After the death of Prince Charles’ horse, Allibar, on February 20, 1981, Diana left the stables of Nick Gaselee in a Land Rover with a blanket over her head.
Charles, although devastated, carried on with a scheduled engagement in Swansea. He returned to Highgrove that evening and the two spent the evening alone according to the Daily Express.
Diana returned to London early. However, the pending engagement could not be hidden forever. On February 21, 1981, Prince Charles telephoned Diana’s father, Earl Spencer, to ask for his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage. The Earl was delighted and told him “well done!” He later quipped that he wondered what the Prince would have done if he had said no to his request!
According to Penny Junor, in her book, ‘Diana, Princess of Wales,’ the Queen gave her immediate approval and had been in on the plan right from the start. Charles required approval for his marriage as the direct heir to the throne under the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 and there was no doubt at the time that he would get it. Junor writes that the Queen and the Royal family had liked Diana very much right from the start and had been quite impressed with her skill at handling months of press and media intrusions.
On Saturday, the Queen threw a big family dinner party at Windsor for Charles and Diana to celebrate, and on Sunday, he gave her the now infamous engagement ring, initially described by Diana as a wonderful ‘sapphire and diamonds.’
By Monday, February 23, the Prime Minister and the government were secretly notified of the news via coded phone calls and the Commonwealth Heads of State and the Archbishop of Canterbury were told via coded telegrams. Diana’s family spent the day notifying close family members in the strictest of confidence.
Diana was photographed stepping out in style in London on the evening of February 22 in medium length wine coloured culottes which the Daily Express termed the ‘Express Woman Look,’ a fashion they were showcasing in their newspaper that very day. At this point, the engagement was less than 40 hours away and Diana’s life was about to change forever. The long journey was almost complete, but more difficult days were coming. Diana on the verge of engagement continues . . .