July 29, 2021 marks the 40-year anniversary of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding day. Prince Harry and Prince William’s parents were married at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and while their marriage didn’t last, their nuptials are historic.
It’s estimated that 750 million people across 74 countries watched Charles and Diana’s wedding that day, and Sarah Ferguson, who would marry Prince Andrew a few years later, was there to witness it all.
“Diana gave me the material to wear and [it was] turquoise. It was beautiful. She loved me wearing turquoise,” Fergie recently recalled to ET’s Kevin Frazier. “She was my best friend, since she was 14 and I was 16. [The wedding] was the greatest. I couldn’t have had a better seat.”
Diana had just turned 20 when she became a princess. It took her three-and-a-half minutes to make it down the aisle in her ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, which included a 25-foot train and a 153-yard tulle veil. She was escorted by her father, John Spencer.
While the wedding looked like what fairy tales are made of, Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, has said that wasn’t the case.
“Diana had told me initially that it was the worst day of her life because she just felt like she was a sacrificial lamb,” Morton shared in a previous interview. “At the same time, when she entered St. Paul’s Cathedral with all the cheering and applause, she felt really buoyed and she saw Prince Charles and love brimmed over in her heart.”
Morton added, “It was a very emotionally confusing day.”
Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, also recalled what it was like to see his sister get married in such an elaborate fashion.
“I was just her kid brother and before that she was just my big sister. But then when I walked in that day, I thought, ‘My goodness, they’ve transformed her.’ I have to say a very beautiful woman,” he once shared with ET. “…She seemed so poised and elegant. That wasn’t really the Diana I’d grown up with. She was much more exuberant and alive than that. I think it showed on some level what was expected of her. She did become on that day a sort of fairy-tale princess.”
As for her iconic gown, designer Elizabeth Emanuel told ET that there was a tiny glitch when it came to the big day.
“We’d done a practice run putting Diana into the coach… but we didn’t really take into account the train,” she shared. “It was a 25-foot train. As you can imagine, it was a crush, so when she came out of the coach, it was a bit of a shock for us to see the creases.”
“We took smelling salts along in case she felt faint. We made a separate skirt just in case she was drinking a coffee or something and spilt it down the front of the dress,” Emanuel explained. “We had a spare dress. So we tried to think of everything. Even, what if it rains? So we did a parasol in a matching taffeta.”
When ET spoke to Spencer, he remembered, “I know my mother [Frances Shand Kydd] was very involved with the wedding dress. In fact, she insisted on paying for it, my mother. It was a sort of family thing.”
The gown is now estimated to be worth millions and is currently on display for the public at Kensington Palace.
Spencer added of the special day, “[Diana] seemed incredibly relaxed and happy and optimistic I felt. …I think it was a day that the nation was very proud of and that the world watched with astonishment and happiness.”
Over a decade later in 1996, Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced. A year later, the Princess of Wales died tragically following a car accident in Paris, France. She was 36.
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