Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, married his sweetheart, commoner Kate Middleton, on Friday with a show of pomp and pageantry that put a smile across the face of a nation scrambling out of recession.
Everything worked for the couple. Confounding forecasts, the weather held up. On an overcast but dry day, Britain partied late into the night, and much of the world partied with it, as over two billion people switched on their television sets to hear say the words, “I will.”
In the first royal wedding of the millennium both broke into half-smile at times as they said their wedding oaths.
With hundreds of thousands lining the roads outside, the wedding took place inside Westminster Abbey – the famous central London church that has hosted many royal weddings and most coronations since 1066. Maple trees lined the aisle of the massive ‘House of Kings’ to give it a verdant look.
Bride Kate Middleton, who will be known officially as the Duchess of Cambridge from now on, looked resplendent in a flowing ivory-and-lace wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton of the fashion house Alexandra McQueen and a 1936 Cartier tiara lent to her by the Queen.
Inside the medieval stone church, the 1,900 invited guests included celebrities David and Victoria Beckham and pop icon Elton John and dignitaries and their representatives from around the world.
Outside , a great cheer went up among the crowds – many of whom had camped in the open for two nights – as William and Kate emerged as man and wife, a young couple destined to become King and Queen one day.
And Britain lived up to the sense of the occasion for the 1.1 million people who were expected to have turned up in the capital. Polished, ancient carriages – led by a red-and-gold Landour carrying William and Kate – and some 200 horses rumbled past delirious, screaming, flag-waving crowds.
Cavalrymen in matching red coats and gold breastplates marched in tandem. It was British pageantry at its finest.
“This is a triumph of sentiment – everybody wishing two beautiful kids best for the future – in the middle of a complicated world,” said historian Simon Schama.
The tale of William and Kate Middleton, whose wealthy family is based in the village of Bucklebury, around 80 km London, has enchanted and gripped recession-hit Britain’s 60 million people. It’s described as a fairytale romance.Beautiful Kate, at 28 five months older than William, is first commoner to be marry into the British royal family in 350 years, and is often described as a "breath of fresh air."
“This is part of history, isn’t it,” said Stephanie, who had come from the town of Sunderland. “Kate will be going back today, thinking ‘we’ll be sleeping in Buckingham Palace’.”
“The way the country is at the moment, this will help us focus on the positive,” said Londoner Dawn. The feel-good factor, said her friend Phil, would carry on “at least until the Olympics.”
After the power of the pageantry, the enduring image of the day came from Buckingham Palace – close by Westminster Abbey – when a large and patient crowd, said to number half a million, was finally treated to the sight that they craved: William and Kate kissing and waving on the balcony of the palace.
In the jubilating crowd were many of Indians visitors. Prashant, Sharath and Priya – a trio of computer engineers from Bangalore – came for the novelty of the experience. “I’ve never seen such crowds in London,” said Sharath.
“It’s a good moment – it won’t happen every year.”