Rare Images From Diana and Charles’ Royal Wedding That Much Of The Public Hasn't Seen Until Now

When Prince Charles and Princess Diana tied the knot in 1981, their nuptials were dubbed the “wedding of the century.” But while the BBC confirms the wedding was one of the most-watched broadcasts in history, we all know that some drama managed to play out on the world stage without the public even noticing. These rare images from Charles and Diana's iconic big day expose specific details, from dodging traditions to covered mistakes, that we're only just learning 40 years in retrospect.

The gathering crowds

Charles and Diana got engaged just five months prior to their big day on July 29, 1981. Despite the short timeframe, it was long enough for wedding fever to take hold in the U.K. as 600,000 people lined the London streets in the hopes of watching history unfold. This picture shows a small part of that crowd, some of whom waved flags as they waited for the royal party to pass by.

Wedding guests of high esteem

But it wasn’t just everyday folk who were excited by the prospect of the royal wedding. Here, comedian Spike Milligan can be seen entertaining the crowds on the big day. He joined an illustrious congregation of 3,500 people at the wedding, which included royalty from across Europe, heads of state, and people from the entertainment industry.

Exquisite gifts from high places

Among the guests was Nancy Reagan – the then-First Lady of the United States. She and her husband Ronald gifted Charles and Diana a bespoke Boehm porcelain centerpiece and an engraved glass bowl by Steuben on behalf of the United States. Meanwhile, the Canadians presented the couple with antique furniture, while Australia sent 20 inscribed silver platters.

A big break for St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral began to fill up as guests arrived. Charles and Diana broke with tradition by choosing this venue, as Westminster Abbey was the usual choice for royal weddings. However, the latter apparently had less of a wow factor for the bride. Lady Colin Campbell explained in her book The Real Diana that St. Paul’s “was more beautiful, could hold a full orchestra, and had a world-famous choir.”