A nation in the depths of economic gloom on Friday bravely hauled itself up onto its knees to celebrate Britain's most hyped royal wedding in 30 years as Prince William, the Queen's 28-year-old grandson and second in line to the throne, married his long-term companion, Kate Middleton, after a now-on-now-off relationship.
At 11 a.m. when the bride wearing an ivory and lace gown designed by celebrity designer Sarah Burton entered Westminster Abbey — the venue of the wedding — she was plain Catherine or Kate Middleton. But when she emerged an hour later after exchanging marital vows with the Prince she had been transformed by a royal edict into Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, though in Britain's rigid class system she still remains a “commoner.” Prince William has been given the title of the Duke of Cambridge.
Some 1,900 guests comprising the crème de la crème of British society and international royalty with a smattering of the hoi-polloi to give the occasion a feel of inclusiveness attended the ceremony marked by singing of hymns (chosen by the couple) and the national anthem. There was apparently only one difficult moment during the otherwise flawless proceedings when the Prince appeared to struggle to place the ring on the bride's finger. (The ring belonged to the Prince's late mother, Diana, whose funeral he attended in the same building 13 years ago.)
In the spirit of the modern age, the bride did not promise to “obey” her husband-to-be while exchanging the vows. The couple were pronounced “man and wife” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, following which they spent a private moment together with their families as they signed the marriage register before driving to Buckingham Palace in an open air carriage.
It was all pomp and pageantry that Brits still do rather well. The public felt the full weight of the royal paraphernalia as it watched a procession of horse-drawn carriages and old Bentleys roll down the Mall, while Royal Air Force planes did tricks up in the sky. And then there were the Queen's “life guards” in quaint tunics and plumed hats on majestic horses, not to mention an army of bowing-and-curtseying courtiers — and young bridesmaids as they prepared for the big moment.
The whole operation — starting early morning under grey skies and winding up in time for a buffet reception at Buckingham Palace — was run with clockwork precision. Even the moment when the couple appeared on the Palace balcony for that famous public kiss was scripted — down to its duration.
A record global television audience of two billion was said to have watched the wedding, while thousands from across Britain and abroad turned up in person to greet the young couple lining up the route of the procession since early morning.
Children, especially little girls in frocks and images of “Kate” and “Will” and the Union Jack painted on their faces, were the most enthusiastic. Many “camped out” overnight wrapped up in sleeping bags, and were seen making tea and cooking sausages on make-shift stoves. Some royal fans had travelled to Britain especially to be part of the “experience.”
Hundreds of street parties were held across Britain. Even royal-sceptics grudgingly acknowledged the occasion by holding “alternative” parties of their own.
To commemorate the occasion they sold “I-am-not-a-royal-wedding-mug” mugs to rival the royal wedding mugs embossed with crude images of Kate and Wills.
The transformation of Ms. Middleton — a descendant of a mine worker and daughter of two former British Airways workers, Michael and Carole Middleton, who now run a successful mail order company — has been dubbed a pit-to-palace story which fits into the narrative of a modern monarchy and the current debate in Britain over social mobility.