Wedding –  Prince Charles & Princess Diana There’s to Be a Small Wedding

Original Publication: Rolling Stone, August 6, 1981

Perhaps you’ve heard?

There’s to be a small wedding in London

London – Not since the days of the Empire, when the British pillaged Egyptian tombs for mementos of mummies, has English enterprise been so alive.  Nor have so many royal countenances appeared on such a variety of objects. The marriage on July 29th of Prince Charles and Lady Diana has caused a raging epidemic of wedding fever; there is no escaping it, not anywhere.

A brace of Benedictines, Brother Stephen and Father Fabian, are on BBC-TV telling us about Royal Wedding Day pottery: commemorative plates and cups made by monks to help support the monastery. On the radio, Minnie and the Metros are singing “I Want to Be Charlie’s Angel.” Cars display Be a Royal Chauffeur kits – life size color cutouts of Prince Charles and Lady Di pasted on the back windows. When the car brakes, the couple waves. Along Fleet Street, a sign advertises a needlepoint kit – STITCH A RECORD OF THE BIG DAY. The sign reminds us that LADY DIANA’S LATE GRANDFATHER, THE SEVENTH EARL OF SPENCER, WHO WAS A DEVOTED PATRON OF THE ARTS, WAS CHAIRMAN OF THE ROYAL SCHOOL OF NEEDLEPOINT, 1947-1959.

On every floor of Harrods department store there are tins of tea and biscuits, china, crystal, jigsaw puzzles, ashtrays, lighters, coat hangers, commemorative coins and wall hangings, all plastered with the likenesses of the dashing prince and his divinely demure bride-to-be. The London Sunday Times Magazine recently published a feature on the hundreds of items being sold as souveniers of The Day and estimated that wedding trinketabilia might be worth $800 million to the faltering British economy.

Not everyone is cashing in on the wedding, however. Britain’s textile industry is in a fury because the Lord Chamberlain, who oversees the granting of permission to use the prince’s likeness and coat of arms, has issued a ban against souvenir T-shirts.  A sour note has also been sounded by the Greater London Council, which governs the city and has voted, under new Labor leadership, to boycott the wedding.  And Barbara Cartland, the flamboyant eighty-year-old author of 307 romance novels and the stepgrandmother of Lady Diana, has announced that she is not attending the wedding either.  Something of a cross between Mae West and Judith Krantz, Cartland seems to be in the royal doghouse for entertaining rich American tourists who pay for the privilege of visiting her estate; her manse is not far from where her daughter, Raine Spencer, conducts tours of Althorp, Diana’s family home.

Meanwhile, in America, the press is in full competitive heat and is giving the wedding the same kind of coverage usually reserved for presidential inaugurations and hostage homecomings. “The American networks are going bananas,” says BBC producer Peter Foges.  All three networks are using BBC’s free “signal feed” from twelve cameras inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, as well as twenty-eight more along the wedding-procession route.  It doesn’t seem to bother network executives that the live telecast is being aired at about five a.m. eastern daylight time.

NBC would appear to have the worst case of wedding fever. Starting the week of the wedding, the network is broadcasting two specials, five days of Nightly News anchored in London by John Chancellor and five days of The Today Show live in front of Buckingham Palace. ABC News has 200 people in London and plans to ring in nightly with Peter Jennings and Barbara Walters, while Good Morning America, featuring Robert Morley of the British Airways commercials, is broadcasting all week from the London Hilton.  At CBS, Dan Rather is anchoring more subdued wedding coverage with the help of David Frost and glamorous English author Lady Antonia Fraser.  In fact, there are so many British media stars working for the Americans, one wonders who’s covering it for the hometown crowd.

America’s official representative inside the cathedral is Nancy Reagan, who seems to be taking the affair very seriously.  Apparently, one of the more pressing issues concerns her hairdresser for the trip.  According to an item in the Washington Star’s “Ear” column, she’s to have not one but two hairdressers in London: Monsieur Julius “will wield the official crimping iron,” while Monsieur Marc “will shamble along any old how, waving his blow-dryer,” even though the Reagan camp won’t be footing his airfare. At press time, however, the White House denied that an official hairstylist had been named to the post.