August 9, 2011

{Book's Prologue} Part Three: "The Wedding Morning"

[This is the third 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.]

Baskets of flowers, flags, and bunting hung along the royal mall from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square, then continued at the other end of the wedding procession route around St. Paul’s, the grand Christopher Wren cathedral that was to host its first royal wedding. The massive, Renaissance-style building with its familiar high dome was chosen—by the bride and groom and all the powers that be—for its large seating capacity (but it only had two lavatories); for being best-suited for the extraordinary range of music that was performed (Prince Charles said in an interview prior to the wedding that he "always longed for a musical wedding and had deliberately chosen stirring music. ‘I shall, I think, spend half the time in tears’."); and for better lines of sight for television (there were eight and a half miles of cable "serpentined" around the cathedral, according to the detailed report from London in the Washington Post by Leonard Downie Jr.)

Declared a national holiday, the wedding day festivities began early that morning with the sound of music and bells as the crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the two-mile route (along with a few thousand policemen and security officers.) The music came from bands of the queen’s household guards all along the procession route, but it was the ringing of the twelve big bells in the northwest tower of St. Paul’s that proclaimed the excitement and magic of the day. With the queen’s Lord Chamberlain in charge, everything had been planned and conducted with utmost precision and carried out by a cast of busy thousands.

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., so immediately after the doors of St. Paul’s opened at nine that morning, the cathedral’s organists began playing music by various English composers to welcome the first arrivals of the expected 2500 guests. Since the queen invited many of the royal families of Europe and beyond, friends and "regular folk" (including First Lady Nancy Reagan, John Travolta, and other American celebrities who were probably relieved when they read that Judith Martin, "Miss Manners" herself, wrote a special column reminding American ladies attending the wedding that they should not curtsy to royalty!) were to be seated by 10 a.m. That way the motorcades bringing heads of state and members of royal families could arrive and be ushered into the cathedral in grand style, keeping protocol intact. Arriving in ceremonial uniforms, top hats and tails, and fancy dresses, all looked to play their part in "a story book wedding, with all the trappings that only a royal ceremony in London could offer," wrote columnist Ann Cline in the Washington Star.

The last motorcade arrived from Clarence House, the Queen Mother’s residence, with the five young bridesmaids in crisp creame silk poufy dresses with fresh flowers in their hair along with the two pageboys dressed in vintage style uniforms of the Royal Navy cadets. (The uniforms replicated the style from the year of the last Prince of Wales’ wedding in 1863.) The two older girls were to wait at the bottom of the cathedral steps to attend the bride as she arrived moments later. They had been instructed by the designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel, how to fluff Diana’s veil and 25 feet of train (longest in recorded royal history) before she entered the cathedral, where they waited for her.

About the same time, the first of three of the formal processions began. The queen, dressed in pale turquoise blue, and other members of the royal family left from Buckingham Palace in eight horse-drawn carriages, escorted by mounted troops of the household cavalry.
A few minutes later, the Prince of Wales, in his dark blue Royal Navy commander’s uniform bearing various golden insignia and his many medals including his knighthood orders of the Garter, Thistle and Bath, and also wearing his full dress sword tasseled in gold, started his bridegroom’s journey along the wedding route of cheering crowds. With his brother and "supporter," Prince Andrew, at his side, they rode in the queen’s gold-encrusted coach pulled by four gray horses with their manes decorated in silver—the same coach that took the newlyweds back to Buckingham Palace almost two hours later for the early afternoon wedding "breakfast." (The breakfast, including four and a half feet of wedding cake filled with currants, raisins, sultanas, cherries and Navy rum, was for 100 or so of the royals’ nearest and dearest.)

Finally, leaving from the bride’s future grandmother-in-law’s home where she had been secreted away since the moment of her engagement several months earlier, two of the queen’s prized bay mares, Lady Penelope and Kestrel, pulled the glass coach that had carried all British royal brides to their weddings since it was built 70 years before. But now it was traveling along a route that was overflowing—beyond anyone’s imagination—with throngs of happily cheering fans. Inside were the young princess-to-be, Lady Diana (the first English girl to become Princess of Wales in 300 years) and her beloved father, Earl Spencer.

As Diana left Clarence House and the glass carriage turned into the Mall, you could see her smiling behind her veil, and then a sequin caught the light and sparkled, which was something we had never seen before—sequins on a veil. I could also see the elegant full sleeves on the dress, and knew there and then that this was going to be a very grand dress—very exciting and original, and probably not what anyone was expecting. The only thing I knew in advance was that it would be a very long train, as we at the BBC had seen the rehearsal in St. Paul’s. That day Diana looked wonderful—it really was the young romantic fairytale image of Cinderella on her wedding day.
Eve Pollard, BBC Fashion commentator for the Royal Wedding~

["Dazzling Diana," 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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