Prince William and Kate Middleton honor Diana’s memory
By Piper Weiss Yahoo! Shine staffThu, Apr 28, 2011 5:06 PM GMT+00:00
(Prince William, screen shot; Princess Diana, Peter Skingley/AP/pool)
Five months ago, when Prince William first announced to the world he’d given a ring to Kate Middleton, he made it clear that only one other woman mattered as much to him.
“It’s my mother’s engagement ring,” he told the press of the sapphire and diamond engagement heirloom. “Obviously she’s not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all — this was my way of keeping her close to it all.”
During every step of their path down the aisle, Kate and William have made a point to keep Lady Diana’s memory alive. Today’s wedding was no exception. They recited their vows at the Westminster Abbey, the historic church where Diana’s memorial was held for 3 million mourners in 1997. Then, William was just a teenager, and his solemn march behind his mother’s coffin was in stark contrast to the beaming stride he took down the aisle today.
But the church itself wasn’t the only reminder of Diana’s parting. Bishop of London Richard Chartres, who also spoke at Diana’s memorial, gave the wedding sermon. And during the musical portion of the ceremony, the first hymn sung was “Guide Me Thou, O Great Redeemer,” the same song that concluded Di’s funeral service and memorial service, 10 years after her death.
The focus wasn’t only on Di’s absence, but on the memory of her vibrant life. As Kate walked down the aisle in Alexander McQueen , every bit the breathtaking bride her mother-in-law was in 1981, she clutched a bouquet of Sweet William dotted with Lily of the Valley, a staple of Diana’s wedding bouquet. And when it was time to say her vows, she again summoned Di’s independent spirit, by omitting the term “obey”. It was the one battle Diana Spencer picked when she agreed to marry Prince Charles. At the time, the break in tradition caused outrage among royal-watchers. Today it’s a testament to Di’s courage and trail-blazing choices.
Perhaps the biggest homage to Di’s legacy has been the subtle nods to lessons she taught both her immediate family and the royalty she’d forever be linked to. Diana’s tragic death, often blamed on a stalking paparazzi, may have influenced the couple and the royal court to keep their guard up with both paps and press during the wedding planning. When Di’s bridal dressmaker was announced, reporters famously rifled through the designer’s dumpsters hunting for information. Lesson learned, Kate kept her dress a secret despite pressure from media outlets and with souvenir factories at a standstill. It helped to have the firm backing of Clarence House, the royal press office, which closely guarded information in accordance to Will and Kate’s wishes. They’ve also accommodated the couple’s desire to have Diana’s favorite fashion photographer, Mario Testino, snap their engagement photo.
For Diana, whose outspoken voice was sometimes muffled by royal etiquette, fashion as a way to communicate with the public. Today, Carole, Kate’s mother, stood in solidarity with her fellow mother-in-law. Her sky blue shantung dress was designed for the occasion by the house of Catherine Walker, Di’s favorite designer. Walker, who died last year, designed at least 1,000 looks that defined Diana’s style in her lifetime, including the black dress she was buried in.
Just skidding off of her teenage years, Diana became a figurehead the instant she said her vows. “At the age of 20 she has renounced forever spontaneity and privacy, freedom and independence, her red Mini Metro and her Chelsea apartment, past friendships and future intimacies other than those deemed appropriate for royal confidences,” a reporter wrote in the New York Times, the day after her July 29 nuptials. Both William and Kate, nearing the end of their 20s, were able to come into their own as individuals before they settle down with children, as they’re swiftly expected to do upon marriage. Their decision to wait, and to forge a 10-year bond, was no doubt a reaction to young Diana’s marital struggles which she claimed in Andrew Morton’s biography, started by “day two.”
For her wedding in 1981 Diana had little say in the guest list. But after her divorce, the people’s princess kept herself surrounded with a close-knit circle, some of them in attendance today, including dear friends Tessa Green and Elton John, who refashioned his song Candle in the Wind in her memory. John, along with over 1,000 other official guests, were asked by the couple to make charitable donations in lieu of gifts. Of all the bricks that built Diana’s legacy, her humanitarian work was a cornerstone.
Nine days ago, while the rest of the world fixated on every last detail of their impending nuptials, Will and Kate took a boat to his mother’s final resting place. The couple spent a quiet day at Lady Di’s remote burial site, and walking the grounds of the nearby arboretum where Will and Harry planted trees alongside their mother as boys. “It was very important for William to take Kate to visit his mum just before their wedding day,” a royal insider told the Daily Mirror. “Diana is still a huge part of her boys’ everyday life and always will be.” This was particularly true today, as William bit his lip nervously, standing at the altar with his bride, just as his mother did on her wedding day. It was a reminder to the millions of viewers who’ve watched the prince become a man, he’s still his mother’s son.