London: The chimes
rang across the square, the crowds outside cheered and millions
watched on television. The times they were a changing but the
fairytale came alive Friday as Britain's Prince William wed his
long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton with kings and queens, showbiz
stars and world leaders present.
It was a spectacle, an end to the eight-year romance that could
well have begun with 'once upon a time'. And would end with
'happily ever after', was the fervent hope as the bride walked
into the historic Westminster Abbey as Kate Middleton, a commoner,
and came out as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Wacky hats, morning suits, tailcoats, gowns and tuxedos,
elaborately uniformed cavalry guards, sleek limousines and open
carriages rolling down the manicured streets from Westminster
Abbey to Buckingham Palace lined by an estimated half a million
people… the trappings were complete.
There was something old, something new, something borrowed (and
maybe something blue?) as tradition blended with modernity to
serve up a wedding fit for kings, a spectacle lapped up not just
by Britons but also an estimated two billion people in a world
battling recession and economic doldrums.
Newspapers hired lip readers to cybercast live what was being said
inside the Westminster Abbey and microblogging site Twitter
recorded a high of 237 tweets per second on what was billed the
wedding of the decade.
The British royalty, so long out of fashion and battling
controversy, was back in vogue.
The weather gods too obliged, confounding forecast of rain.
Prince William, 28, who was only 15 when his mother Diana died,
opted to wear the red tunic with a blue sash, the uniform of an
Irish Guards colonel, his most senior honorary appointment,
instead of the blue Royal Air Force uniform.
The search and rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force, the second
in line to the British throne, is the elder son of Prince Charles
and late Diana, the princess of Wales.
His bride, a year older and from a business family, looked a
vision in white in her long Chantilly-lace sleeved dress that
flared gently from the waist and a train - much shorter than her
late mother-in-law's though.
The dress, which was kept secret until the very last moment, was
designed by Alexander McQueen's creative director Sarah Burton.
There was much speculation over whether she would follow Diana's
footsteps with an elaborate gown, but the new Duchess of Cambridge
stuck to her signature, simpler style.
Her tiara was a Cartier, lent to her by her grandmother-in-law
Queen Elizabeth, and the Robinson Pelham earrings a gift from her
Amongst the 1,900 inside the Westminster Abbey, which has seen
history unfold over 1,000 years, were Queen Elizabeth in a
buttercup yellow dress, the Duchess of Cornwall and William's
stepmother Camilla in an ivory white outfit as well as other
family members and showbiz stars like Victoria and David Beckham,
Elton John and Guy Ritchie. Global leaders like Australian Prime
Minister Julia Gillard were there too.
Given the political import of the much awaited event, the Foreign
Office withdrew the invitation to the Syrian ambassador following
the clampdown on pro-democracy protesters.
The bride and groom, and their families, had driven up to the
wedding venue in stately Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars. After
that, though, it was back to tradition with the royal family
stepping into horse-driven landaus.
The newly-weds were in the State Landau, specifically built for
King Edward VII in 1902 and the same carriage used by Prince
Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. The couple waved to the delirious
crowds, with William also saluting as he passed fellow soldiers.
An estimated 300,000 people had gathered at Hyde Park, with
thousands camping overnight to grab the best location to see the
The marriage was a culmination of eight long and sometimes lonely
years of waiting for Kate.
Unlike the Queen, who promised to obey Prince Philip when they
married in 1947, Kate pledged only to 'love, comfort, honour and
There were mass celebrations in Britain, with over 5,000 street
parties, including one hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron at
It was a Kodak moment as the couple emerged on the balcony of
Buckingham Palace to exchange their first public kiss as the
surging crowds below cheered lustily.
And, this one should be for keeps, wished Britons - unlike the
Charles-Diana wedding that ended in divorce.