Each week in April, Vanity Fair will flash back to a different British royal wedding in the lead-up to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s May 19 nuptials.
When Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010, he presented her with his mother’s own engagement ring—a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 round diamonds that Princess Diana had picked out from court jeweler Garrard before her own fairy-tale wedding to Prince Charles.
“It was my way of making sure mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement and the fact that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together,” William told press afterward.
Even though Princess Diana was represented, from that point forward, by the iconic ring sitting on Middleton’s finger, Kate made sure in the following six months to pay tribute to “the inspirational woman” who would have been her mother-in-law. A week before the wedding, as worldwide anticipation reached a fever pitch, Kate reportedly made a special trip with William to Diana’s burial site—venturing 90 minutes’ northwest of London to the 13,000-acre Althorp Estate that has belonged to the Spencer family since the 16th century. The pair reportedly took a boat to lay flowers at Diana’s Oval Island resting place; wandered the princess’s ancestral estate; and walked through the arboretum where William and Harry planted trees as children.
“It was very important for William to take Kate to visit his mum just before their wedding day,” a source told The Mirror at the time. “Diana is still a huge part of her boy’s everyday life and always will be. Even though Kate never met Diana she knows what an incredible woman she was and it is very important to her she can share and understand William’s love and grief for his mum. . . . It is tragic that she won’t be there to see the wedding and that she never got to meet his bride.”
The tributes continued. Though William and Kate married at a different site than Charles and Diana—Charles, an architecture and music buff, had opted for the more handsome, acoustically sound St. Paul’s Cathedral—the bride and groom incorporated other homages. Like Diana, Kate had a small blue bow sewn into her wedding dress for good luck, and antique lace repurposed in the design as her “something old.” (Aside from those touches—plus the white color, long sleeves, and gauzy veil—there were few other similarities between Kate and Diana’s wedding dresses. Kate’s gown—a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen design, rumored to cost $434,000, was an elegant A-line, with an elaborate bodice appliqué woven with shamrock, roses, and lilies, and a nine-foot train.)
Both Diana and Kate wore drop earrings from their parents—Diana’s earrings featured 50 small diamonds around pear-shaped pearls, which had belonged to her mother, while Kate’s were commissioned by her parents to include elements from the Middleton coat of arms. Both brides also wore a tiara, though Diana wore the Spencer tiara—a diamond floral diadem dating back to the Tudor period. (It has been rumored that Meghan Markle might wear the tiara as a nod to Princess Diana on her wedding day.) Kate, meanwhile, borrowed Queen Elizabeth II’s Cartier Halo Scroll Tiara—which had been gifted to the monarch on her 18th birthday.
Inside Westminster Abbey on the morning of April 29, 2011, there were more nods to Diana. When Prince William arrived at the Abbey, with best man Prince Harry…
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