History

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding

29 July 1981

The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer attracted an estimated global TV audience of 750 million - the most popular programme ever broadcast. After the ceremony, thousands of people cheered the couple as they waved from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.


Photo: Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave in a horse-drawn carriage. (Press Association)

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Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Mark Phillips wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following their wedding, 14 November, 1973.

14 November 1973

Princess Anne's wedding

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The Duke and Duchess of York stand waving on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, 23 July 1986.

More information about: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding

How the couple met

Prince Charles was born at Buckingham Palace on 14 November 1948, the eldest son of the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

At the age of four, he watched his mother's coronation in Westminster Abbey; he was now heir apparent.

He was educated at Gordonstoun, the Scottish boarding school also attended by his father. From 1967 to 1970, he read archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University.

He was invested as Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in 1969. Two years later he trained as a jet pilot, and then embarked on a naval career.

Lady Diana Spencer was born on 1 July 1961 at Park House, on the Queen's estate at Sandringham, Norfolk.

She went to boarding school in Kent before moving to London and working as a nanny and a cook. She also worked at a kindergarten in Knightsbridge.

Charles first met Diana in 1977 while visiting her family home, Althorp, but it was only in 1980 that the relationship developed.

After press speculation, their engagement became official on 24 February 1981.

The wedding day

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.

Held at St Paul's Cathedral, the event was watched by a congregation of 3,500 and an estimated global TV audience of 750 million.

Lady Diana arrived from Clarence House for the late morning ceremony in the Glass Coach with her father, Earl Spencer.

She wore an Emanuel designed ivory taffeta and antique lace gown with a 25ft (7.62m) train. Charles was attired in the full dress uniform of a naval commander.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, led the traditional Church of England service, assisted by clergymen from many denominations.

Wedding day nerves were apparent during the ceremony. Diana mixed up the Prince's names – calling him Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip. The groom referred to "thy goods" rather than "my worldly goods".

After the private signing ceremony, the Prince and Princess of Wales walked back down the aisle to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance.

The newlyweds took the open-topped State landau to Buckingham Palace where they emerged on the balcony for a public kiss. They were later driven over Westminster Bridge to catch the train to Romsey in Hampshire. They honeymooned on the Royal Yacht Britannia, and this 12-day cruise through the Mediterranean to Egypt was followed by a stay at Balmoral.

Life after the wedding

The Princess of Wales became involved in the official duties of the Royal Family.

Within a year of her marriage, she gave birth to Prince William on 21 June 1982. Prince Harry (christened Henry) was born on 15 September 1984.

The Princess's charity work increased the public's affection for her. She publicised the plight of people with Aids, and spoke out on social problems.

The Prince and Princess of Wales carried out many engagements together and went on overseas tours. But by the late 1980s, their separate lives had become public knowledge. In December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced the couple had agreed to separate.

After their divorce in August 1996, the Princess continued to live at Kensington Palace and carry out public work.

She died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. Over a million people lined the route of the funeral cortege to Westminster Abbey and along her final journey to the Spencer family home in Northamptonshire. Her sons, William and Harry, were joined by Prince Charles in the cortege.

On 9 April 2005, the Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker Bowles.

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