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British RoyalsFeatures

Royal Pictures from History: Charles and Diana’s engagement

As a future king, his wedding was always going to be big news. For years, Prince Charles had been the subject of chatter about who and when he would marry and when he did announce his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer, on February 24th 1981, it made headlines around the world. The moment the couple appeared before the cameras for the first time as bride and groom to be captured imaginations with one part of the press call producing a very famous image indeed. In this occasional series, Royal Central takes a look at some of the most well known royal pictures of all.

The Image: The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, February 24th 1981, Buckingham Palace, London

Embed from Getty Images

The Story

Speculation about the possible engagement of Charles, Prince of Wales had been mounting for several weeks when Buckingham Palace made a short announcement confirming he was to marry Lady Diana Spencer. Soon afterwards, the couple appeared before the press in the Palace grounds. One part of that photocall became iconic.

The moment the couple stood coyly on the steps of Buckingham Palace with Charles’ hands on Diana’s shoulders came to encapsulate the day which was heralded as the start of a fairytale royal story. The picture had everything including a first glimpse of Diana’s famous sapphire and diamond ring which was shown to perfection by an already camera savvy bride as she rested her hand on her elbow.

This one moment of Charles and Diana’s engagement announcement winged its way around the world and was used countless times in the run up to the wedding as well as on memorabilia found across the country. It was everywhere in 1981 and remains one of the best known of all royal images, four decades on.

The Legacy

The fairytale engagement was followed by a fairytale wedding and for a while, what appeared to be a happy ever after. As we all know, the marriage of Charles and Diana eventually broke down. They were divorced in 1996, a year before Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris. It was a sad ending to a story that had begun with hope, 40 years ago today.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.