August 12, 2011

{Book's Prologue} Part Four: "Dazzling Diana"

[This is the forth excerpt of the Prologue, "Front Row to a Royal Wedding," from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Posting the book's prologue is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Diana & Charles' wedding.]

The moment Diana stepped out of that regal glass coach on her wedding morning—"like seeing a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis…" the Emanuels said later, with the endless yards of train magically materializing with her—she had us hook, line and sinker. Unspeakable beauty combined with a sympathetic appeal can do that. 

Lady Diana Spencer would become a princess that day and she already looked the part down to every little detail. Her enchanted pouf of a silk taffeta gown (that would influence generations of brides) shimmered in the morning sunlight—the fabric custom woven by the oldest silk weavers in Britain and specially dyed in a shade of palest ivory never to be used again. Trimmed with lace once belonging to Queen Mary, Charles’ great-grandmother, the fitted, intricately beaded bodice showed off Diana's new slim figure. The young bride was cocooned in a gossamer tulle veil of silk made from British farm silkworms just for the occasion. With gusts of wind swooshing it about as if on cue, the nonstop veil glistened with thousands of hand-sewn and hand-knotted mother-of-pearl sequins as Diana prepared for her ascent up the red-carpeted cathedral steps.

"Time seemed to stand still as we waited for her to come up the steps," the young designers reported. The Emanuels were in place and prepared to give the bride one last elegant going over before she walked up the long nave of the church into her Never Never Land.

Diana’s "something borrowed" was the Spencer family heirloom diamond tiara; a not so subtle reminder to the world that she was already "royal." (If not "officially" royal by dynastic standards, then certainly of old nobility that knew a thing or two about noblesse oblige.)

Leaving a perfumed trail wherever she moved, her massive bouquet, matching the scale of her gown, was filled with fragrant creame and yellow flowers and greenery from gardens all over England, including (according to the Emanuel’s account in their book, Dress for Diana) gardenias, Mountbatten roses, freesias, Royal Wedding orchids, lily of the valley, miniature ivy, and myrtle from the Isle of Wight.

The bride’s entrance into the rich splendor of St. Paul’s interior was announced by a fanfare from trumpeters high in the cathedral’s dome...perhaps a heralding sign of changes to come. And the bride and groom made royal history with a break in tradition even before becoming husband and wife. Removing some outdated words from the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer, as the couple stood before the archbishop of Canterbury, and witnessed by a large population of the world, the bride’s marriage vows did not include the promise "to obey."

(An article in The Washington Post a few days before the wedding reported that the archbishop of Canterbury revealed "the decision to drop this vow was made very quickly in his discussion of the service with Charles and Diana and that he told them, the usual clergyman’s joke. ‘It’s a bad thing to start your marriage off with a downright lie.’
He told reporters that many couples now omit the vow, which was a remnant from the Middle Ages, when a wife would pledge ‘to be bonny and buxom in bed and board,’" Downie’s byline from London concluded.)

At the conclusion of the vows, hymns and presentations, the princess bride—in handcrafted quilted silk and lace wedding slippers—stepped out into a sunny, adoring world that she would soon be changing in unimaginable ways. As I caught glimpses of the floating "goddess bride" on television throughout the broadcast, it was as though I could feel life as I knew it shifting. It was not just that weddings would never be the same, but it was also that the world was cracking open into a new kind of mystery. ~

["A World of Celebrity," the next part of the Prologue of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, will be posted in a few days. To see all the excerpts from the book's Prologue, click on "Prologue" in the Labels list below.]

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