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Britain Celebrates, Charles Takes a Bride

Prince Charles kisses his bride.
Post File Photo

Kissing the bride

By Leonard Downie Jr.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 30, 1981; Page A01

LONDON, July 29 In a fairytale atmosphere made of pageantry celebration and strong emotion, Charles, the prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, today married Lady Diana Spencer, now the princess of Wales.

Up to a million people, jubilant and peaceful, filled central London along the wedding procession route from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's Cathedral to cheer the royal couple and the British heritage they represent. As Charles and Diana exchanged vows and the archbishop of Canterbury declared that "those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," th roars of the crowds listening outside on loudspeakers and radios could be heard throughout the hushed cathedral.

The 2,500 invited quests, including royalty, government leaders and diplomats from around the world, and the 750 million people thought to be watching on television in 50 countries were treated to an abundance of colorful ceremony, focusing on the 32-year-old prince, resplendent in full-dress naval commander's uniform and his 20-year-old bride, radiant in snowy silken ruffles and lace, sequions and jewels, flouncy crinoline and a picturesque long train.

At the same time, the wedding also was the family occasion the royal couple and their families had wanted and the memorable musical and emotional experience Prince Charles had said he intended. Under the great dome of St. Paul's, with the stirring sounds of rogan, trumpets, orchestra and choirs cascading round them, the bride and bridegroom and their immediate families participated in an almost private wedding on one of the most public occasions in history.

On and around the slightly raised platform where the marriage service was performed the family members gathered. There they chatted, joked, smiled, and cast loving glances at each other. The bride's father, the earl of Spencer, and the bridegroom's gramdmother, Queen Mother Elizabeth, sometimes appeared near tears, while Queen Elizabeth II, the bridegroom's mother, beamed uncharacteristically.

The others in the family group were the bridegroom's father, Prince Philip, who alternately gave instructions to his sons participating in the ceremony and smiled proudly at them; Charles' sister, Princess Anne, and her husband; Charles' aunt Princess Margaret, and her son (her daughter, 17-year-old Lady Srah Armstrong-Jones, was the senior bridesmaid); Diana's brother and two sisters and their husbands, and her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd, divorced from Earl Spencer many years ago but on his arm during the wedding ceremony while their current spouses sat elsewhere in the cathedral.

Charles and Diana, obviously nervous at times and mutually reassuring at others, displayed affection that was touchingly unusual in a public appearance of the royal family and contrasted to the glint of steel, beat of hooves and shield of security that characterized much of the day's festivities.

They looked at each other and held hands at times during the service, in the carriage procession afterwards, and during their traditional appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Then, before leaving the balcony for the last time -- most emotional moment for Britons on such occasions -- Charles kissed Diana's hands and then her lips as the vast criwd below cherred wildly.

Diana is the ninth princess of Wales. It is a title conferred only on the wife of the heir apparent to the throne and -- assuming she lives -- assures Diana of becoming queen if Charles lives to succeed his mother and is crowned king of Great Britain and head of the Commonwealth.

To protect the royal family and the scores of visiting foreign dignitaries during the wedding and its public processions, the largest security net in British history was thrown over central London. Police officers facing the crowds lined the two-mile procession route almost shoulder to shoulder, backed by troops from British and Commonwealth services.

Armed plainclothesmen infiltrated the crowds, impersonated footmen on the back of the open horse-drawn coaches carrying Charles and the queen to St. Paul's, and watched over the marriage ceremony from a gallery in the cathedral.

For the hundreds of thousands who had waited overnight along the procession route, the royal wedding day dawned clear, sunny and warm, an idyllic day in the middle of the short British summer.

Waves of cheers and the flags that fluttered flags over the crowds along the length of the route announced the approach of horse-drawn, goldencrusted coaches carrying the royal family, the bridegroom, and finally, the bride. Accompanied by mounted red-coated troops of the queen's Household Guards with gleaming breastplates and plumed helmets, they rode down the red-paved Mall from the palace through Trafalgar Square and u the Strand, Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill to St. Paul's.

People in the huge crowd thronging Trafalgar Square noticed that Charles appeared to be nervous as he and his brother, Prince Andrew, both in full-dress dark blue naval uniforms with bright blue sashes, passed in the open royal carriage usually used by the queen.

Inside the cathedral, the 2,500 invited guests, from relatives and friends of the royal couple to all the other reigning European monarchs but the king of Spain, wre seated by militry officer ushers wearing scarlet and black dress uniforms and carrying shiny swords.

Nancy Reagan, wearing a three-piece peach silk crepe suit with a matching wide-brimmed hat, sat among foreign heads of state six rows back, while Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in a royal blue dress and hat, say on the aisle of the 12th row with the rest of the British Cabinet. Some guests were in military uniforms and many of the ambassadors from countries around the world wore colorful national dress.

A medieval touch was supplied by the queen's bodygoard of yeomen in their familiar red Beefeaters' costumes, decorated for the wedding with red, white and blue ribbons around their black hats and with bows at their knees and shoes. They carried pikes, as did the elderly military knights of Windsor, some of whom had difficulty standing throughout the service in the heat in their long red coats and tall, white-plummed brass helmets.

After the queen, dressed in turquoise, and the rest of the royal family were seated, attention in the cathedral turned to the entrance of Charles. Still looking nervous when he entered the cathedral, he laughed when Prince Andrew showed everyone that he had not forgotten the wedding ring of Welsh gold. Charles smiled, occasionally on his way down the long, red-carpeted aisle. Standing in his place under the cathedral dome, he chatted, and joked with Andrew and his other brother, Edward, his two "supporters," and his father, Philip, seated nearby.

Then loud cheers from the crowd outside the massive west front of the cathedral and the fanfare of trumpets reverberating inside announced the arrival of the bride. Her fairytale wedding gown of white English silk, with a tight bodice, full skirt and romantic ruffles around the neck and elbows could be seen in its full detail as she got out of the glass coach, the 25-foot train trailing behind her. The silk was new, the lace covering it old, the diamond tiara holding on her veil borrowed from her family and a bow sewn into the waistband of her gown blue -- fulfilling the conditions of the old English tradition later emulated in America. A furthr good-luck token, a diamond-studded horseshoe, was also sewn into the gown.

Her nerves appeared to have steadied during the time it took dress designer David Emanuel to adjust her train and the veil she kept over her face most of the service. For the most of the long walk to the altar to a stiring trumpet march, it was she who steadied her father, Earl Spencer, who has not fully recovered from a cerebral hemorrhage that was nearly fatal.

When Diana arrived by Charles' side at the foot of the platform on which the ceremony was to be performed, the couple exchanged words of reassurance. During the rest of the service, the frequently glanced at each other, smiled and spoke. But they both nervously stumbled over parts of their vows, she transposing the first two of his four Christian names -- Charles Philip Arthur George -- and he dropping "worldly" from his vow to share all his worldly goods with her, as he put the wedding ring on Diana's finger.

"Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made: the prince and princess on their wedding day," declared the Most Rev. Robert Runcie, the archbishop of Canterbury, at the beginning of his sermon, catching the mood of the moment. "Those who are married live happily ever after the wedding day if they persevere in the real adventure, which is the royal task of creating each other and creating a more loving world. It must be specially true of this marriage, in which are placed so many hopes."

The couple then followed the archbishop up to the high altar at the back of the cathedral for prayers, with Diana's white train trailing behind her dramatically on the red carpet.

The prayer composed for the service with the royal couple's assistance by Prince Charles' chaplain at Cambridge University, the Rev. Harry Williams, asked that the prince and princess be given "the courage to meet the responsibilities of their life of service to this kingdom and Commonwealth; and when, as all people must, the encounter time of hardship and trial, give them the wisdom and strength to bring them through victoriously."

Soon after, the congregation sang the hymn chosen for the wedding by Diana, "I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love."

Earlier in the day, her father had told reporters that his family, which for generations has been wealthy, titled and closely associated with Britain's rulers, "has throughout the centuries fought for king and country." He went on, "Diana will be vowing to help her country for the rest of her life. She will be followig in the tradition of her ancestors."

The aura of partriotism and national renewal that has surrounded the wedding and anticipation of it in recent days reached its strongest during the ceremony with especially enthusiastic singing of the national anthem, "God Save the Queen," as Queen Elizabeth stood.

Outside the cathedral, the fervor only grew as the smiling prince and princess, her veil now swept back from her face, emerged from St. Paul's arm in arm to ride back to the palace in an open carriage. They, and the queen following them in another open coach with Earl Spencer, were cheered more lustily than ever along the route.

Emotions and the noise level rose still higher as vast crowds filling the Mall and royal parks in front of Buckingham Palace responded to ritual appearances by the bride and bridegroom, the young bridesmaids and attendants, and their families on the balcony of the palace. Chanted pleadings from the crowd brought extra appearances from the queen and the Queen Mother Elizabeth, who will be 81 next month, followed again by Charles and Diana, who caused an uproar when they kissed.

Crowds continued to encircle the palace and more solidly lined the streets of the royal couple's later afternnon procession route. They were rewarded by the sight of the stately horse-drawn carriage, sporting a "just married" sign and shiny balloons. It carried Charles and Diana -- the bride now dressed in frilly coral and white -- past the cheering throngs to Waterloo Station for a brief train trip to the Broadlands estate in the Hampshire hills west of London, where they will spend the first three nights of their honeymoon.

As they left the palace, where Charles has lived all his life, he and Diana were showered with confetti by members of both their families and palace staff after an early afternoon-celebration "breakfast" featuring wedding cake.

As the carriage crossed Westminister Bridge near Big Ben, boats in the Thames River below sounded their horns. At Waterloo Station, Diana kissed Lord Maclean, the queen's lord chamberlain, and his assistant, who had coordinated the wedding day with no mishaps. Then the couple rode away in their three-car private train to spend the night secluded from the intense attention that has been focused on them.

Back in London, after a brisk lunchtime business by pubs selling celebrants beer at half price, the city almost visibly collapsed after the last few frantic days. At the end of what had been declared a national holiday, the streets were quiet. But in many provincial cities and towns where people had not stayed out all night on the eve of the wedding, there were traditional street parties and civic celebrations with fireworks.

At Doncaster racecourse in northern England tonight, a horse called "Wedded Bliss" won the 6:45 race at 9-to-1 odds.

© Copyright 1981 The Washington Post Company

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