Thursday, July 29, 2010

Now Showing: The Wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales (1981)

It was intended to be the wedding to end all weddings - not merely a family event but, in the best royal way, the expression of Britain's joy; in all, it would be one of those well-planned spectacles for which London has become justifiably famous over the last nine centuries. Alas, the planning fell short by failing to plan for a happy ending, the marriage fell flat despite producing two handsome and hearty sons, and for awhile the spectacle trotted out daily by the tabloids threatened not only the royal couple's peace of mind but the public's as well...

The press had always followed the women in whom The Prince of Wales had expressed an interest, but none quite so fervently as the shy nineteen-year-old preschool teacher named Lady Diana Spencer. In the months leading up to their nuptials her every facet was scrutinized and from every angle as well; her hairstyle was copied, the dresses she appeared in were run up seemingly overnight and available for sale in the nation's High Street boutiques almost faster than she could wear them. Even her gaffes - such as the famous photo of her in a sheer skirt, backlit by brilliant sunshine - only served to endear her to the public.

For a recession-weary Britain at risk of being permanently rent asunder by the most divisive Prime Minister in the island's history*, the impending royal wedding united old and young, brown and black and white, and even attracted support in the more unusual corners of society**. Despite a few glitches in protocol - since Constantine II, the ex-King of Greece, was in attendance as a relative of the Royal Family, the President of Greece Constantine Karamanlis declined to attend, for instance - and a change in venue from the more usual Westminster Abbey to the baroque splendour of St. Paul's Cathedral, the pomp and the hype worked together.

Or at least they did on that brilliantly sunny day in 1981...

*To be fair to Margaret Thatcher, though, the country became far more united in its dislike of her and her callous policies than it might have been otherwise...
**Along the wedding root punks could be spotted holding up signs bearing such cheeky slogans as 'Up Chuck and Di'!
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