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The Wedding of the Century

Charles doesn't seem to have thought about the ramifications of the archbishop of Canterbury's advice about his future sex life: a good thing given by God that nevertheless, like all God's gifts, needs to be directed aright. He doesn't make statements telling the archbishop to mind his own beeswax. Nor does he protest the two miles of TV cables that will be in St. Paul's. Charles is the first media prince. For him this is normal, and it's kind of sweet how sheltered he is in the midst of the circus that surrounds him. He's told his friends—and he means it—that he considers what will go on on July 29 an absolutely private event.

His bride, who was called "Two Amp" when she was at school, in this matter is not so dumb. She comes from the real world, the world of media events and divorces, where sisters get anorectic and fathers almost go bankrupt—as hers did—and then suffer near-fatal strokes. Lady Diana escaped into fairy tales as a child—one likes to think that "Cinderella" was a special favorite—but on the matter of her wedding she harbors no two-amp illusions. She understands that this service is pure spectacle, her spectacle. She knows that well enough to have brought in the makeup woman who did A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon to make sure that she will be the perfect TV bride.

For Diana Spencer, the ceremony on the morning of the twenty-ninth will represent the moment when she will finally get the ultimate security, a security never provided by the real world. Her future life will be defined by royal ribbon cuttings and court circulars in the Times, by summers at Balmoral and winters at Sandringham, by weekends at Windsor and weekdays at Highgrove. Her life will be without divorce or deviations from protocol, without ambivalence or being able to escape the obligation of having to attend an RAF show. After Wednesday noon, this twenty-year-old will never again be allowed out on the street alone.

Garden Party


At the moment, Diana trembles on the brink. Her chin juts out when she speaks, her hip sinks into her leg, her arm flails, her eyes drop. The giggle pierces the air. None of that matters to her future subjects. It certainly didn't matter to the Maynards from Maidenhead, who had come in their brand-new polyesters to possibly be presented to their future queen. They stood there in Siberia, on the farthest reaches of the lawn, looking more than a little tense. Mr. Maynard, a legal cashier, was as flushed as he was bald. His walrus mustache clumped in spikes so often did he lick his lips. He had no idea why he had been invited to this royal affair. "I suspect someone has to recommend you," Mrs. Maynard preened.

Somewhere in the middle distance, the prince and Lady Diana were a good hour's promenade away. Just then, a man in a morning suit approached us: "Are you being presented today, Mr. Maynard?" he asked. "I am." "Very good," said the retired colonel. "If you will just stay right here, I believe the prince and Lady Diana will come this way."

The chance of being next to a loyal subject being presented is somewhere between slim and none. Soon our little patch of Siberian sod became the only place to be. By now, I had lashed myself to the Maynards' side. The prince and Lady Diana swam into view. He paid little attention to her and seemed somewhat sad, lonely, and very, very small—unprepossessing, to say the least. Poor little royal boy adrift on a sea of lawn. Diana was the star: radiant, perfectly dressed in her Pierrot collar and pale, pale hose, in a sexy drift of a suit that parodied the Hardy Amies armor her new family always wears.

Closer in, one noticed other things. Diana's glamour began to crack a bit. The adolescent gait lingered. Her nerves showed. It was Charles who threw the sparks as they both drew near. His eyes pierced. The polo scar on his right cheek made him seem less of an icon, more like any old god. But his body language was at war: His posture made him look spindly, tentative, with that cold-shower-induced repression of the true upper-class twit. His face told another tale: There was warmth and wit, as well as a sense of the absurd. Like anyone who is truly regal, he seemed not particularly grand.

He stood inches from me. Mrs. Maynard dropped to one knee. "Are you retired now, Mr. Maynard?" HRH politely asked. "Yes, sir," Mr. Maynard mumbled, "I am." "Well, I hope you're not having too hard a time keeping up appearances." A flash of the royal smile. The prince turned to more fertile conversational ground. "And, Mrs. Maynard, you're a writer, then, are you?" "Yes, sir. Gardening books."


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  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Aug 3, 1981 issue of New York
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