The only media outlet to use proper film to record the wedding of Diana Spencer and the Prince of Wales and the processions through London on that day in July 1981 was Movietone News. The footage – restored recently in 4K – was re-released last week by AP, and it is worth watching. Film bestows a power and richness lacking in the day-glo cheap video used by TV teams who back then were learning how to use relatively new and more mobile cameras. Film seems to denote seriousness. Here is History, filmed respectfully to look like history with a capital H, seeming more enduring than the endless disposable video of today spewed out for 24 hour TV news and cut into a trillion social media clips to be taken out of context and shared virally in a demented manner.
The footage of Winston’s Churchill’s funeral – watchable in full at the Cabinet War Rooms museum in London – is similarly arresting in film. As with the 1981 royal wedding, the service took place at St Paul’s. Those two events – de Gaulle in one, and Thatcher in the other – might be thought to have taken place in different worlds or centuries, but they happened only 16 years apart.
Sixteen years after the Charles and Di “fairytale” in 1981 the bride was killed not wearing a seatbelt, traveling in a car driven by a chauffeur over the limit pursued by photographers. From Churchill to the death of New Labour’s “People’s Princess,” that’s just thirty two years, taking in a wedding, two cathedrals and a pair of funerals.