Rain and thunder could blight royal wedding
The first glimpse that the world gets of Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William on Friday could be under an umbrella after forecasters said it may rain and even thunder on the big day.
After days of unseasonably warm temperatures, Britain awoke Tuesday to cloud-covered skies and heavy showers are forecast in London on Friday when the couple tie the knot at Westminster Abbey.
As final preparations were under way for the biggest royal wedding for 30 years, British police said they had no specific intelligence about a security threat but they vowed "robust" action against planned Muslim protests.
Scotland Yard said more than 5,000 police, including specialist protection and firearms officers, would be on duty for the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, while military personnel would also line the route.
"In London we operate on a daily basis against a backdrop of a severe threat from international terrorism, and of course we have planned to this threat level for this event," said Commander Christine Jones, one of the officers leading the massive security operation.
With hundreds of thousands of people expected to see the wedding, forecasters warned that rain was highly likely and conditions will be much cooler than recent unseasonably warm temperatures in London.
"In London there is a risk of some showery rain, but equally there may well be some brighter interludes at times. A brisk northeasterly wind could make it feel distinctly cool," a Met Office spokeswoman said.
Aisling Creevey, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, said there was a danger the crowds could have to contend with stormy conditions.
"It is looking at the moment that there are going to be quite brisk north-easterly winds, showers and possibly a few rumblings of thunder -- that's sneaking into the charts at the moment," she said.
"We wouldn't rule out the odd lightning strike as well. At the moment we're waiting to see how much sunshine is going to come off that day. If there's more sunshine there's more of a risk of heavier showers."
Rain would also affect global TV coverage of an event expected to be watched by two billion people worldwide.
But if it does pour on the big day, the crowd will be treated to the sight of the couple leaving Westminster Abbey in a glass coach that William's mother Princess Diana used to travel to her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981.
If the weather is fine then they will use an open-top horse-drawn carriage.
Bad weather is unlikely to deter royal enthusiast John Loughrey, 56, who was the first to arrive at the Abbey late Monday to ensure a front-row spot for the wedding.
Equipped with only a sleeping bag and two carrier bags at the start of his four-day wait, he was dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Diana Would Be Proud" with pictures of Kate and William tied round his waist and a Union flag hat.
"I have always been loyal to the royal family," said the former chef from London, a self-confessed "super fan" of William's mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
"I think they are good for Britain and good for tourism. We have had them for more than 1,000 years and they make a great contribution to the life of this country."
But in a rare case of someone turning down an invitation to the wedding, the captain of Ireland's rugby union team, Brian O'Driscoll, said he had been invited but he had to stay at home to prepare for a big match for his club.
O'Driscoll said he would have to disappoint Prince William, a keen rugby fan and a "nice, chatty, normal guy", in order to prepare for Leinster's European Cup clash with French side Toulouse on Saturday.
"I have a captain's run on Friday and as big an honour as it was to be invited, I can't ask for team runs to be at half-six in the evening so I can go to the wedding," O'Driscoll told the Guardian newspaper.
"The team ethos comes first, even after 12 years."
© 2011 AFP