Four days ago, I posted a dozen never-before-seen photos from Prince Charles and Princess Diana‘s wedding day.
One of those photos showed the late princess picking up and holding in her arms a little blonde bridesmaid in the anteroom of the Buckingham Palace.
The little bridesmaid, Clementine Hambro now a grown up woman today, was so overwhelmed seeing the photos that she wrote to Daily Mail UK about the magical experience she had on that day.
Clementine Hambro’s Story…
The photograph, casual and charming, catches an entirely unscripted moment in an otherwise tightly choreographed day. It is small and quiet, while everything else was huge, colourful and loud.
One of the previously unseen ‘out-takes’ from the wedding album of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, to be auctioned in the U.S. next month, it shows the new Princess holding a small blonde bridesmaid in her arms. I love the picture’s spontaneity and tenderness.
For me, it has a special significance — because I am the little girl in the photo. As Diana carries me, I am being patted and talked to. The flowers on my head have rather unceremoniously fallen off. I look decidedly sulky and I can recall quite clearly why.
We had arrived back at Buckingham Palace for the reception after the wedding ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981, and I remember being confronted with my first vol au vent, and feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion during the official photographs.
From there we all trooped down the picture gallery to get to the balcony where Diana leaned in, to a roar of approval from the crowd, for a kiss with her new husband. On the way, I slipped on the wooden floor and banged my head. Diana picked me up and comforted me and asked if I had bumped my bottom.
I was overcome with embarrassment that I could have possibly done such a thing and kept trying to explain that it was my head that was bumped — not my bottom!
Patrick Lichfield caught the moment on an instant camera that he had in his pocket and it is my favourite photograph of all. Now there are more newly discovered, behind-the-scenes shots — 12 in all, that have been put up for sale by an anonymous assistant to Lord Lichfield — and what I thought I remembered has skewed a little and grown layers.In one sense these photos are entirely unremarkable. Some are blurry, things are at funny angles and certainly no one is concentrating on having their photo taken.
Yet they are fascinating to look at. The detail — one shows a hilariously old-fashioned TV set perched on a regal red table cloth, on which the Queen watches the crowds outside the Palace — is touchingly human. The various conversations that are going on, the tenderness, the excitement and a palpable sense of relief — all of it seems to be captured.
As the newly emerged photograph shows, I remember Diana’s kindness and my relief at being rescued from the situation by her. They have reminded me of how the day felt; some of it happy, some of it overwhelming and exhausting, but all of it exciting and full of wonder and awe.
people always ask me about the wedding; one of the biggest and most watched in modern history. They always want to know what I remember about being a bridesmaid. And I always change the subject by replying: ‘Not a jot, nothing at all.’
This is because one of my clearest recollections is of my mother, Charlotte, the morning after the event, telling me that while yesterday was marvellous and we should treasure the memories, we should not talk about them all the time.
And we didn’t. I went about my business of being a small child once more without mentioning it again. And she was right — who wants a five-year-old banging on about being a bridesmaid to an actual Princess? I wouldn’t have had a single friend.
As I got into my teens, I was mortified by the mere mention of it in case anyone thought I was bragging, and so by adulthood it was just a natural reflex to tell the inquirer that no, I was far too young to remember anything at all, and change the subject.Clementine Hambro with her children Kit (baby), Ruby (left), Alice (right of mum) and Christabel (far right)
But, of course, I did and do have memories. But memory is a funny, nebulous thing and in reality the various recollections and snapshots in my mind are framed and reinforced by the images we have all got to know during the past 34 years.
Now, seemingly out of nowhere, this new set of pictures has appeared. What I remembered of that exact moment when I was lifted aloft, suddenly looks entirely different and yet the same. Almost like catching sight of yourself in a mirror you didn’t expect to find and it is at a peculiar angle.
The fact that I was a bridesmaid at all was a quirk of fate; an incredible piece of luck. Diana was 20 when she married and she cannot have had any friends who had children.
There must have been some protocol involved in choosing her five bridesmaids, but she picked me, from the Young England nursery school I attended in Pimlico, South-West London, where she was teaching. Like Charlie in his Chocolate Factory, I had won the golden ticket.
The dress fittings happened at designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel’s shop, and I can clearly see in my mind Diana sitting cross-legged on the floor laughing while we bridesmaids swirled and twirled around her in various silks and lace (Elizabeth Emanuel even recalls that some of us were roller-skating.)
The windows of the shop were papered over to foil prying lenses. However, even we were not allowed to see Princess Diana’s dress. That remained a closely guarded and intriguing secret.
The smooth running of the day depended on practice. We were taken through our paces with military precision and repetition so that by the time the big event arrived, any nerves were vanquished by our confidence in what we were doing.
I remember the dress rehearsal at St Paul’s. Catherine Cameron and I, as the smallest of the bridesmaids, were directly behind the magnificent 25ft train.
We were told no matter what happened we were not to tread on it. My five-year-old mind boggled at the consequences of such a disastrous action — that the Princess’s dress might come entirely off and it would be all my fault.
As we left the cathedral after the rehearsal, my mother said: ‘Tomorrow there will be hundreds and hundreds of people here all waving and cheering. But you mustn’t be scared, as it will be a happy noise because everyone will be so pleased that Prince Charles is marrying Diana.’
And I must have taken her words to heart, as indeed the next day was filled with deafening noise, colour and chaos and I wasn’t scared one bit.
We bridesmaids were dropped at Clarence House to dress with nannies only. No parents were allowed in as this was deemed to be too high a risk in the hysteria stakes. Indeed, my mother remembers bursting into tears as she left me there, my parting words being: ‘Mama, you have simply got to come with me.’
My memories of the service are patchy. The strongest one is of having tired legs and desperately wanting to sit on my little red velvet stool but knowing it was not the right time to do so, and then later staring doggedly at my gold shoes as we made our way back down the aisle, determined not to tread on the train and leave our new Princess in her petticoat.
One of the most exciting moments was being taken back to the Palace in a horse-drawn carriage. I can still see the brightly coloured confetti snowing into the carriage.
Keen to get some for myself, I stood up to get a better view and peered out of the carriage window as confetti streamed around us and the crowds flashed by in a noisy haze.
And so the great day, and my own tiny part in it, drew to a close. I am now married with children myself (I had 15 bridesmaids at my wedding!) and do not find myself thinking about that extraordinary event very often. But occasionally, something happens, such as the discovery of these photographs, and I allow myself to revisit the day of silk and gold shoes and horse-drawn carriages and I realise just how very lucky I was.
Culled From: DailyMail UK