Prince Charles first met his future bride Diana Spencer at a garden party in 1977 through her older sister Sarah, whom he was dating at the time. There had been much speculation about the Prince's love life, and Diana is said to have been in awe of the heir-to-the-throne upon their first introduction.
After much speculation in the press, the announcement came from Buckingham Palace on February 24, 1981, that Charles and Diana were engaged to be married. News of the betrothal came three weeks after the Queen's eldest son proposed during a private dinner at the palace, held shortly before Diana was due to fly to Australia. Rather than using the trip to consider the proposal, as was Charles' intention, the future Princess immediately accepted and Charles presented her with a beautiful diamond and sapphire engagement ring.
Just 19 years old, Diana left her job as a kindergarten teaching aide and her shared Kensington flat to live in Clarence House – the home of the Queen Mother – until the big day. In an interview given at the time, 32-year-old Charles paid tribute to his future wife saying he was "delighted and frankly amazed that Diana is prepared to take me on". And addressing the dramatic change about to take place in her life, Diana replied: "With Prince Charles beside me I cannot go wrong."
It was the day the entire nation had been waiting for. On July 29, 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married in St Paul's Cathedral in an iconic wedding watched across the world. By now 20, the beautiful bride travelled from Clarence House in a glass coach with her father Earl Spencer in time for the 11.20am ceremony, which was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Watching as the heir-to-the-throne wed his Princess was an invited congregation of 3,500, which included the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother. A further 600,000 people lined the streets of London while an incredible 750 million watched the event on TV.
No doubt aware of the intense public interest, the bride's nerves got the better of her and she mixed up the names of her groom during the ceremony itself – calling him Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip. The Prince slightly muddled up his own vows too, referring to "thy goods" rather than "my wordly goods".
If ever there was a fairytale bride, then it was surely Diana. As she emerged from the carriage at St Paul's to begin her three-and-a-half minute walk up the red-carpeted aisle, all eyes were on the wedding dress chosen by the princess-to-be. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Hailed as one of the iconic wedding dresses of all time, the meringue gown was worthy of a fairytale with puffed sleeves and a frilly neckline. It was designed for Diana by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, made from silk taffeta and decorated with lace, sequins, 10,000 pearls and hand embroidery. It also included a sumptuous 25 ft train, and the bride, who carried a cascading bouquet, wore a veil reaching eight metres. The groom wore the full dress uniform of a naval commander.
Diana, the first British citizen to marry an heir to the British throne in 300 years, was waited on by five bridesmaids. Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret, was named the de facto maid of honour for the wedding and had the task of handling the bride's sizeable wedding train. The other attendants included 13-year-old India Hicks, a goddaughter of Prince Charles, Diana's former kindergarten pupil Clementine Hambro, who at the age of five was the youngest bridesmaid, and Sarah Jane Gaselee, whose father was the groom's long-time friend and horse trainer.
The newlyweds left St Paul's Cathedral to the refrain of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance before taking the open-topped state landau to Buckingham Palace to the cheers of the crowd. At ten minutes past one, husband and wife appeared on the balcony to give the public the kiss they had been waiting to see. They then retired back inside the palace for toasts and a wedding breakfast for 120 family guests.
That same day, the Prince and Princess departed for the first stage of their honeymoon. With a 'just married' sign attached to the landau by the groom's younger brothers Andrew and Edward, the couple were driven over Westminster Bridge to catch the train to Romsey in Hampshire where they stayed at Broadlands, the family home of Prince Philip's family, the Mountbattens.
The second part of the honeymoon was spent on board the royal yacht Britannia, which Charles and Diana boarded at the Rock of Gibraltar where they were waved off by some 30,000 people. Over the next two weeks, the couple cruised to Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, the Greek islands and Egypt. Finally they flew back to Scotland where they spent time with the royal family in Balmoral, their honeymoon officially ending three months after their wedding at the end of October 1981.
Eight months later, in June 1982, the Princess welcomed the couple's first son and heir, Prince William of Wales, in London's St Mary's Hospital. Their second child, Prince Henry – Harry – was born two years later on September 15, 1984.