A British Royal Bride – Lady Diana Spencer

This post will feature Lady Diana Spencer (later known as Princess of Wales) as part of the ongoing series highlighting British Royal Brides.  The Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England (for more detailed information about the wedding ceremony and reception, please click on the link).  In this post I will discuss the iconic wedding dress and accessories she wore as well as the bridal bouquet that she carried on her wedding day and her going-away outfit..

The Wedding Dress and Bridal Accessories

Diana’s wedding dress was created by relatively new designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel, which had a studio in Mayfair.  They had been referred to Diana through an editor at Vogue magazine that was helping her to acquire an appropriate wardrobe as befitting her new royal status that would include a variety of public duties.  In fact, for the official formal engagement photos Diana wore an Emanuel pale pink chiffon blouse with a pink silk taffeta skirt, the look had a very feminine style. 

the Emanuel chiffon blouse worn for the formal engagement photos

Diana had also purchased a very different style of Emanuel dress prior to the wedding, it was a very revealing black silk strapless, full skirt gown that she wore to her first public event with Prince Charles after the official engagement announcement, it was viewed as just a little too sexy for a future member of the Royal family!

the Emanuel black silk gown

Diana’s wedding dress was made of ivory silk taffeta which featured a full voluminous skirt worn over a multi-layered tulle crinoline, a fitted bodice with full 3/4 length sleeves trimmed with antique Carrickmacross lace and hand-embroidered with more than 10,000 tiny mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls.  The massive 25 foot train, the longest to be worn by a British Royal bride, featured ivory silk taffeta and antique lace.  Unfortunately, the historic Glass Coach that would transport Diana and her father from Clarence House to the Cathedral had very little space to accommodate the size of the dress and train so as a result when she emerged from the carriage the dress appeared to be winkled but was quickly smoothed out before she would proceed down the aisle.

Lady Diana and her father, Charles, the Earl of Spencer

Details of Diana’s wedding dress

Another mishap that occurred on the wedding day was that Diana had spilled her perfume down the front of her dress!  Luckily she would use her large bridal bouquet to cover the spot but if you look closely at photos taken at the Cathedral during the wedding service you can see Diana is holding the gathered material of the dress.  (Special Note: In case you were wondering Diana wore Quelques Fleurs perfume by Houbigant, it was one of Diana’s favorites)

Diana with Prince Charles (notice she is clutching the front of her dress)

Diana’s wedding veil was made from 153 yards of silk tulle and was secured to the top of her head with the Spencer tiara.  The family heirloom features diamonds in a silver setting mounted in gold into a romantic design of floral shapes, stars and scrolls.  (Special Note: Diana’s maternal grandmother, Cynthia Hamilton wore a slightly different version of the tiara when she married Lord Albert (later 7th Earl of Spencer) in 1919.  Then, in 1937, the Garrard jewelers of London added more jewels to create the most current version of the tiara.  Interestingly, when Diana’s mother, Frances, married Lord John (later 8th Earl of Spencer) she did not wear the tiara.  The Spencer tiara has been worn for the weddings of Diana’s two oldest sisters, Jane in 1978 and Sarah in 1980, and then by Diana’s brother’s first wife in 1989.  Most recently, the Spencer tiara was worn by Lady Sarah’s youngest daughter, Celia, in 2018)       

the Spencer Tiara

Unseen under the voluminous wedding dress, Diana wore a pair of custom shoes made by the Royal cobbler, Clive Shilton.  The shoes were made of silk and lace accented with pearls and sequins to match the dress and featured suede soles for comfort.  Since the bride was almost the same height as her groom, she specifically asked that the shoes be made with a very low heel.  (Special Note: A very romantic element of Diana’s wedding shoes was unseen on the wedding day; the bottom of the shoes were hand painted with the initials of the bridal couple)

Diana;s wedding shoes

Close-up of the C and D, the initials of the bride and groom

Like many brides, Diana kept with the wedding tradition set by the Old English rhyme – something old would be the antique Carrickmacross lace used to trim her wedding dress, something new would be the ivory silk taffeta fabric made at the Lullington silk farm in Dorset, something borrowed would be the Spencer tiara, something blue would be a small blue bow sewn into the waist of the wedding dress.  For an extra measure of good luck, a tiny horseshoe shaped charm made in 18 carat gold and diamonds was also sewn into wedding dress.    

The Wedding Bouquet

Diana’s large wedding bouquet was created by Longmans Florist of London; it measured 42 inches in length and weighed almost 5 pounds.  The cascade style bouquet featured gardenias, golden Mountbatten roses (as a tribute to Prince Charles late uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten), white odontolglossum orchids, lilies of the valley, freesias, veronica, trasdescantia and ivy.  Of course, as per British Royal wedding tradition, the bouquet included myrtle from Osborne.  (Special Note: Per the Queen’s request, two identical bouquets were made, the reason behind this practical idea came from a mishap that happened at her own wedding in 1947 when her bouquet was misplaced and could not be found, if you look at the formal photographs taken on the wedding day her bouquet is noticeably missing!)

Going Away Outfit

After the wedding breakfast, Diana changed from her wedding dress into her going away outfit.  It was a peach silk dress and matching short jacket with white silk organza collar and cuffs.  To complete her ensemble Diana wore a pearl choker and a peach feathered hat.    

Special Note

After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, her wedding dress went on display as part of the “Diana: A Celebration” exhibit at Althorp, Diana’s childhood home.  Althorp is also the final resting place of the Princess of Wales and she is laid to rest on the island in the middle of the Oval Lake thereby eternally providing her with the peace and privacy that eluded her during her very public life.  From 1998 to 2013 the wedding dress, along with 150 items pertaining to Diana’s life, had been on display as part of the exhibition.  Per her will, many of her personal belongings including the wedding dress were to remain in the possession of her brother, Charles Spencer, to be kept until the youngest of her sons, Prince Harry, turned 30 years old.  Since 2014 the wedding dress has been returned to Prince William and Prince Harry and there are currently no plans for it to be exhibited in the future.