Diana's Married Years
That first kiss said it all, and in retrospect not all of it was good. On July 29, 1981 -
shortly after 750 million television viewers watched and wept over their magnificent wedding at
St.Paul's Cathedral - Charles, 32, and Diana, 20, appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.
The couple had not actually embraced in the church, and the crowds now chanted, "Kiss her,
kiss her!" It was a bold request to make of a monarchy with such famously stiff lips, and it
seemed to unnerve Charles. He shot a glance at his mother for the go-ahead. And he discussed
the matter with his new wife. Lip readers claim the exchange ran as follows.
Charles: "They are trying to get us to kiss." Diana: "I tried to ask you."
Charles: "Well, how about it?" Diana: "Why ever not?"
Then the prince and princess gently kissed, he in his naval best, she in a fantastic creation
spun out of antique lace, 40 yards of silk taffeta and 100 yards of crinoline. Charles and
Diana's wedding was the climax to this century's greatest Cinderella story, of course. But if
you revisit photographs of that famous kiss - Diana is craning her neck toward her husband,
Charles is awaiting her lips somewhat coolly - it seems sadly clear whose heart was fuller and
who tried harder to make the fairy tale come true.
From the moment Diana appeared on the scene, she seemed the answer to the monarchy's - and Britain's - prayers. Charles's search for a wife had been extensive and painfully public: one woman was disqualified because she was devoted to her career, another because she was a Roman Catholic, another because she'd posed for Penthouse. The prince met Diana through her sister Lady Sarah, herself a onetime girlfriend. Diana immediately warmed Charle's bachelor heart. Early on, she had watched him play polo. Later, as they sat on a bale of hay, she told him she'd seen him at Lord Mountbatten's funeral: "You looked so sad when you walked up the aisle... My heart bled for you when I watched it. I thought, 'Its wrong, you're lonely, you should be with somebody to look after you'." But Diana was hardly a morose companion. Once, they met up at a weekend gathering at the royal estate of Sandringham. "She taught him how to tap-dance on the terrace." a family friend said at the time. "He thought she was adorable. Who wouldn't?"
England, both royal and loyal, quickly took to Diana. She seemed appropriately virginal and had impeccable bloodlines. She was also pretty and real - a kindergarten teacher who wore somple skirts and sweaters and blushed easily. Even the now famous photograph of Diana posing in a schoolyard with sunlight streaming through her diaphanous skirt was taken as further proff of her naiveté. As the Countess of Longford put it, "She's lovely, isn't she? Marvelous complexion, blue eyes, well-brushed hair." As Charles and Diana's relationship developed, the prince's new love proved she had not just surface beauty but inner mettle, greeting an already ravenous paparazzi with extraordinary grace at every turn. In truth, the teenager's equanimity in the face of the swarming photographers was hard won. At the time, she confided to a friend, "I am terrified of them. Everywhere I turn, they are there, poking their cameras at me, asking me questions, following me whenever I step outside. I don't know how I'm going to cope."
Charles and Diana's romance was a marked departure for the traditionally chilly royals. Early in 1981, Queen Elizabeth pushed Charles to propose or break off the affair altogether. He popped the question over a candelit dinner at Buckingham Palace. (Atmosphere always helps a guy's chances.) Charles told Diana she didn't have to answer right away - "I wanted to give her a chance to think it over, to think if it was all going to be too awful" - but later she told the press, "I never had any doubts about it." Once the engagement was announced, Charles was gleeful and self-deprecating. "I fell poitively delighted and frankly amazed that Di is prepared to take me on," he said. But when reporters asked if the couple were in love, he replied, troublingly, "Yes. Whatever 'in love' means." For her part, Diana said simply, "Of course." She also flashed her engagement ring - an oval sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds - and announced, "With Prince Charles beside me I cannot go wrong."
Charles and Diana's July wedding was, among other things, a welcome diversion from England's worst economic decline in 50 years. The outpouring of love was as astonishing as the recent flood of grief has been. (Charles and Diana were already so popular that a poll showed that 73 percent of the British public favored the queen's immediate or eventual abdication.) The bride arrived at St. Paul's in a glass coach. She took the three-and-a-half minute walk down the aisle with a 25 foot silken train trailing behind her and confirmed her humanness by flubbing her vows ever so slightly, calling her future husband "Philip Charles Arthur George." By the time the congregation, two choirs and three orchestras launched into an exulant "God Save the Queen," all eyes were being dabbed and the 600,000 spectators choking London's streets were raising a cheer. The newlyweds left the cathedral in an open horse-drawn carriage. "No Hollywood production could match what I saw today," said actor Richard Burton.
It was, as the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his address at St. Paul's, "the stuff of which fairy tales are made." Years later, Diana revealed that by the eve of her wedding, she'd begun to have doubts. Still, she'd believed that her love for Charles would ultimately carry the day. "I had tremendous hopes in my heart," Diana said. And so did the watching world.
Diana - Princess of Wales - Front Page
A young Diana
100 additional Diana pictures