After more than two decades of embarassing revelations and bad behavior, many wondered if the House of Windsor could pull off a real-live fairy-tale wedding, full of the kind of pomp and circumstance that has defined the British monarchy for a millennium. But the message Friday from London was a resounding "Yes we can."
With seeminglyl effortless poise and genuine cheer, Prince William and the former Kate Middleton banished all thoughts of scandal and sleaze.
The event could hardly have been more colorful. All along the procession's route, Britons waved red-and-blue Union Jacks at the "royal claret"-colored vehicles. Then the royals began disembarking at Westminster Abbey, the queen in bright yellow, Prince Philip in red, Prince Charles in blue, the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) in champagne. The groom, in the eye-popping scarlet tunic of an Irish Guards officer, and his brother, Prince Harry, whose navy-blue chest was crisscrossed with gold braid, were met by John Hall, Dean of Westminster, in a golden yellow a shade deeper than the queen's. Greenery, provided by maple and hornbeam trees, lined the abbey's central aisle.
But, of course, the color everyone was waiting for was white. And Kate Middleton's dress, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, did not disappoint: yards and yards of ivory and white satin, silk gazar, English and French lace.
With a reported 2 billion people worldwide watching the proceedings, Prince William was apparently the last person to see Kate. When she finally joined him at the altar, the heir to the throne looked appropriately wowed by his bride. For her part, the bride looked alternately demure and jubilant. In addition to the exchange of vows, the ceremony, punctuated by choral and instrumental music, included a Bible reading (Romans 12:1, 2, 9-18) by James Middleton, the bride's brother.
An estimated 1,900 people attended the ceremony. In addition to the royal family, friends of the bride and bridegroom, British government officials and foreign heads of state, the guest list included Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, soul singer Joss Stone, photographer Mario Testino and Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean), a close friend of Prince Charles.
The Church of England ceremony began at 11 a.m., and in less than an hour, the wedding party headed back to Buckingham Palace in grand style. The newlyweds rode in a open-topped State Laundau carriage built in 1902. The rest of the royal party was accommodated in four additional horse-drawn carriages.
Now for the moment everyone was waiting for: the royal balcony kiss, a tradition started by William's parents, Charles and Diana. At 1:25 p.m. in London, the couple appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and were joined moments later by their in-laws, siblings, the queen and Prince Philip. Everyone smiled and waved and, after a few minutes, the couple gave the cheering crowd what it was waiting for. It wasn't passionate; the participants did not gaze into each other's eyes. It was the slightly self-conscious public kiss of a mature couple all too aware of the world's intense gaze and entirely comfortable with themselves. Perhaps sensing the crowd's dissatisfaction, a few minutes later they gave it another try -- to no great effect. These two are apparently too savvy to ever forget that they are under perpetual scrutiny.
Afterward, an air show by the Royal Air Force and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight ended the day's public festivities. Next on the agenda, the queen's luncheon, a reception for 650. Later in the evening, Prince Charles would host a palace dinner for 300.
Not only has she got a new husband, the former Catherine Middleton has a royal title, the Duchess of Cambridge. At 8 a.m., Buckingham Palace announced that the queen had bestowed the title of Duke of Cambridge on her grandson. The couple have also been given the Scottish titles of Earl and Countess of Strathearn and the Northern Irish titles of Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus.