It was a fairytale wedding watched by an estimated 750 million people but, as we all know, Prince Charles and Princess Diana didn’t get their happily ever after.
Amongst the many things that make the relationship of Prince Charles and Princess Diana stand out from other royals is where they got married – choosing to break traditions long before giving interviews on each other!
Charles, now 71, and Diana met in 1977 when he was actually in a relationship with her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale. Their fateful meeting came when he was 29 and Diana was just 16, during a hunting trip at the Spencer’s country estate, Althorp House in Northamptonshire.
Sarah, 65, credits herself for introducing her sister to Charles, and following their engagement she is said to have told reporters, ‘I’m cupid.’
And it seems Sarah was more than happy for her sister to marry Charles – because she didn’t love him herself. Sarah previously said, ‘There is no chance of my marrying him. I’m not in love with him.’
So Diana and Charles were free to start one of the most famous royal unions in modern history…
When did Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married?
Following their official engagement on 24 February 1981, Charles and Diana wasted no time in becoming husband and wife. Just months later, on Wednesday 29 July 1981, 3,500 guests turned out to watch the Prince and Princess exchange nuptials.
Where did Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married?
Charles and Diana’s wedding took place at St Paul’s Cathedral, with them shunning the usual royal wedding location of Westminster Abbey. The reason for this decision is said to be because St Paul’s offered more seating for their guests.
According to the official St Paul’s website, Charles and Diana were on a ‘mission to become the people’s Prince and Princess’ and therefore the wedding needed to be a spectacle. In contrast, Westminster Abbey only seats 2,000 people.
Only one other royal couple has tied the knot at St Pauls: King Henry VII’s son Prince Arthur and his bride Princess Catherine in 1501!
How much did Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding cost?
As British royal weddings go, Charles and Diana’s holds the record for being the most expensive. Their nuptials clocked in at an estimated £57m. As is royal tradition in Britain, taxpayers contributed to the cost of the wedding.
It’s thought that security alone cost up to £20m! More than 2,000 police officers were on duty for the event, which included a two-mile procession route. Armed police disguised as footmen travelled with the Queen and Prince Charles, while helicopters hovered overhead.
St Paul’s was searched by police and sniffer dogs, for potential explosives, while anybody using the cathedral up to a fortnight before the wedding were vetted by officers, adding to the eye-watering security cost.
Charles and Diana’s youngest son Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle is next on the list of most expensive British royal weddings, costing around £32m in 2018, while their eldest son William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials clocked in at £30m in 2011.
Princess Diana’s wedding dress
Diana turned to designer David Emanuel for her wedding dress, and he created it with his then-wife Elizabeth. According to the Emanuels at the time, their aim was to create ‘something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved’.
The Emanuels had five-months to work on Diana’s wedding dress, which was made from ivory silk taffeta and embroidered with 10,000 mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls.
Consisting of a fitted bodice and puffed sleeves, Diana’s dress included multiple layers of tulle under the skirt – and her 125-yard veil and 25-foot train were some of the longest in royal history.
Because of its length Diana’s train was crushed when trying to fit into the glass coach that took her to the cathedral, which caused wrinkles in the train and dress that were visible when she arrived.
The dress, which Time magazine called one of the ‘Most Influential British Wedding Dresses of All Time, is thought to have cost £11,000 and in 2019 was valued at £151,000. It’s now in the possession of Prince William and Prince Harry, following Diana’s death on 31 August 1997.
When did Prince Charles and Diana get engaged?
Charles and Diana got engaged on 24 February 1981 after meeting on a hunting weekend at her family’s country estate, Althorp House in Northamptonshire.
But after being introduced by Diana’s sister Sarah, Charles and Diana didn’t see each other again until 1980 – when they were both invited to stay at Philip de Pass’s house in Sussex.
During a conversation with her speech coach, used in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, she said, ‘He’d just broken up with his girlfriend and his friend Mountbatten had just been killed. I said it would be nice to see him.
‘We were talking about Mountbatten and his girlfriend and I said, “You must be so lonely. It’s pathetic watching you walking up the aisle with Mountbatten’s coffin in front, ghastly, you need someone beside you”. Whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me and I thought, urgh, this is not what people do. And he was all over me for the rest of the evening, following me around like a puppy.’
After that meeting it’s thought most of Charles and Diana’s courtship took place over the phone and that they only met in person 13 times before he popped the question!
How old was Prince Charles when he married Diana?
Charles was 32-years-old when he married Diana, who was 20. Speaking of meeting Diana, Charles once said, ‘I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.’
When did Prince Charles and Princess Diana separate and divorce – and why?
Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and their divorce was finalised in January 1995.
Within three years of being married Charles and Diana were parents to William, born on 21 June 1982, and Harry, who arrived on 15 September 1984.
But it’s thought that, by 1986, Charles had started seeing Camilla Parker Bowles, who he’d had a brief relationship with before meeting Diana. And in 1992 tapes of conversations between Diana and close friend James Gilbey leaked, during which she described life with Charles as ‘real torture’.
Diana later opened up about confronting Camilla, telling her biographer Andrew Morton, ‘I was terrified of her. I said, “I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that”. She said to me, “You’ve got everything you ever wanted. All the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?” So I said, “I want my husband.” And I said, “I’m sorry I’m in the way…and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot”.
In June 1994, less than a year before their divorce, Charles confessed to being unfaithful with Camilla, insisting he’d remained faithful until ‘it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried’. On the evening that his interview was published, Diana stepped out in what has become known as her ‘revenge’ dress – a racy LBD.
Then, in November 1995, Diana sat down for her interview with Martin Bashir, during which she said her now infamous line, ‘Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’
Diana went on to date Egyptian film producer Dodi Fayed. Though sadly their courtship was cut short when Dodi and Diana died in a car crash in Paris in the Summer of 1997