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- June 22, 1981
- Vol. 15
- No. 24
A Princess Bride Prepares
Lady Di Gets in a Royal Tizzy as She Readies for Her Fairy-Tale Wedding
Getting out the invites
Thanks to the Lord Chamberlain and eight impeccably pedigreed social secretaries, the 2,500 gold-embossed, hand-addressed invitations have gone out. Alas, Diana got only 100, her parents 50 each, and Prince Charles 300. The Queen copped the rest and she sent them to the likes of Nancy Reagan (who's coming), Ronald Reagan (who's not) and François Mitterrand. But the talk won't all be geopolitics: His Highness' old buddies Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, who did the Goon Show with Peter Sellers in the '50s, have promised to attend. So has perennial starlet Susan (Mandingo) George—but Di needn't worry, Susan and the Prince are just good friends.
Registering for gifts
Buckingham Palace has dishes and flatware for a thousand, but Lady Diana won't get to use the settings in Her Majesty's service until Charles ascends the throne. Meantime, the Palace says, she'll want a spot of help. "She needs everything a newlywed needs," one of Aunt Lillibet's aides says. "Sofas for the living room and wooden spoons for the kitchen." Di has made a good first step, registering at the General Trading Company, where Britain's bluest blood buys. Her list of some 300 items includes a pair of fireplace bellows, a chicken fryer and lid, and large leather waste-basket bins in burgundy, black, cream or green. For her china pattern, practical Di has chosen Royal Worcester (natch) oven-to-table ware. The yellow and green geraniums on the Villeroy and Boch breakfast set might be a trifle frilly for the ex-minesweeper captain she's marrying, but the price of the French crockery is sensibly British—only $60 for a coffeepot. That will fit the pocketbooks of some of the Labor party politicos the Palace has invited, but the Tories will likely send something nice in silver.
The Palace functionaries handle the letters. This, of course, relieves Diana of the burden of finding something original to say about every cheese board she receives. In 1947 Queen Elizabeth found the service invaluable in thanking the people around the world who sent her hundreds of pairs of nylon stockings (there was a shortage after the war), and expressing the proper gratitude to General Eisenhower for the ashtray he sent, and to Mahatma Gandhi for the piece of cloth woven from thread he had spun himself. Of course, she never could have handled personal thanks for all 2,583 gifts; Princess Anne didn't even try to write notes for her 1,524 presents, among them a single piece of toffee from a country schoolboy. Di never unpacks her loot. After the bomb squad checks it out, the Palace may put it on public display in August, and print a paperback catalog to sell to souvenir hunters.
Selecting the bridesmaids
Di followed that common English practice of asking children of her friends to serve as attendants. The five young ladies include Princess Margaret's daughter, Sarah Armstrong-Jones. The Prince's choice was easy: His brothers, Princes Andrew and Edward, will attend him. Andrew will likely fumble for the ring, fashioned from the same nugget of Welsh gold that produced the Queen's and Princess Anne's wedding bands. Charles will go ringless.
Choosing the caterer
This part's a piece of cake—marzipan-covered fruitcake, to be exact, prepared by Chief Petty Officer David Avery, the "cakey," or baker, of the Royal Navy Cooking School. About 120 lucky guests will be asked back to the Palace to wash the cake down with champagne (probably Bollinger '73) and dig into a breakfast menu that the Palace is guarding like a state secret.
Choosing the church
When your mother-in-law appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury, finding a preacher is no problem. His Grace, Dr. Robert Runcie, will officiate, but not at Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop will trundle round to St. Paul's Cathedral, Christopher Wren's 17th-century baroque-inspired treasure dome of priceless art. The church was Charles' idea, but Di fell in love with it at first sight—two months after the wedding was announced.
Planning the ceremony
Here Comes the Bride will certainly not resound across the transept of St. Paul's. But the royal duo won't be too innovative: Prince Charles, a music lover and Sunday cellist, has tentatively selected a familiar old chestnut, Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary, for the bridal procession. For the recessional, the bride (who has perfect pitch) and groom will likely step to Sir William Walton's coronation march, Crown Imperial. In between, soprano Kiri Te Kanawa will sing a selection from Handel and an orchestra composed of Britain's leading musicians will play. The only departure from tradition will be the presence of a Roman Catholic priest and a Presbyterian minister to offer prayers.
Looking like a queen
The Royal Family moved Lady Di into Clarence House, the Queen Mother's residence, for a crash course in queening. Lest all that high living plumpen the future princess, Lady Di has arranged for ballet sessions at her lodgings. She bought her black leotards herself for $18. For the wedding and its aftermath, of course, she will be a bit more dressy. Her longtime couturier, Bill Pashley, is whipping up some trousseau numbers, but not the wedding dress itself. "I wouldn't have wanted to do it," the 47-year-old bachelor, who lives and works alone in London's unfashionable Battersea section, proclaims. "It would have meant employing someone else." Instead, the royal dressmakers will be David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who are making five extra copies of the gown to guard against stray cigarette burns, hem rips or other disasters. Di's bouquet will be reverently created for her by David Longman of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. Her husband-to-be will cut a dashing figure; although he is only a commander in the Royal Navy, he plans to wear the uniform of an honorary admiral, slightly altered.
The party circuit
The night before the wedding, Prince Charles will watch a Hyde Park gala—fireworks—for a quarter of a million or so of his closest subjects in lieu of a stag party. His father, Prince Philip, was-less wise. The late Lord Mountbatten (his Uncle Dickie) dragged him back home from a night of carousing too late for much sleep. He rose at 7, just in time to bathe, dress and sip some hair of the dog (sherry) before heading off to the altar. Lady Di, by the way, will have no showers. The British consider showers a colonial abomination.
Getting to the church on time
Lady Di grew up as the granddaughter of a noblewoman who once held the baffling—and ambiguous—title of Extra Woman of the Bedchamber to the Queen Mother. So she may understand the titles of two escorts to the cathedral—gentlemen called the Silver Stick Adjutant and the Silver Stick in Waiting. About an hour before the wedding Diana and her father will climb into a fairy-tale 1910 glass coach at Clarence House. Prince Charles will precede his bride in a 1902 royal landau adorned with gold and upholstered in satin crimson. The royal horses, grays with names like Oscar, Roland and Lady Penelope, will gleam. After the ceremony the newlyweds will travel to Buckingham Palace in the landau. Should it rain on their parade, they will switch to an enclosed back-up coach.
One British resort hotel has offered a half-price deal for guests named Spencer this July; but since Diana won't be using her surname once she marries into the House of Windsor, she can't take them up on the offer. After slipping into a going-away outfit and possibly even tossing her bouquet—Queen Elizabeth sent her white orchid spray to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier—Lady Diana and Charles will steal away. The most likely honeymoon destination is the Caribbean, with a long stop at the Bahamian island of Windermere (a favorite haunt of Charles'), aboard the royal yacht Britannia. The 5,769-ton liner, staffed with a crew of 250, is already being stocked with Lady Di's favorite dessert (cherry strudel) and Prince Charles' (raspberries in puff pastry). The bride may also bring along some of the bubble gum and candy she was spotted buying recently at a London confectionery.
Paying the bills
Lady Di might need to save a few shillings for gifts to her attendants and maybe a trinket for Charles. All other expenses, totaling in the millions, will be footed by Buckingham Palace. The bride's father, Lord Spencer, will be singing God Save the Queen with extra élan from now on. The Queen won't go bust picking up the tab: The royal gift shop at Sandringham is doing quite well, thank you, selling Charles and Di mugs and knickknacks.
Preparing the new house
An English princess' castle is her home, and readying the royal digs is a task for Lady Di's decorator, Dudley Poplak, and her landscape gardener, American-born Lanning Roper. The pair are now hard at work on Highgrove House, Prince Charles' $2 million estate in the Cotswolds, eight miles from Princess Anne's place. (The last owner of Highgrove was the son of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.) Here, among the Gainsboroughs and the Chippendale, the Prince and his Princess will live happily ever after.
October 10, 2015
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