Crowd enthralled by kiss on royal balcony
To wild cheers and with their flags aloft, the crowds surging up The Mall finally saw the moment they had all been waiting for Friday as Prince William kissed his new bride Kate.
The net curtains of the Buckingham Palace balcony began twitching right at 1:23 pm (1223 GMT), and then right on schedule, two minutes later, the world's most-watched newlyweds emerged, sparking huge cheers.
The rest of the royal family came out, although Queen Elizabeth II kept discreetly to one side -- this was her grandson's big day.
The crowd waved back to the happy couple, but soon they were chanting: "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"
And when the blushing prince duly obliged, the crowds outside the palace gates erupted.
As the crowd waved to them, William pointed out to his wife elements of the remarkable scene before him -- the massed ranks of photographers on the Queen Victoria Memorial, the crowds at the palace gates, and the half a million well-wishers stretching as far as the eye could see.
To their left, Prince Harry joked with the maid of honour, Kate's sister Pippa Middleton, as did Prince Philip, the royal family's patriarch a few weeks short of his 90th birthday.
The page boys were also enjoying themselves, though the queen kept a watchful eye over them, while William's father Prince Charles held up one of the younger bridesmaids for a look over the balcony.
The balcony party began to go back inside, leaving the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to savour the moment alone one last time.
After six minutes and with a final wave, they returned inside the palace, putting the gloss on a magical day for billions of people around the world.
After the crowd chanted for a second kiss, the couple heeded the cry, pausing for a longer embrace this time.
Wellwishers had come to London from all over the world, rising before dawn or camping overnight on the streets to get a good view on the route.
"I wish I were Kate but just for the day. I don't want to become a queen, but it's every girl's dream to become a princess," said Kate More, 20, as she joined the crowd outside the palace.
"They are the most glamorous and classy couple. They are a new face for the monarchy," gushed her friend Katie Oresko, a student from Chicago.
Despite their long vigil, thousands of royal fans were in high spirits as they chanted "We want Kate, we want Kate" in the moments before the Rolls-Royce Phantom carrying her from her hotel arrived at Westminster abbey.
Sitting next to her father Michael, the new princess acknowledged the crowds who waved flags and cheered their support.
The crowds then settled to listen to the service, which was broadcast on loudspeakers across the square.
Outside the abbey, where some royal fans had been camped out since Monday, the road was packed.
Sam Harburg, a 27-year-old Australian, wearing a pink tie, arrived with a friend at 4:00 am equipped with a cool box with beer and two bottles of champagne, "one for the procession and one for the royal kiss".
"I can tell my friends in Australia that I was here," he said.
The crowd was a riot of colour -- there were little girls in princess dresses, women sporting paper crowns and plastic tiaras and men in William masks.
Two women wore wedding dresses with signs on their backs saying "It should have been me!".
Outside the abbey, Kim Ratcliffe, 37, wore a spectacular hat on top of her blonde hair. "I came prepared just in case they would invite me in!" she said, pushing her two daughters, both dressed as princesses, in their pram.
Nearby, 21-year-old London student Mina Best said she loved the fact that the couple had met at university like so many other ordinary people.
"They're pretty normal people, genuine people. Not what you would expect from the royal family," she said.
Most in the crowd were hopeful that the marriage would last, unlike William's parents, the late Princess Diana, and Prince Charles.
"She's much older than Diana, and much more mature -- and they are marrying for love. Charles was under pressure from his family," said Sandra Russell, 65.
© 2011 AFP