The televised Royal Wedding that most people think of first is likely to be that of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981. The first involving an heir to the English throne in the mass media era, the wedding was watched by over 750 million people worldwide. Earlier marriages were also caught on camera, however, and despite the changing fashions, the formality of what is one of the most important state occasions has little changed in the past century.
A break from tradition
King George VI’s marriage to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was a public affair. Crowds lined the streets as the two were married at Westminster Abbey in April 1923. It took three proposals to persuade the mother of the current reigning monarch, Elizabeth II.Getty Images | Topical Press Agency
A royal scandal
George’s older brother ascended to the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward abdicated the throne so he could marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.Getty Images | Ivan Dmitri | Michael Ochs Archives
The current queen
Queen Elizabeth II married Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh on November 20, 1947. An estimated 200 million radio listeners listened to the Westminster Abbey ceremony. Elizabeth was 21-years-old.Fox Photos | Hulton Royals Collection | Getty Images
TV’s first royal wedding
Elizabeth’s only sibling, Princess Margaret, married Antony Armstrong-Jones in the spring of 1960. It was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television and more than 20 million viewers tuned in to watch it.Getty Images | Ullstein Bild
A new generation
Thirteen years later and it was the turn of a new generation as Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. The marriage was unusual in that Phillips was deemed a commoner. The couple divorced in 1992.
Charles & Diana
The 1981 wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer attracted an estimated global TV audience of 750 million. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. Media attention and public grief were extensive after her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997.
The Duke & Duchess of York
In 1986 Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson married at Westminster Abbey. Watching from the comfort of your own home was now well understood and the event attracted a reported 500 million watchers.Getty Images | Anwar Hussein
Away from Westminster
Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. In a break from tradition, the ceremony was restricted to family and friends and media coverage was curtailed.Getty Images | Simmonds | AFP
Charles & Camilla go round again
Prince Charles and longtime friend Camilla Parker Bowles got married in 2005 in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. A Service of Prayer and Dedication, which took place afterwards, was covered by the BBC network.
Another big event
Back to Westminster in 2011 for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This time it was a full-on affair with many comparisons made with Prince Charles’s wedding to Princess Diana. Enter the digital age with 72 million live streams recorded on YouTube.