The Princess and the Tea

I was little when Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, live on television. It was a record-breaking event, watched worldwide. Now Prince William is getting married, and there’s another beautiful princess-to-be walking down the aisle. Will it enlist the same magic in 2011, and why would a suburban American mom get so excited over a royal wedding a world away?

July 29th, 1981.  I remember it vividly.  I was nine, but my mom made that day special.  We got up before dawn to watch history!  Mom made hot tea.  Not just any tea, mind you, but “special” tea she ordered from England, to mark the occasion.  It arrived in a commemorative tin, a splurge for my stay-at-home mom then.  We stayed glued to the television. It was exciting, watching something you knew the whole world was doing at the same time. As the bride rode to the ceremony, my mom told me, “See, she’s going to be a real princess, and she’s marrying a real prince.  Fairy tales do come true!”

As a child, my favorite stories involved princesses, and the thought that royalty truly existed was mind-boggling.  When Princess Diana walked down the aisle in that dress, it was like time stopped…that dreamy, amazing dress!  I saw Diana’s clothes on display a few years ago. I stood in front of the wedding dress in awe, remembering every detail of the wedding I watched decades before.

The tin on the right is the one from my childhood…the one on the left a friend found for me in an antiques shop.

Most of my childhood belongings disappeared but, somehow, I have my little tea tin.  Growing older, I watched Diana for inspiration in fashion, hair, and spirit.  The way she raised her children, and the way she treated people with such amazing grace and compassion still chokes me up.  When she died, there was a crack in the atmosphere! What a loss.  Most of today’s celebrities aren’t always worthy of the admiration they receive.  I love it when strong, beautiful women are known not just for the way they look and dress, but for what they do for others.  It’s inspiring. I think of Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.

Still, with Royalty, there’s that mystery about them. Maybe the fascination is because of fairy tales, though they’re changing: modern fairy tales have princesses who help themselves, and not just look to their fairy godmothers.  My daughter calls it  “Girl Power”.  I think as an American I’m  curious of royals because we just don’t have them.  My husband was born in Denmark.  Danes are fiercely proud of their royal family, but not so interested in their day-to-day lives.

I’ve actually met Danish Royalty. In the nineties, BC (before children), we attended charity events in New York City on a few occasions.  Twice, we got to meet Princess Benedicte and her husband.  The first time, there was a receiving line.  The second time was more informal, with the Princess mingling around the room.  I was introduced to an older gentleman, but with music in the room I did not hear who he was.  Chatting, I saw Princess Benedicte nearby. I asked him, “How does it work with the royal family, may I go up to her, or do I need to be introduced?” He chuckled and said, “Go on up to her, I’ve been doing that for years”.  It was later that I realized I’d been speaking to her husband, the Prince!  I think youth was on my side with that faux pas.  I’m still mortified!  At both events, she was gracious, kind, and regal.  I’ve also met the Princesses of Sweden, and of Greece.  Royals are flesh and blood, not superhuman, but people born or married into extremely extraordinary positions.

Nevertheless, this week, when my daughter’s third-grade biographical project was due and she picked Princess Diana, I felt a twinge of glee. We dressed her up in an old evening gown, with rhinestone jewelry and tiara. What struck me about my daughter (and made me proud), was her perception of Diana compared to my nine-year-old self. She was not as interested in Diana’s wardrobe, but of what she accomplished, such as being named Humanitarian of the Year in the USA, and pondering what, if any, effect it might have had in the world had Diana married Dodi Fayed.  (Perhaps some of the “magic and mystery” of “Royals” is lost on her, since she’s been to Denmark and toured some “real” castles).

Now Diana’s future daughter-in-law, Kate, will marry William.  I hope they have happiness, and follow in his mother’s footsteps, using their grand position to help others.  I’m looking forward to a happy diversion in the news. In Farmgirl fashion, I’ll bake scones and share hot tea with two other moms my age and our daughters.  Maybe some day our daughters will be watching another royal wedding and saying, “I remember that day with my mom…”

  1. kate says:

    This is sweet, and I love the teapot. I love royal weddings, too. The tea with your mother idea is great.

  2. Barb says:

    Another great story written by you Nicole. What a great idea to create the memories for your daughter. How lucky for you that you have met so many Royalties. Once again thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

  3. Donna says:

    When Princess Diana died I cryed as we watched the news on tv. One of our children thought I was over-reacting….."Mom, she’s just a princess". "Yes", I replied, but more importantly she was someone’s mother".

  4. Jan Carpenter says:

    I am hoping this is the fairytale for real this time. Diana got a cheater and you can tell, I don’t like men who cheat. I am hoping Prince William observed the pain this caused his mother and will not do it to Kate. I wish them well – I wish them as happy a marriage as I have had.

  5. meredith says:

    What a lovely post and a grand idea! I will have tea and scones with my daughter while the festivites play out on the telly! Of course, being farmers, we will likely be sitting there smelling of tea, scones, and cow, but we’ll enjoy it just the same!

  6. Debbie says:

    Nicole, Your story is charming…I love that you have that memory with your mom…As if time stood still and it was just you, her and the royal wedding… and your special tea. My husband always says" just because someone is famous, doesn’t make them a wonderful person". This is so true… fame does not make one charitable,or compassionate. Enjoy your tea with your daughter. Deb ( yourfarmgirl blogging sister from the Beach)

  7. Diane says:

    I remember that day too. And your story is truly charmed by memories that we cannot live without and by events that will never be changed. I didn’t do the tea in 1981 for my then 8-year old daughter but do plan to make scones and tea for myself and my husband while I watch the blessed event of a new beautiful princess unfolding right out of fairy tales and my husband will do whatever as these events don’t impress him as much. I pray for many, many years of wedded bliss for the royal couple.

  8. April says:

    So cool that you have met Danish royalty! As my mother is from Denmark, I’ve grown up following them at least as much as the Windsors. (Is it just me, or does Kate remind anyone else of Crown Princess Mary? Something about their poise, I guess.) I’ve been in Amalienborg Square a number of times, but never bumped into anyone LOL! They sound as delightful as I would have thought; how lovely for you!

  9. Mary McKeon says:

    I was 14 and watched Diana’s wedding and last year saw her gown in person; it was like seeing a piece of my own past before me. Oh, and many of her gowns were on display, too. She was so petite! In photos, she looks like an Amazon, but no, tiny yet tall. And her wedding gown in person is glowing and elegant, not overdone at all the way people seem to portray it now. Remember, most of the photos taken of her that day, she is crammed into a tiny carriage not made for a tall woman, let alone one in a full gown.

    I agree, Diana’s gown surprised me with its simplicity – she didn’t look like an "iced cupcake" compared to most glittery, poufy gowns of that time.   Like you, I was surprised at how she was thin and tall.  I would love to see Althorp museum someday, too.  Thanks for reading!  -Nicole

  10. Santrelle says:

    Hi there, do you have any idea what the value of these tins are? I have one that looks similar and I’m looking at selling it. Please e-mail when you get a chance. Thanks!

    Santrelle, emailed you!  Thanks for reading.  -Nicole

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