Diana has registered herself at the General Trading Company, an eclectic bazaar in Chelsea that carries a royal appointment but is eccentric enough to stock both the Mel Calman T-shirt ("What wedding?") and those upper-class leather bins. Also: Paddington Bear dolls, avocado shells, Mexican tchotchkes, and, for the royals and their friends, the requisite Royal Worcester, George III three-tier mahogany whatnots, and heavy, heavy Royal Brierley glass.
One has to mount an undercover mission to get into those notebooks. You can't wear jeans and a rugby shirt. On came the droopy silk and the garden-party hat, white cotton gloves. "My mother and I have just arrived from America for the festivities," I whispered.
The trash bins were first on a seventeen-page typed list of requests ranging from antiques to salad crescents to Bloomingdale's country china. Most of the requests have been filled—Lady Porchester, the wife of the queen's racing manager, is giving her the two dozen champagne glasses at $14 per. You mustn't linger too long in those lists, though. For God's sake, don't have a pen in hand. A Knightsbridge blue-hair came bustling over: "You mustn't write anything down," she said. "Are you sure you're a family friend?"
I swept up to the antiques department with all the indignation that I imagine Barbara Cartland shows on such occasions, only to be greeted pleasantly by a very bored salesman who was a double for My Fair Lady's Freddy Eynsford-Hill. This time I did not make a mistake. I commanded Freddy to write down what I wanted. In England, everyone responds if you just treat him like a clerk. Freddy not only made notes about their special-request. Regency toilet mirror with candle sconces and chinoiserie decoration—you can have it for £ 750—he rushed to drag out the three-tier whatnots and the Georgian tufted stools, to try to explain their request for two Chippendale-design sofas, £ 470 each. The second one was so that Diana's decorator could paint the Chippendale base to look like bamboo. "I can't imagine why," said Freddy Eynsford-Hill. One item intrigued—the Chinese porcelain vase, with a floral-and-snake design, circa 1870, converted to a lamp. Price, £ 85. It had been reserved for Mrs. Callaghan. The wife of the ex-prime minister? Indeed. Freddy and I looked at each other in the same way: You would think a pol would know better than to spend a lousy 85 quid on a man who will be king.
On to China and Glass, then. Diana's choice of porcelains reveals she is still stuck somewhere in her teens. She's picked Royal Worcester's Evesham—a too bright white spotted with corncobs, asparagus, and blackberries. Very like Anne's hat. Oh, well, she'll have time to learn about Mason Ware.
Her glass pattern, Apollo by Royal Brierley, is much more regal. It's heavy, anyway. Move away from the apple-dotted marmite jars—at £ 32 per—and choose the two dozen Apollo clarets, a bargain at £ 6.35 each. She'll have matching salad crescents with beveled bottoms, £ 12.90, for those High-grove dinners, but the breakfast guests won't be so lucky. No one has bought her an Evesham breakfast cup or saucer, much less the £ 32.70 pot de crème. She's registered for six.
The big one is at the palace, of course, 1,600 people Monday night. This dance is "for all the people who have known each other forever and who have been seeing each other forever," according to a peer. He means the English upper class. Diana's hairdresser won't be at the Buckingham Palace affair, nor will the ministers from Sri Lanka who will have gotten the invite to St. Paul's. But the musical trio, Placido Domingo, Colin Davis, and Charles Groves, will. That same night is the Berkeley Square Ball, usually a highlight, as they say, of the London summer season.
Not this year. This year, anyone who shows up at Berkeley Square will simply be announcing that he was not included in the gala for Diana and Charles. The organizers expect Lynne Sellers and David Frost. Just about as exclusive will be the next night's fireworks display in Hyde Park, which the tabloids say will be the biggest ever. A million people are expected to see Buckingham Palace recreated with rockets in the sky. The other night at a dinner, Barbara Walters joked, "Well, I do have one exclusive. To the fireworks in the park."
On Tuesday night, Serena Balfour will have a gala of her own—a ball in her house in the Little Boltons, off Fulham Road. Charles and Lady Diana won't be there—it is the night before the wedding, after all—but what people still call, somehow without laughing, "the international set" will. Carolina Herrera, staying at Kensington Palace with Princess Margaret, will be there. So will Betsy Bloomingdale, Lord Snowdon, the Women's Wear Daily crowd.