For anyone who missed it (unlikely), yesterday was the biggest and most important day in Britain for some years. Say what you like about the significance of the monarchy in British life today, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) at Westminster Abbey was huge – on a truly global scale.
Everyone watched it – a million on the streets of central London, thousands of whom had camped out over night to get the best spot on the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey; 24 million on TV in the UK; 400 million on the web; and an estimated two billion on TV around the world. Street parties, garden parties, village parties, were held both in Britain and all around the world to celebrate this royal wedding, a much-needed boost to the British Monarchy’s credibility and popularity, and breathing new life into a tired old institution.
I will admit, I loved it. Every minute of it. Every comment, every shot, every tweet (a record-breaking 13,000 a minute), every article. I just drink it all up. I can watch it again and again. I have even been poring over today’s editions of various British national newspapers, neither easy to come by nor cheap in these parts.
It’s kind of unavoidable, since I come from a monarchist family – very uncool to admit that, I know, but there we are. My late aunt worked for a Tory PM and then the Queen, and got us into Buck House (as it was called by staff) to watch Diana’s wedding on a TV there – all I remember is gold furniture and dark purple carpet – while she attended the service. Afterwards, we watched the newlywed couple returning in their carriage from the balcony inside the Palace’s courtyard. Same for Fergie’s wedding, though by then my aunt was already unwell.
Also, I went to the same school as Diana – an academic embarrassment, as she famously achieved just one O level (I managed a bit better) – a now-closed establishment which appeared, to my breathless excitement, on TV the morning of her wedding. This is, obviously, not something I talk about much, and I’m not doing it to namedrop, just to explain my emotional attachment to, and shameless obsession with, such events. Here was her elder son, her beloved Wills, getting married, 30 years later. Her pride and joy – for all her faults, noone ever doubted that she was a devoted mother.
I loved seeing the photos and videos of everything from the guests arriving – the York sisters’ outfits and extraordinarily flashy, attention-seeking hats (what can you expect, with their mother); Posh’s “fascinator”, and her rather sombre own-label outfit; Miriam Gonzalez’s glam-Span amazing outfit; Prince Harry’s bedhead hair and look of shifty nervousness (hungover, reckoned many).
Prince Charles’ usual hangdog expression morphed into one of genuine melancholy as the service was about to start – wishing William’s mother was there, perhaps? Kate’s Dad looked so proud, her sister so amazing (Twitter’s favourite subject last night was her derriere in that fabulous McQueen dress), her Mum a little flat, I thought, for someone who is usually so smiley. Probably wondering how much she’ll get to see of her daughter now she’s become a Duchess, wife of the second in line to the throne, and future mother of further heirs – no pressure there, then.
Harry’s “Wait till you see the dress” to his brother; William’s reassuring “You look beautiful” to his bride, and joking “It was supposed to be a small family affair” to his new father-in-law, were just small details which reminded us that this day was about them – two people getting married, who already know each other well having lived together for some years, who obviously love each other, and have no doubts at all about what they are getting themselves into with this marriage, unlike William’s lamb-to-the-slaughter mother. Kate was poised and composed, showing no signs of nerves, even when the ring got stuck as William tried to push it onto her finger. They didn’t shed a tear but millions, including myself, did. Everyone found it so moving because of their evident close bond, with intimate looks and secret smiles speaking volumes.
The cartwheeling verger, the kiss(es) on the balcony, complete with grumpy bridesmaid (far left in official photos, below), the Queen telling a TV cameraman; “It was amazing”. Driving back home to Clarence House to get changed for the evening do in his Dad’s Aston Martin, a 21st birthday present to Prince Charles from the Queen.
William having his own wedding cake – a chocolate biscuit cake, a favourite family recipe; Kate’s 17 hand-picked flowers to decorate her eight-tiered cake, chosen for their symbolism; and, of course, the famous dress by Sarah Burton for British design house Alexander McQueen – an amazingly well-kept secret, although most of the fashion pack had already guessed. The lace was made in England, and her wedding band was in Welsh gold, while the canapes at the wedding reception used seasonal British ingredients (Cornish crab salad, watercress and asparagus tart, Scottish langoustines, mini Yorkshire puds with roast beef and horseradish mousse).
And finally, the speeches at the reception held at BP by the Queen: Prince Charles joked about his own and his son’s bald patches, and referred to Kate as William’s “soulmate”; William poked fun at his father’s waistline.
Everyone who enjoys these events – whether just watching on TV at home, standing on the route on London, or taking part in a street party – and especially those who are British – feel some kind of ownership over such occasions. This particular one went so well, and the couple looked so radiantly, joyously, glowingly happy, that social media was full of people (including me) saying how proud they were to be British, how noone does a major royal occasion, pomp and pageantry, like we do. How often do you hear that?
And now, for those who missed him, that oh-so-happy verger.