Kate's family prepare, military rehearses for wedding
British military personnel rehearsed Wednesday for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton as the bride's family made final preparations for the biggest royal event for 30 years.
A pre-dawn run-through by around 1,000 army, navy and air force personnel offered a glimpse of the pomp and pageantry that two billion people around the world are predicted to watch live on television on Friday.
Horse-drawn carriages, mounted cavalry and limousines including the Rolls Royce that will ferry Kate to historic Westminster Abbey were also involved in the dry-run in the deserted streets of London.
It was to be followed later Wednesday by a musical rehearsal involving military bands, the orchestra and the two choirs that will sing during the ceremony, and a run-through for the broadcasters and clergy on Thursday.
William, 28, and Kate, 29, are also expected to take part in some rehearsals.
A spokesman for St James's Palace, William's official residence, told AFP there would "obviously be rehearsals this week for all involved" but gave no details.
Wearing a cream suit, Kate was photographed Wednesday driving her car from her family's home in the village of Bucklebury, west of London -- possibly the last time she will go there before the big day.
Her mother Carole and sister Pippa drove off together later, while her father Michael was seen arriving at the luxury Goring Hotel in London, where Kate will spend her final nights as an unmarried woman and a commoner.
Vans carrying a wardrobe of wedding clothes, including a long dress bag, were carried into the hotel by a porter wearing a bowler hat and there were constant deliveries of fresh flowers.
Rain is expected to fall on Friday but that is unlikely to dissuade hundreds of thousands of revellers, with around 20 small tents belonging to die-hard fans already camped out in front of the abbey.
"I have just done a month in China travelling through Tibet so this is a piece of cake. I am very proud, I wouldn't be here if I wasn't," said Cynthia Fisher, 69, from Sheffield in northern England, wearing a sparkling Union Jack bowler hat.
Kumar Iyer, a former bank worker from Thiruvananthapuram in southern India, said he had also been in London for the wedding of William's parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana on July 29, 1981.
"Poor Diana is not there to witness the marriage, that is sad," he said.
The fervour around the ceremony partly reflects the public's enduring fascination with Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and whose emotional funeral was held at Westminster Abbey.
She and Charles -- the heir to Queen Elizabeth II -- divorced the previous year.
William, the second-in-line to the throne who works as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, used Diana's engagement ring to propose last year to Kate, the privately-educated daughter of self-made millionaires.
Friday's ceremony will aim to bring closure to Diana's tragic legacy and William and Kate have personally overseen "every detail" of their "exquisitely beautiful" wedding day, said St James's Palace.
Key points remain shrouded in mystery: the wedding dress has prompted acres of media speculation, while there is no news on what official titles the royal couple will take.
British Prime Minister David Cameron wished the couple a "long and happy life together" during prime minister's questions in the House of Commons and said the "whole world" was looking forward to the ceremony.
Around 1,900 guests are set to attend, including foreign royals from 40 countries, politicians and celebrities such as Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham and Rowan Atkinson.
Thousands of street parties are planned while the British government has declared a public holiday and pubs are allowed to stay open late.
British police have launched a massive security operation for the wedding involving some 5,000 officers and warned that they will "robustly" deal with any protests during the wedding.
Muslims Against Crusades, a hardline Islamist group that had planned protests to disrupt the wedding, called off their action on Wednesday saying they feared they could be attacked.
"We believe the main issue is security for our people," campaign spokesman Abu Abbas said at an impromptu press conference outside parliament while members carried a banner saying: "Wanted: Prince William... Modern Day Nazi."
© 2011 AFP