‘I designed Diana’s dress – and my ex has claimed credit for 40 years’


‘I designed Diana’s dress – and my ex has claimed credit for 40 years’: Explosive testimony from Elizabeth Emanuel in bitter court battle with former husband

  • Husband and wife David and Elizabeth Emanuel created Diana’s wedding dress 
  • Now divorced, they have fallen out over the creation of her ivory silk garment
  • David accused of falsely claiming to make dresses for Diana ‘when he did not’ 

As a husband-and-wife team, they became the toast of the fashion industry after creating Princess Diana’s extravagant ivory silk wedding dress.

But now divorced, David and Elizabeth Emanuel are at war over the gown that made them household names. 

And in the latest chapter of their increasingly bitter dispute, Elizabeth has made the extraordinary claim that her ex-husband played no role in its design, and has dishonestly taken the credit for decades.

In legal papers filed last week – and seen by The Mail on Sunday – Elizabeth alleges that she designed the dress entirely on her own and accuses David of making ‘frequent false statements to the media and press that he had designed dresses for Princess Diana when he did not’.

She is seeking a court order to stop him from making any claim on the creation of the dress which, with its spectacular 25ft train, enthralled a global TV audience of 750 million in 1981.

Princess Diana’s incredible dress, featuring a 25ft train, was spectacular- but Elizabeth Emanuel says her husband had little to do with its creation

Elizabeth’s broadside comes after 68-year-old David took legal action to stop his ex-wife selling sketches of the dress, claiming she had no right to do so without his consent.

But in her blistering response, she claims that she was the ‘key creative force’ in their relationship, and that David’s role was merely ‘organisation, dealing with clients and overseeing the making of garments by the workroom staff’ to her designs. The court documents allege that Elizabeth, 67, has been ‘deprived of media interviews and financial revenue’ because the public wrongly think that David designed the dress and not her.

David recently landed a consultancy role on Netflix’s hit drama The Crown to help recreate the dress for actress Emma Corrin to wear during wedding scenes opposite Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles.

However, Elizabeth claims she would have been offered the job instead had her ex-husband not spent years falsely claiming to be Diana’s dressmaker. And she alleges he breached her copyright by reproducing the wedding dress for the screen without her consent.

It is the latest twist in a case that began when David sued his ex-wife over the auction of sketches of the dress and other garments worn by the Princess of Wales.

The other disputed drawings up for sale include the chiffon blouse with ruff collar and satin that Diana wore for the official engagement photograph Lord Snowdon took for Vogue; the sequined black taffeta evening gown from her first official engagement with Charles in March 1981; a green silk evening gown she wore in 1985; a black and silver dress from the Out Of Africa film premiere in 1986; and a white crepe dress the Princess wore on a Royal tour of the Gulf states the same year. The Welsh designer claimed his ex-wife is selling the sketches without his consent and is seeking damages for a breach of copyright. He has even asked for offending copies of the sketches – which he claims she created from the originals they made together – to be destroyed.

Diana looks through designs and fabrics in Kensington Palace with David and Elizabeth Emanuel

Diana looks through designs and fabrics in Kensington Palace with David and Elizabeth Emanuel

However, in a blistering response filed at the High Court last week, Elizabeth’s lawyers said that her former husband had ‘played no part in the creative process that led to the design drawings. They were not works of joint authorship’.

She claims that David ‘very rarely, if at all, drew any sketches, artwork or created any designs’ during their partnership, which ran from 1978 until their divorce in 1990. The legal papers state that she created the sketches in an upstairs room at their boutique Emanuel Salon, in Brook Street, Mayfair, Central London, while her husband worked in a room downstairs.

Elizabeth also claims that her ex-husband could not have been the creator of Diana’s extravagant wedding dress because his design style is ‘simple and classic’ while she has ‘an innovative avant-garde dramatic romantic style’.

David is often introduced on TV as the designer of Diana’s wedding dress – or as one American broadcaster recently declared, ‘the genius behind that gown’. In her legal claim, Elizabeth accused her ex-husband of taking credit for her designs in media interviews ‘knowing them to be false and/or reckless as to the truth’, and claiming he knows that she ‘solely created all the designs for Princess Diana’.

The couple met while studying at Harrow College of Art in the mid-1970s, before both then completed master’s degrees in fashion at the Royal College of Art in London.

They set up their Mayfair couture house and had two children, Oliver and Eloise, before their marriage broke down acrimoniously. For years they have communicated only through their children and lawyers.

David Emanuel declined to comment last night.

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