It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since a young Diana Spencer tied the knot with Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981. A fairy tale? It was not, as Diana’s marriage to Charles began to unravel not long after ‘I do.’ But the wedding itself was magical, with a horse drawn carriage, poufy dress and princess transformation all included. As a major royals fan, I’ve now rewatched the occasion countless times, but upon each viewing, I always notice something different. And during my latest revisit (which was in honor of the 40th anniversary of the big day), 3 surprising new details really jumped out.
If I hadn’t recently viewed the just-released Britbox documentary, Wedding of the Century, I might not have caught this ‘oops’ moment of Diana’s during my latest rewatch, which occurred as she exited her glass coach on the arm of her dad, the 8th Earl Spencer. She forgot her bouquet—as in the epic bridal arrangement full of myrtle, Mountbatten roses, orchids, gardenias and more. Maybe it was because she was more focused on how she’d exit gracefully with her 25-foot train all crumpled up. Or maybe it was her nerves at covering the accidental splash of perfume we’ve since learned left a spot on her gown. Either way, she left her flowers in the carriage, but thankfully, someone grabbed them for her and placed them in her hands just in time for her to walk down the aisle. (Look closely when she first steps out of the carriage bouquet-less, then watch for the moment when they suddenly re-appear back in her hands.)
Speaking of Diana’s train, it was the longest bridal train in royal wedding history—and one that ended up quite wrinkled given the size of the glass coach. While the pressure to help Diana extend it to its full length upon entering and exiting St. Paul’s Cathedral was certainly on her bridesmaids (truly, they look stressed and a bit hurried as they race to smooth it out), Charles also gave his bride an assist as they arrived at Buckingham Palace post-ceremony—and the cameras caught it on tape. When Diana floats out of the carriage (the 1902 State Landau, designed specifically to give passersby a good view), it’s clear one footman isn’t going to cut it when it comes to Diana’s train. As another one runs in to help, Charles also lends a hand making sure all 25 feet of it are removed from the carriage while Diana pauses and smiles big. (Lady Sarah, one of Diana’s bridesmaids, is the one to give it a final shake before the reception begins.)
One of the best parts of a royal wedding is the procession—in the case of Charles and Diana, when they rode around the historic streets of London on their way back to Buckingham Palace. But what was unique about their procession was something that took place in the carriages that traveled behind: Following Diana and Charles, there was Queen Elizabeth and the 8th Earl Spencer in one carriage, then Prince Philip and Frances Shand Kydd (Diana’s mother) in another. While we don’t know for sure, the reason for this is likely the fact that Diana’s parents divorced when she was just seven years old. This was the first time I really tuned into the fact that they rode separately, but each accompanied by one of Charles’s parents to the reception. This certainly feels like a thoughtful way to remove any awkwardness. (By contrast, at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011, Prince Charles and Camilla and Michael and Carole Middleton rode in a carriage altogether.)