Wedding of Prince William of Wales to Catherine Middleton
Today, 29 April 2011, was the day that royalty fans around the world had been waiting for for years: the day Prince William of Wales married long-term girlfriend Catherine (Kate) Middleton. Along with millions of viewers and thousands of fans in the streets of London, the Royal Universe team followed the royal wedding of the century.
In the morning, the Press Secretary to the Queen released a notice announcing the Queen had conferred the Dukedom of Cambridge on her grandson William, who is, as of now, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. Upon her marriage to William, Catherine Middleton will thus not become known as Princess William of Wales, but she will be addressed as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. The choice of this Dukedom for William didn’t come as such a surprise to some of the royal watchers around, neither is the connection to Strathearn, but the Irish title was a bit of a surprise.
A few days before the big day, a detailed schedule of the day was released, and this was adhered to fairly strictly. Minor guests started arriving as of 8.30 am (all times UK time), including such celebrities as David Beckham and his wife Victoria, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Sir Elton John. Among the politicians invited to the wedding were current Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, who shocked many by not wearing a hat or some sort of headgear (no, those three stars don’t count). She was one of the few guests who did so. In a bit of a surprising move, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown was invited, although it’s usual to invite ex-Prime Ministers. Margaret Thatcher was invited but too ill to attend.
Princes William and Harry were a few minutes late leaving Clarence House, making commentators around the world wonder if the groom had changed his mind. But of course he hadn’t, and the brothers left Clarence House around 10.12 and arrived at Westminster Abbey a few minutes later, where they were greeted by the clergy and the many guests who had already taken their seats. Before retiring to one of the chapels to await the arrival of the bride, the brothers had a merry chat with the Spencer family, who had already taken their seats. William was wearing the uniform of a Colonel of the Irish Guards and Harry was in the uniform of the Blues and Royals.
After William and Harry’s arrival, foreign and minor British royals started to arrive as of 10.20 am, as well as the mother and brother of the bride, Mrs. Carole Middleton and James Middleton. In true British fashion, the BBC coverage chose to follow Mrs Middleton’s car on its route from the Goring Hotel to the Abbey rather than showing the foreign royals arriving. Shortly after, the core members of the British royal family arrived: the Duke of York and his daughters (who, by the way, flounced about in their usual horrible fashion style, with Beatrice wearing a hat that passeth all understanding to say the very least), the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence. At around 10.45, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrived, greeted by the clergy and standing in line to await the arrival of the Queen, a few minutes later. Those who watched closely will have noticed that the Queen greeted her son with a kiss, while Camilla gave her a hand and curtseyed. The Duke of Edinburgh, on the other hand, greeted Camilla with a kiss on the cheek.
In the meantime, Catherine Middleton got into the car with her father, allowing the crowds and media a first glimpse of the long-awaited dress. She wore a small tiara, later identified as the Scroll Tiara and known in the royal family as the Cartier Halo Tiara, given to Queen Elizabeth (better known as the Queen Mum) by her husband George VI in 1936. The tiara was later given to Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday, but the Queen is not known to have worn it many times. Instead, she lent it to her sister, Princess Margaret, and her daughter, The Princess Royal, on several occasions in the 1960s and 1970s. It hadn’t been seen in quite some time.
The dress turned out to be designed by Sarah Burton, from Alexander McQueen, as had been suspected but never confirmed by the specialized (read tabloid) press. The dress had a modest train of about 2.7 m, and combined English Cluny lace and French Chantilly lace, all handcut and carefully arranged to make an organic whole. The flower pattern represented rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. It had the typical Alexander McQueen wink to the Victorian tradition of corsetry: the bodice was narrowed around the waist but padded at the hips. The skirt resembled a budding flower, with white satin gazar arches and pleats, with embroidery on the lower half. The bride wore a short veil with lace edging, fastened by the Scroll tiara, and had her hair loose – her signature hairstyle. All in all, the dress was a resounding success. The bouquet, surprisingly small for a royal bride, contained lilies of the valley and sweet williams, along with the traditional sprig of myrtle. Catherine looked fabulous, though tired and a little emotional at the beginning of the ceremony.
At 11 am, the bride entered the abbey with her father for the long walk up the aisle, to the strains of the anthem I Was Glad, followed by her five bridesmaids and two pages. Her maid of honour was her younger sister Pippa, wearing a slinky white sheath dress that emphasised her elegant figure, while her bridesmaids, wearing dresses reminiscent of Diana’s young bridesmaids and with lily of the valley wreaths in their hair, were Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor (daughter of Edward and Sophie Wessex), Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (daughter of Viscount Linley and granddaughter of Princess Margaret), Eliza Lopes (granddaughter of the Duchess of Cornwall), and Grace van Cutsem (goddaughter of Prince William). The pages were William Lowther-Pinkerton (son of William’s private secretary) and Tom Pettifer (son of William’s nanny and family friend Tiggy Pettifer). Sensibly, since the two youngest bridesmaids were only three, Pippa walked up the aisle holding their hands, ensuring that they didn’t panic and make a break for freedom. In the meantime William and Harry had emerged and were standing at the altar. William refrained from turning around, but Harry sneaked a peek and was very pleased with what he saw. “Wait till you see her,” he is supposed to have whispered to his brother.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, performed the marriage itself. The couple exchanged vows, with Catherine omitting “obey” in hers. William gave her a ring of traditional Welsh gold; she did not give him a ring. The bride’s brother, James Middleton, read a Bible passage, and the sermon was given by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, a long-time friend of the Prince of Wales. The sermon ended with a prayer composed by William and Catherine, another very personal touch which was unusual for royal weddings. The hymns were Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, sung to the Welsh tune Cwm Rhondda, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, and Jerusalem. The music was provided by the Westminster Abbey choir, the Chapel Royal choir, and the London Chamber Orchestra, along with a fanfare team. The crowd outside could be heard cheering when the Archbishop pronounced William and Catherine to be man and wife.
They signed the register in the Edward the Confessor chapel in the presence of their close family: The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, Carole and Michael Middleton and Pippa and James. They emerged from the chapel to the strains of the recessional music, the Crown Imperial march by William Walton, and bowed and curtsied to the Queen before their slow walk back to the Great West Door, where the 1902 State Landau was waiting to take them back to Buckingham Palace. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh followed in the Scottish State Coach, with Charles and Camilla and the Middletons in the Australian State Coach. The Yorks, Wessexes, and Princess Royal travelled in their limousines, and the junior royals and foreign royals and dignitaries were relegated to minibuses, quite a contrast to the pageantry of the carriages.
The photos were taken in the throne room by Hugo Burnand, who had also taken the photos for Charles and Camilla’s wedding, and then the couple appeared on the balcony along with their attendants and immediate family. Catherine was visibly surprised by the size of the crowd, which covered the Mall and St James’s Park as far as the eye could see. Everyone was waving and looking happy except for little Grace van Cutsem, who stood there with her hands over her ears and a face like thunder. Prince Philip, in characteristic fashion, was chatting up the elegant maid of honour. Then the moment the crowd had been waiting for – the bride and groom kissed. Then they kissed again.
The public part of the day ended with a fly-past by three WWII-vintage planes (a Lancaster, a Spitfire and a Hurricane) followed by four modern fighter planes. Then the royals and the Middletons joined their guests for a buffet reception hosted by the Queen at the Palace, after which William and Catherine (or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as we’ll need to get used to calling them) returned to Clarence House in Prince Charles’s Aston Martin, complete with ribbons and a JU5T WED licence plate, to rest and get ready for the evening party at Buckingham Palace, which was being hosted by the Prince of Wales. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh left the palace after the afternoon reception so the guests at the evening party could let their hair down. For the evening party Catherine wore another white dress by Sarah Burton, a simpler version of the wedding dress – strapless with no train, and with a band of silver diamante at the waist.
The newlyweds decided to postpone their honeymoon; after a long weekend, William will be back at work at RAF Valley in Anglesey next week.
William and Catherine leaving the Abbey and en route to Buckingham Palace, and the marching band, by Flickr member Defence Images, used under Creative Commons licence.
William and Catherine on the balcony at Buckingham Palace by Flickr member Magnus D, used under Creative Commons licence.
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