Gala at Claridge’s Hotel, 1981

Following the Wedding of Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer on this day in 1981 (40 years ago), the Queen (wearing her South African Diamond Suite) and the extended British Royal Family joined all the Royal Guests and Relatives in London for a splendid Gala at Claridge’s Hotel, where the Queen was pictured alongside Queen Silvia of Sweden and Princess Grace of Monaco watching the broadcast before a simple Supper was served and then the dancing commenced. Nicky Haslam wrote about the occasion:

‘At 6.30pm, wearing the required black tie, I walked into the anteroom of Claridge’s ballroom and saw the most extraordinary sight imaginable. Sitting in a semi-circle, their eyes glued to a hastily erected screen, were all the major wedding guests watching themselves on the film that, miraculously, Elizabeth Shakerley had had spliced together in the few hours since the ceremony.

Besides the Queen herself, and every European monarch reigning or exiled, there were Nancy Reagan, Princess Grace of Monaco, the Empress of Iran, the Crown Prince of Japan, archbishops, princelings and potentates…

This extraordinary melange, these remnants of foreclosed kingdoms, sat cheek by jowl with the few who had survived, watching a film that seemed to be a living fairy story. I could catch their murmured comments. ‘Ach, vot has happened to poor Alfonso?…How could Dagmar have worn that?…Lilibet does things so well…Ma chere, the size of Karim…Only Louise Sweden could carry off purple lace.’

I noticed Mrs Reagan cupping her face in her hands as her dark eyes shone with emotional tears. Then she turned to whisper to her Hollywood film-star contemporary, Grace Kelly, whose showbiz wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco I had watched on TV years before…

The ‘dinner’ was mainly simple breakfast food – sausages and baked beans, kedgeree, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for the more sophisticated. And, of course, rivers of champagne. There were no placements, except for the Queen’s table; the rest of us sat wherever we found a seat. But no one sat for long. Pretty soon everyone, led by the Queen and Prince Philip, headed off to dance.’

The Wedding of Prince of Wales and Lady Diana SpencerRoyal GuestsWedding Ball | Film


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