Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton married at Westminster Abbey on Friday in a royal occasion of dazzling pomp and pageantry that has attracted a huge global audience and injected new life into the monarchy.
Before the vows, a veiled Middleton, the first “commoner” to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years, walked slowly through the 1,900 strong congregation to the swirling strains of Charles Parry’s “I Was Glad”.
Middleton’s dress, the subject of fevered speculation for months in the fashion press, was a traditional ivory silk and satin outfit with a lace applique and long train.
She wore a tiara loaned by the queen and the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that once belonged to William’s mother Princess Diana, who was divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, a year before her death in a car crash in Paris aged just 36. Bells pealed loudly and trumpets blared as 1,900 guests earlier poured into the historic abbey, coronation site for the monarchy since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066.
Queen Elizabeth, other royals, David and Victoria Beckham, the footballer-pop star couple, singer Elton John and Prime Minister David Cameron were among famous guests at the abbey.
They joined 50 heads of state as well as charity workers and war veterans who know the prince from his military training.
Thousands of people from around the world were outside the abbey, many of them camping overnight for the best view of the future king and queen and fuelling the feel good factor that has briefly lifted Britain from its economic gloom.
“People watching this at home must think we’re completely mad, but there’s just no comparison,” said 58-year-old Denise Mill from southern England. “Ijust had to be here.”
The crowd entered into the festive spirit on a chilly day by wearing national flags and even fake wedding dresses and tiaras. Hundreds of police officers, some armed, dotted the royal routes in a major security operation.
Tens of thousands more people crammed the flag-lined streets of London to catch a glimpse of marching military bands in black bearskin hats, cavalrymen in shining breastplates and ornate carriages that will carry royal figures from the service.
A large gathering is expected outside the queen’s London residence, Buckingham Palace, to cheer on the married couple as they appear on the balcony for a much anticipated public kiss.
For some, however, the biggest royal wedding since Diana married Prince Charles in 1981 was an event to avoid, reflecting divided opinion about the monarchy.
“It’s just a wedding,” said 25-year-old Ivan Smith. “Everyone is going mad about it. I couldn’t care less