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The Royal Wedding - A Brief History

And all the fun facts surrounding William and Kate's nuptials

William and Kate

I was only 12 when Prince Charles married Diana, but remember that every magazine seemed to have the royal couple on the cover. The fascination with Charles was odd. With Prince William marrying, it makes more sense why this is a huge story, even in America. We watched the 28-year-old grow up, felt horrible when his mom died in the car crash, and heard about the break up with his fiancé.

People enjoy hearing the gossip about weddings of the rich and famous. There are people that love to see regular folks getting married (plug: San Diego Real Weddings)

The history of the royal weddings obviously goes way back. Instead of a long history of all the royal weddings, lets go with the more “contemporary” times, starting with the couple back in the forefront because of last year’s The King’s Speech.

The 1840 marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria is the first one that got the tradition of “white weddings” started. Prior to that, brides wore colorful dresses, sometimes even black. It was also more practical to have a gown that wasn’t just worn on one occasion. Victoria was 17-years-old when she met Prince Albert in 1836. He was her first cousin.

King Edward VIII, the artist…err…royalty formerly the Prince of Wales, was abdicated from the British throne on December 11, 1936. That was so he could marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. Edward’s younger brother (the Oscar winning performance by Colin Firth), became King George VI.

The next royal wedding of note was Princess Elizabeth and Phillip. It had a few similarities to the Prince Albert/Queen Victoria nuptials. They were distant cousins, and she was under 18 when they met (13-years-old in 1934, and their relationship was strictly through letters). It was a lengthy courtship, and they were engaged in 1946.

In 1960, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon), were married. They got divorced in 1978.

In 1973, Princess Anne, the queen’s only daughter (and younger sister of Charles), married Captain Mark Phillips. She gave birth to the queen’s first grandchild, Peter, in 1977. Zara was born in 1981. They divorced in 1992, and later that year she married onetime royal aide Timothy Laurence of the Royal Navy.

In 1981, 20-year-old nanny and teacher Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. The world seemed captivated by the glamour she was bringing back to the royals. It would be the first British citizen to marry an heir to the British throne in 300 years. It was doomed from the start. They got engaged after only six months of dating. He was 32 and she was 20. Princess Di would later say in interviews that the reason she was looking around while walking down the aisle, was that she wanted to see if Camille was there (Charles’ current wife and long-time mistress). The wedding was viewed by 750 million worldwide, and reports say over a billion were tuned in, if you count people listening on the radio.

Two million spectators lined the route of Diana’s procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The dress had 10,000 pearls, and was sequined with hand embroidery, and a 25-foot train. It was called the “wedding of the century.” The royal wedding disaster of the century occurred five years later, in 1986. Charles younger brother Prince Andrew – Duke of York – married publishing executive Sarah Ferguson. The union lasted six years, after the publication of graphic photos showing the married duchess with another man. She had been rumored to have been seen a few different guys. They had two daughters, and Fergie lost her status as princess of the United Kingdom in the divorce. Her weight climbed to 220 pounds, and it was that and her extravagant lifestyle everyone was talking about. She became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers (a partnership that lasted one year longer than her marriage). Last year, she was caught in a sting, offering access to Prince Andrew for 500,000 pounds. She left a hotel room with a briefcase that contained $40,000. Fergie did what celebs do in modern times – she went on Oprah and blamed the bizarre behavior on booze.

In 2005, Prince Charles did what he probably should’ve done before ruining Di’s life – he married Camilla Parker Bowles. They were seeing each other in 1970, before he left for military service. She got married, and they both resumed their affair while being married to other people. Years after Charles and Diane divorced, Charles and Camille started showing up at events together -- until Prince Di died. They took a brief break from being seen together for awhile. She moved in with him a few years before they married, and there was some controversy about him marrying a “divorcee.” That now brings us up to speed, with this latest wedding, which is quickly looking like it might be the “wedding of the century.”

On November 16, 2010, the royal family announced the engagement. Prince William had proposed a month early while vacationing in Kenya. When we think of old fashion courtship rituals, we think about the man asking permission from his fiances parents. Well, William had to ask permission from his grandmother to marry Kate.

A partial guest list was released late last week. Many claimed that it was a snub to not have President Obama on the list, especially with all the other traditional dignitaries that were invited. There wasn’t a shortage of celebrities invited; like his mom, he’s comfortable in their circles.

The man who performed at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, and also a touching version of Candle in the Wind at Princess Di’s funereal – Sir Elton John – will be at Westminster Abbey with partner David Furnish

Another singer, the soulful powerhouse Joss Stone, from Devon, will be there. She performed at an event that honored the Armed Forces in 2008, receiving a hug from the Prince.

Madonna isn’t going to make it, but her ex-husband, director Guy Ritchie, will be. He’s known for his gangster flicks Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson will be in attendance, presumably not as a performer messing up the ceremony the way he did in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Soccer stud David Beckham and wife Victoria will be there as well. Prince William is president of the Football Association and has met Beckham on many occasions, including the time they worked together as ambassadors of England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup (they didn’t get it). Another athlete is on the guest list – that’s Ian Thorpe -- an Australian Olympic swimmer. Photographer Mario Testino, who shot Kate and William’s engagement photos, is going to be watching the ceremony, presumably without a camera. One of the things Testina was known for were the many memorable photos he snapped of Princess Di. You wonder if the people attending spend a lot of time worrying about what they’ll wear to the wedding. Well, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a TV presenter and socialite, took that a step further. She had a nose job specifically for the big event. Tom Bradby, the journalist who conducted the engagement interview, is invited. He prompted the ongoing phone-hacking scandal involving News of the World when he told the police in 2005 about his suspicions that voicemail messages for the Prince had been intercepted. L/Cpl Martyn Compton of the Household Cavalary was injured in an ambush in Afghanistan in 2006. It left him with burns over 75% of his body, as well as the loss of his ears and nose. He’s a friend and colleague of William, having served alongside him in D Squadron. He’ll be there. William’s uncle Earl Spencer will attend with his fiance Karen Gorden. His second wife, Countess Spencer, won’t be there. She was invited, but felt it would be an awkward scene.

Nobody expected William to invite the girlfriend he had while going to college, but it was odd to find out Kate invited her first boyfriend, Willem Marx. There were photos of them being out together as recently as 2008. William and Kate met at the University of St. Andrews in 2001. When they started dating, she immediately started complaining about harassment by the media. She’s slowly grown to accept them. In 2007, the couple split up, but got back together later that same year.Always making various “best dressed” lists of magazines, Kate took her fashion sense to a job with the clothing chain Jigsaw. She was an accessory buyer, and there was talk that she was going to give up that job to become a photographer. She’ll be the first queen-in-waiting in more than 350 years, to not be a member of the English nobility. Her title will be Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales.

It is true that any gifts or money they receive they are going to donate to charity. A nice gesture, that make take away the sting the British tax payers feel about the wedding costing $34 million (and paid for by them). $30 million of that is for security, and the concerns about various terrorist groups attacking.