This beautiful tiara is the first item which greets visitors to "Diana: A Celebration," the exhibition now open at the Atlanta Civic Center. I was privileged to attend a media preview on Thursday, and I was thrilled to learn we could take our time and snap photos as we toured. Lord Charles Spencer, the late princess' brother, was supposed to be on hand but had been called unexpectedly to South Africa. I had been hoping to ask him if he's a fan of tea and if so what kind!
The exhibition is divided into various galleries exploring different facets of Diana's life. In the Spencer Women gallery, the pieces on display include this portrait by John Singer Sargent (!) of Lady Cynthia Eleanor Hamilton, Diana's paternal grandmother. Isn't the resemblance striking! In front is a family coronet made by Sebastian Harry Garrard, "probably made to wear at the coronation of Edward VII."
The incredible family jewels on display (and let me assure you the photos do not do them justice!) include the pearl and diamond necklace above. The two diamond drops are from a pair of earrings. The antique diamond shamrock bangle bracelet was a gift from Queen Alexandra to Charlotte, 5th Countess Spencer.
In the gallery on Diana's Childhood, these ceramic and glass figurines from her collection (1970-1990) were on display. I found it touching that the rabbit up top was missing an ear.
Now most visitors probably wouldn't care about this, but I just thought fellow tea lovers might want to see a hankie that belonged to the princess during her schoolgirl days, sewn with the same sort of personalized labels many of us can remember.
This was Diana's nursery school uniform from 1968, displayed behind a 1950s toy car from the Spencer family nursery.
And finally, the moment I'd really been waiting for, the Royal Wedding gallery and the world's most famous wedding gown! I literally gasped when I first came upon that gown. To say it is breathtaking is no exaggeration! Remember those pretty ruffled sleeves? I will never, ever forget watching the Royal Wedding with a spend-the-night girlfriend when I was a teenage girl. After viewing the festivities, all day long we giggled and relived that beautiful ceremony and Diana's sweet flubbing of Charles' name ("Philip Charles Arthur George" instead of "Charles Philip Arthur George").
The exhibition is really beautifully designed so that visitors can get "up close and personal" with these pieces without the temptation to touch them. Looking through the glass case, you hear wonderfully majestic music and view footage of the wedding playing on TV screens in the background. In the second photo, note how the display of the gown's 25-foot train is perfectly aligned with the photo of the dress and train on the wedding day. Beautiful!
Even the Charles Shilton slippers are just stunning! Have you ever seen such beautiful soles? They were made of suede so the princess wouldn't slip. Nearly 150 pearls and 500-plus sequins were used to decorate the heart-shaped accents on the slippers. (If you like this kind of detail, you might enjoy the wonderful book "A Dress for Diana" by David Emanuel and Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed her dress and kept exhaustive photos and scrapbooks regarding its creation. I found a copy on a clearance table a few years ago and love it!)
This silk and lace parasol was made to match the wedding gown in the event of rain but was never used.
This monogrammed cake box was given to guests for their souvenir cake slice from the wedding. That appears to be a pretty paper lace doily at far left.
In the gallery devoted to Diana's charity work, there is a prayer book given to her by Mother Theresa. (Mother Theresa!)
And another wow-inducing moment occurs when you enter the gallery of dresses Diana wore.
I loved seeing Diana's pretty blue coat along with the matching coats made for William and Harry.
This burgundy velvet cocktail dress is one I don't ever remember seeing but it was definitely one of my favorites because of the lush color and fabric.
This hand-embroidered and beaded blue cocktail dress was one of the last the princess wore. Although it was beautiful in real life, I couldn't help thinking how much prettier it was "on" its owner. (There's a photo of Diana wearing it here.)
But perhaps the outfit I admired most was this one, from the time Diana went to Angola with the British Red Cross to bring attention to the problem of land mines. I remember being so impressed she would risk life and limb for a cause she so believed in, and I am happy that her charitable work remains a major part of her legacy.
If you want to see this exhibit for yourself, and I hope you will, it will be at the Atlanta Civic Center through June 13 and you can find more info here. And you know how I said there would be tea? Well, there is, in the exhibition gift shop, but I've prattled on so much today let's save that for tomorrow!