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
Before the wedding date had been set, Pauline’s parents had made arrangements to take her and her sister on a family summer vacation in England. It turned out that they were in London on the big day. Using cardboard periscopes to get a closer look, they spotted the bride and groom not only on their return from St. Paul’s Cathedral, but also en route to Waterloo Station for the beginning of their honeymoon.
Recently, Pauline came across her collection of ephemera from the occasion and generously sent it to someone who shares her admiration of Diana, Princess of Wales — me!
Since the package arrived the other day, I’ve been poring over its precious contents, including the official wedding program, the official wedding souvenir publication from the Royal Jubilee Trusts, a commemorative napkin, and a postcard of the Royal Wedding poster by Tony Matthews. Pauline also picked up several English newspapers during her stay, such as the July 26, 1981 issue of the Sunday Times Magazine; the Daily Mail’s Wedding Day Souvenir from July 30, 1981; The Times’s souvenir from July 28, 1981; and copies of both The Times and The Guardian from July 30, 1981. A guide to St. Paul’s Cathedral helped me refresh my memory about the historical and architectural features of the site of the wedding ceremony. When I came across Pauline’s postcard of Bryan Organ’s 1981 painting of Diana in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, I remembered how I stood before that same painting in 1983, transfixed by my heroine.
After I added Pauline’s contributions to my own collection of Diana memorabilia, I looked through two publications I sent for from England that year: The Illustrated London News’s Royal Wedding Special Number; and The Royal Betrothal, one of those terrific Pitkin Pictorials guides that I discovered during my first visit to England in 1976.
Just like I did when I was 12 years old, I immersed myself in the pages of my much-loved copies of Invitation to a Royal Wedding, by Kathryn Spink; Diana, Princess of Wales, by Lornie Leete-Hodge; and The Year of the Princess, by Gordon Honeycombe. When I saw The Diana Look, by Sue James, I remembered how carefully I studied Diana’s clothes, hairstyle and mannerisms so I could pattern my own style after hers. “Knit (And Fit) For a Princess,” an article from the January 1984 issue of McCall’s, helped me do just that. Using the patterns that the magazine provided, a knitter made me my own copies of Diana’s famous sheep and Peruvian pullovers, which I wore so constantly that they died from exhaustion.
Before I knew it, I was pulling out the big-ticket items from my Diana collection to admire. First was the Spode commemorative mug that I bought in Bermuda that June.
Next came the Peggy Nesbit dolls of Charles and Diana, first commemorating one of their official engagement photographs…
… and then the ones issued to celebrate their wedding. It was hard to resist playing “Royal Wedding” again with them as I used to do, accompanied by my official BBC videocassette of the wedding day’s events and my LP record of the official BBC live recording of the ceremony as I marched them up and down the aisle of my bed.
Then, I carefully unpacked my 18-inch Princess Diana Bride Doll from the Danbury Mint. With its hand-painted facial features and perfect rendition of Diana’s famous hairdo, this porcelain bisque doll is just beautiful. Sequins and pearly beads are individually hand-sewn on its taffeta gown, with a scaled, lace-trimmed reproduction of Diana’s 25-foot-long-train that’s over six feet long. The doll’s tiara and half-point diamond earrings are authentic recreations of the original jewelry that Diana wore on her wedding day, and the bouquet is a replica of the one she carried.
One item isn’t shelved with the rest of my Diana collection. It’s my Princess Diana watch that I received for Christmas in 1981. Sapphires and diamonds circle the face, recalling Diana’s engagement ring. I still wear it most days.