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Harry v Diana: how the UK economy compares at royal wedding time

One in 10 was out of work when Charles married Diana – but today the unemployment rate is the joint lowest since 1975.

Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle with the UK economy in a far healthier state than at the time of his mother’s wedding.

When Diana, Princess of Wales tied the knot with Charles in July 1981, one in 10 people was unemployed, interest rates were at 12% and the country was just emerging from a 15-month recession.

By contrast, today the unemployment rate (4.2%) is the joint lowest since 1975, interest rates are at 0.5% and the economy has not been in recession for nearly a decade.

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Inflation, as measured by the retail prices index (RPI), was running at 10.9% when Charles and Diana married. The equivalent figure today is 3.3%.

Government borrowing – the size of the deficit – was 4.3% of the UK GDP in the financial year 1980/81, compared with 2.1% for 2017/18.

But not everything is rosier now. The UK’s national debt was the equivalent of 45.6% of GDP at the time of Charles and Diana’s wedding. Today it is a massive 86.3%.

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In addition, the pound is worth a lot less today than in 1981.

In July 1981 it was trading at 1.86 US dollars; this week it has been averaging 1.35 dollars.

The long-term decline is even more apparent when looking at royal weddings further back in time.

When the Queen married Philip in November 1947, it was trading at 4.03 dollars.

It had fallen to 2.80 dollars by the time of Princess Margaret’s wedding to Lord Snowdon in May 1960, was down to 2.39 dollars when Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in November 1973, and 1.49 dollars in July 1986 when Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York tied the knot.

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Though the pound has fluctuated since then – it had risen to 1.87 dollars when Charles married the Duchess of Cornwall in April 2005 – the overall trend has been downwards.

Looking at all royal weddings in recent decades, unemployment was lowest when Anne married Capt Phillips (3.4%) and highest when Andrew married Sarah Ferguson (11.4%).

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RPI inflation was just 1.3% when Prince Edward wed Sophie, Countess of Essex in June 1999, compared with 10.3% when Anne and Capt Phillips married and 10.9% for Charles and Diana.

Only one royal wedding has taken place in the middle of a recession: Anne and Capt Phillips in November 1973.

The occasion proved a welcome distraction for the country amid a period of rising petrol prices and industrial action, which would climax in December with the imposition of power cuts and a three-day week.

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