This week my mother and I attended Diana: A Celebration at the Frazier History Museum. It’s no secret that I have been waiting with bated breath for this exhibition to open. When I saw that her wedding dress was going to be on display, I knew it was a “must see.”
(All pictures courtesy of The Frazier Arms Museum unless otherwise noted.)
It was appropriate that my mother attend with me, for this is the woman who bought me all the Princess Diana books that I memorized at age 9. This is also the same woman who woke up with me at 3:00 a.m. to watch the wedding. July 29, 1981, will live in my memory forever because of this wedding. (And it was my father’s birthday, a distant second place on the importance scale to me.)
The Frazier History Museum is a beautiful space. I think Diana’s goods will be happy here.
This first room is where the Spencer Family Jewels are on display. Diamonds as big as your thumbprint, dripping pearls, your basic aristocratic jewelry wardrobe. They have displayed portraits of three Spencer women with their jewels, and there is a beautiful portrait of Diana’s grandmother, who could be her twin.
The next room covers what I would call “the formative years,” with an old home video of Diana and her brother as children running on a continuous loop in the background. Here are diaries, pictures, calendars, childhood toys and other personal effects. They’ve displayed the menu from the dinner where Diana first met Charles. Fun fact: did you know that Charles dated Diana’s sister? <insert eyebrow raise here>
Onto the wedding room. It dawns on me that she was ONLY 19 when she married Charles. That impacted my attitude for the rest of the time going through the exhibition. Where was I at 19? Surely not in any mental capacity to get married, much less become royalty. She looks so young in the pictures, I start to get a little misty.
Then I see the coup de grace: The DRESS. I heard that it only weighs about two pounds because it is made of pure silk, so it’s light as a feather. The train extends for 25 feet, along with the veil. Apparently, the train didn’t bother Diana as much as the tiara did. The tiara weighed so much and pulled at her hair the entire day. (Small price to pay for wearing a bevy of diamonds on your head, if you ask me.) Included in the dress display are her shoes, a parasol and a handbag she had for the wedding. The parasol was never used but was made in case of rain. Her shoes were FLATS, with suede bottoms so she would not slip. That tells you how tall she was if she was wearing flats at her wedding and was as tall as her husband.
In the wedding dress room, the wedding video runs on a continuous loop. There are pictures displayed from that day that I have never seen before. This was a shocking discovery to me, considering I made it my full-time job to acquire every picture and book about that wedding since the age of nine.
All good things must come to an end, and the “funeral room” is next. Videos of the funeral and the funeral procession runs on a continuous loop while guests read the tribute from Diana’s brother Charles Spencer on the wall. The lyrics and music to Elton John’s song English Rose are also displayed with his handwritten notes. One glimpse of little Harry and Wills walking near their mother’s casket on the video sends me out the door in an attempt to not have a breakdown in front of all these strangers. Mom follows behind me, feeling equally sad. The emotional aspect of this exhibition was a surprise for both of us.
There is a room devoted to all her charity work, which is so impressive.
The “finale” is a large room of many of her outfits and ball gowns. You can watch her confidence in her body unfold as the clothes chronologically progress. By the end of the room, her ballgowns are all form-fitting Versace.
This exhibition is so personal on many levels. Seeing someone’s handwriting, their clothes and their personal effects have much more of an impact than simply looking at a picture. All told, there are 150 objects and 28 designer dresses in addition to the wedding gown, personal mementos, jewelry and videos.
I will definitely be going back for a second trip. I did not have time to memorize it all yet.
For tickets or more information, click here.