I was lucky enough to be one of a handful of journalists inside St.Paul’s Cathedral, perched on a seat closer to the bride than the end of her 25 ft. train (well, almost).
I still have my media access pass, which I had framed. It listed instructions from the Lord Chamberlain’s office about what to wear – ‘Officers – full ceremonial day dress (no swords,) civilians – morning dress or lounge suit and ladies – day dress with hat.’
Almost 30 years later I remember walking down Fleet Street to St.Paul’s carefully trying not to step on people sleeping on the pavement. We lowly reporters were required to arrive incredibly early, around 8.00am for the ceremony which began at 11.00am.
It was fascinating to watch all the VIPs taking their seats and note Princess Diana’s elder sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale creeping into her place near the high altar at the very last minute. She had stayed behind at Clarence House to help Diana get dressed, I learned later.
Of course, we were all counting the seconds until the bride appeared and we got a look at THE dress. At the first glimpse of Diana drowning inside that crumpled, tea cosy there was a universal sigh from the press pen, ‘Oh, it’s all creased!’ Looking back, it now seems a sad omen just like the way Diana mangled her vows, promising to marry ‘Philip Charles’ instead of Charles Philip.
But my lasting memory of that unforgettable day is the wonderful music Prince Charles personally chose for the occasion, soaring and swirling up into the great dome of St.Paul’s. Diana’s only input was choosing her favourite hymn I Vow to Thee My Country, which sadly was also sung at her funeral 16 years later.
There were no mobile phones then, so when the newlyweds left and the fanfares faded , I fought my way through the crowd out of a side door and ran all the way back to the office to file my glowing report.
Five years later when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson we were all squeezed into much smaller Westminster Abbey. The bride arrived like a country girl with a wreath of flowers in her hair and walked out an hour later as a royal duchess with a tiara on her head. This lovely way of marking the transition from commoner to Prince’s bride seemed so romantic. Kate will have to try hard to better that.
I’ll also never forget the scent of the magnificent white flowers which filled every corner of the Abbey, transforming it into a summer garden.
When Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 the wedding took place in Windsor Castle so we were all denied the customary kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as crowds cheered in the Mall below.
Prince Charles and Camilla also celebrated their 2005 wedding at Windsor on a bitterly cold early April day. Standing in a roped-off area for reporters, my fingers were so frozen I could barely scribble a note.
I’m hoping that the weather is kinder to Kate and William at the end of April, as well as for everyone lining the route.
Up until then I’ll be blogging about what’s really going on behind palace doors as Miss Middleton gets ready to become Princess William – or whatever title the Queen bestows on the couple. So watch this space!