Last updated at 1:25 AM on 30th April 2011
You couldn’t see her, but Diana was everywhere at the wedding. William wore her familiar smile. Kate reluctantly removed the iconic engagement ring that once belonged to her to accommodate the wedding band. Harry brought his mother’s sense of fun.
And it could so easily have been Diana pricking the pomposity of the moment when William said to Kate and his father-in-law Michael Middleton, as they stood together at the High Altar: ‘Just a small family affair.’
Even Carole Middleton couldn’t help bringing something of Diana into Westminster Abbey yesterday — her elegant, pale-blue outfit made by Catherine Walker, the French-born designer who died last year and who, more than any other couturier, was identified with the Princess of Wales.
Sealed with a kiss: Diana and Charles on their wedding day in 1981 and, 30 years on, Kate and William follow suit
Indeed, as the pictures on these pages show, there were so many images that produced striking parallels with Diana’s 1981 wedding. No area escaped her memory, not even the wonderful music. The opening hymn Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer was one of her great favourites.
The royal wave: Charles and Diana salute the crowd after their nuptials
Same difference: William and Kate were in the same state landau yesterday as they greeted thousands lining the streets
It’s what his mother always dreamed of as a girl, writing to her former nanny Mary Clarke when she was nine that she would ‘only’ marry a man she loved. When her own dreams of happiness died, she made sure they were transplanted in her sons. This was the crucial factor that allowed the future King to conduct the longest courtship in recent royal history — at his own pace and with the girl of his choice.
Fathers of the brides: Diana being led up the aisle by the late Earl Spencer, left, and Kate's father Michael Middleton doing the honours
Elegant: Kate's train wasn't as long as Diana's, but it echoed its timeless style
Similar: Kate smiled at her maid-of-honour sister Philippa as she holds her train
Charles Spencer’s searing vow from the pulpit during his reading that Diana’s ‘blood family’ would continue the ‘imaginative way’ she had been bringing up William and Harry (astonishingly applauded inside the Abbey and outside by crowds listening to the service on loudspeakers).
The episode hugely embarrassed the Windsors and split the two families for years. Yesterday, however, they were dutifully united and behaving as though it had never happened. That, after all, is what Diana would have wished. But astute observers of such grand royal occasions may have noticed an unexpected configuration of the seating arrangements.
Although close relatives of William, the Spencers were not seated — as tradition demands — on the groom’s side of the Abbey where the royal family sat, but opposite them on the bride’s side, behind the Middletons.
Single poster: 14 years ago Kensington Palace was knee deep in Diana tributes. Yesterday there was only one
B ut William’s obvious comfort in the real world — away from royal privilege and protocol — has little to do with his uncle Charles and, as was crystal clear yesterday, everything to do with the values instilled in him by Diana.
Which leads us to ask a major question: without Diana’s teachings and influence, would Prince William yesterday have married a girl whose mother was born and lived her early life in a council flat in Southall, Middlesex?
There were nights when Diana took William to see the homeless on the Thames Embankment and drug addicts in the East End of London.
Memorably, she warned him not to believe that everyone ‘drives a Range Rover and takes several foreign holidays a year’. There were Palace traditionalists who saw her attitude and philosophy as nothing less than a threat to the monarchy.
In the Abbey yesterday, as Kate showed just what a wonderful ambassador she will be for the Royal Family, it was clear that Diana’s was the ultimate triumph.
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