Princess Diana broke with tradition when she and King Charles had their nuptials at St Paul’s Cathedral 42 years ago. Princess Diana broke with tradition when she tied the knot with King Charles on July 29, 1981, at one of the most famous royal weddings in history.
Instead of choosing a tiara from the royal vault, the 19-year-old bride emerged from the carriage at St. Paul’s Cathedral donning her own family heirloom. The then Princess of Wales chose to wear the Spencer tiara which held her 140-metre David and Elizabeth Emanuel-designed tulle veil in place. The decision to wear the 18th-century era heirloom tiara has now been hailed by a royal commentator as “empowering”. Traditionally, brides would wear a headpiece from her husband’s family in order to signify her change of status from a daughter to a wife.
But Diana broke from this protocol by choosing the Spencer tiara, which remained a firm favourite for formal events throughout her marriage. Speaking on Podcast Royal, co-host Rachel Burchfield said: “I think the fact that Diana chose to wear it over one from her late Majesty’s collection is honestly pretty empowering to me in a way. “It’s like saying, ‘I come from good stock too. My family matters, too — aristocratic stock, at that’.”
In comparison, Sarah Ferguson, who married Prince Andrew at Westminster Abbey just five years after Diana and Charles tied the knot, wore the York tiara, given to her by her in-laws the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Ms Burchfield added: “We’ve said before on the show but Diana was actually more blue-blooded and aristocratic than Charles. I thought that that was really interesting.” The family tiara was a combination of many pieces of jewellery with the centre being a gift from Lady Sarah Spencer to Cynthia Spencer, Countess Spencer, on her wedding day in 1919.
The Spencer tiara, remounted with new elements made by luxury jeweller Garrard in 1937, was worn by Diana’s sisters Lady Sarah and Jane on their wedding days, as well as Victoria Lockwood, who married Diana’s brother, Charles, in 1989. When the now Monarch and the Princess married, their union — which ultimately ended in divorce in 1992 — was based on their similarly aristocratic background as opposed to their similar personalities. While Charles came from centuries of royalty, Diana was often deemed the more aristocratic of the former couple, who were 16th cousins.
The Spencer family could trace its heritage directly back to King Charles II as two of his illegitimate children, Henry Fitzroy and Charles Lennox, are distant relatives of Diana and the Spencers.
The family was very close with the royals. Diana would often play with her future brothers-in-law Prince Andrew and Prince Edward at Sandringham House as a child. The Spencer family, founded in the 15th century, also has links to Henry VIII, King George III, King James II and the famous Mary, Queen of Scots.