India Hicks was 13 years old when she was asked to be part of the wedding party by her godfather, Prince Charles. "When my godfather Prince Charles called to ask if I would like to be a bridesmaid, I was initially horrified. I was a 13-year-old tomboy, never out of jodhpurs, and I would have to wear a dress."
India met the royal bride for the first time at a dress fitting in the lily-strewn studio of the designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. "When we arrived, Diana was upstairs, where her dress was kept under lock and key. The windows of the building had been blocked out so that the press camped on rooftops across the street could not snap a shot of it, one of the most closely guarded fashion secrets in history. I met Diana again during the rehearsals at St Paul's Cathedral. She would practise walking down the aisle with a 25-foot-long sheet – the same length her train would be, tied around her waist with string, which we helped to manoeuvre," she said.
On the wedding day, India recalled that Diana "turned up in a pair of jeans and I have a lasting impression of Diana with a diamond tiara on her head, dressed in jeans below, while they fitted her tiara to see what it would look like." She added that Diana was watching TV while getting ready. "She was very intrigued by it. For her, it was so new to see herself on television, can you imagine? Her whole life going before her eyes. And she kept pushing everybody out of the way: 'Move,' she'd say, singing along to the TV commercial 'Just One Cornetto' [ice cream product], which everyone, not just in the room but on the whole floor, joined in."
"Just after 10am, Diana stepped out of her jeans and into her ivory silk taffeta wedding gown, to which the dramatic 25-foot train was attached. As she descended the grand staircase of Clarence House, she hesitated for a moment and turned to a footman to ask for a glass of water. Everyone waited in silence as she sipped from the glass, before her veil came down over her face and she stepped out into the waiting golden carriage. Her life was about to change for ever. History was in the making," she said.
While the royal bride, accompanied by her father Earl Spencer, slowly made her way to St. Paul's Cathedral, senior bridesmaids Sarah Armstrong-Jones and India Hicks were standing by in the chapel of St. Michael and St. George, one of the many smaller chapels inside the cathedral, while the other younger bridesmaids were being contained by fierce nannies, and the two not entirely reliable pageboys, Lord Nicholas Windsor, age 11, and Edward van Cutsem, age 8, dressed in immaculate naval uniforms, were idly standing by.
One of India's duties of the day was to manage the bride's 25-foot-long train, which had been totally crumpled during the carriage ride to St. Paul's Cathedral. When asked if she was terrified, she remarked: "It was more that I had a job to do, and the job wasn't going right. She was sympathetic with the job we had to do and turned around and said: 'Just do your best.' Her dress, train and father were completely crumpled. There are many significant images of that moment: Diana stepping out from the carriage, the world watching, the crowds cheering, the guards lining the steps - and me, with my worst hair day ever, bent double with my bottom in the air, trying as best as I could to de-wrinkle the situation. I really remember my buttercup-yellow satin shoes pinching, as they were a size too small."
The role of a royal bridesmaid was encouraged by India's mother, Pamela Hicks, daughter of Countess Mountbatten of Burma and the last Viceroy of India, who was herself a bridesmaid to Queen Elizabeth. "My mother reminds me: 'You are a part of history.' And when I rode back to Buckingham Palace in a glass coach drawn by horses, my mother warned me: 'You must wave. People don't want to see you ride past without waving.' I did my best, timid little waves to the joyous crowds lined up along the Mall, many of whom had camped out overnight to save the best spots," she said. However, India's coach ride experience was only slightly ruined by the tiny tears of her fellow bridesmaid Catherine Cameron, who turned out to be desperately allergic to horses and spent most of the journey miserably blowing her little nose on her petticoats!
At Buckingham Palace, Patrick Lichfield, A first cousin once removed of the Queen’s, took the wedding photographs. "Photo after photo was taken. Prince Andrew insisted on making jokes. But finally, utterly exhausted from so many pictures, everyone collapsed on top of one other in laughter. All I could think of was that dress and veil wrinkling even more!" she said.
For the wedding's lunch, Brill in lobster sauce, and chicken stuffed with lamb mousse were served. India said: "I ate the bread rolls. Strawberries and cream followed. At one point, Diana picked up Clementine Hambro, age 5, and sat her on her lap. She had fallen in the long gallery before lunch and the Queen had bent down to help her up and rub her little flowered-wreathed head, and now Diana was making sure all was well. As soon as the cake had been cut, Diana, her sisters and the senior bridesmaid disappeared to help her change into her going-away outfit. I have two terrible regrets from that day: the first was that while I was upstairs helping Diana change, the wedding cake was served and I missed it. My second regret was missing the grand ball hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on the evening of the wedding. I wanted to go but just beforehand, I lay down on my mother’s bed to shut my eyes for a moment and woke up the following morning having missed everything."
As a thank-you present, Princess Diana gave her bridesmaids a pretty Halcyon Days pot to commemorate the day. Inside the pot were the cocoons of two silkworms that had spun the silk for her wedding dress. A few weeks later, a rose from her bouquet arrived, set in glass to act as a paperweight, with a note of thanks in her schoolgirl writing.
Tiara And Jeans, Written By Lauren Milligan For Vogue Magazine. First Published In 19 April 2011
Twenty Years After The Princess's Death, India Hicks Shares Her Very Personal Memories, Written By India Hicks For The Daily Mail. First Published In 11 June 2017
India Adjusting Her Too Tight Shoes During The Ceremony
India And Lady Sarah Manage The Bride's 25 Foot Long Train