William and Kate in biggest royal wedding for 30 years

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince William and Kate Middleton marry Friday in Britain's biggest royal wedding for 30 years, watched by more than a million spectators in London and two billion global TV viewers.

Thousands of people spent a chilly night outdoors to secure a front-row view of a day rich in royal pageantry, as Britain hosted its biggest party since the late princess Diana married William's father Prince Charles in 1981.

Diana's absence will be keenly felt throughout the day. Under a black and white front-page photograph of William and Kate and a smaller photograph of the late princess, the headline in The Sun newspaper said: "Mum would be so proud".

More than 5,000 police will be on duty in the capital as crowds line the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.

As the sun rose, the skies over the abbey were cloudy but the weather was dry although rain showers are forecast later in the day.

A third of the world's population is expected to watch Diana's eldest son wed the commoner he began dating at St Andrews university in Scotland eight years ago.

Thousands of campers had transformed The Mall, the wide boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, into a sea of Union Jack flags as they prepared to cheer on the newlyweds.

Sam Harbury, 27, an Australian who lives in London, had secured a prime spot in front of the abbey.

"We should be able to see the parade and the royal kiss from here. I can tell my friends in Australia I was here," he said.

Isabel Minguez, an 18-year-old student from Madrid, said it was the event of a lifetime.

"I might never have another opportunity to see such a thing," she said as she took a seat outside Westminster Abbey.

William, wearing a scarlet military tunic, is due to arrive at the abbey at 0915 GMT.

The first glimpse the world will have of 29-year-old Kate, and her dress, will be at precisely 0951 GMT when she emerges from the exclusive hotel where she spent the night and climbs into a Rolls-Royce to head to the abbey.

The service is due to begin at 1000 GMT, although it is the right of British brides to be several minutes late.

Some 1,900 guests including 40 members of the royal family, dozens of foreign royals and celebrites including footballer David Beckham, singer Elton John and "Mr Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson will crowd into the ancient abbey.

In a diplomatic row that threatened to overshadow the good mood, Britain abruptly withdrew the Syrian ambassador's invitation, saying the regime's crackdown on protesters made it unacceptable for him to attend.

The Order of Service reveals that Kate will not promise to obey her husband in her marriage vows -- following in the footsteps of Diana, who married William's father Prince Charles on July 29, 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral.

Charles and Diana divorced 15 years later and she died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

William received a welcome worthy of a rock star when he made an impromptu appearance on The Mall on Friday evening before a meal with his brother and best man Prince Harry, their father and his second wife Camilla.

The 28-year-old prince was heard telling wellwishers: "All I've got to do is get the lines right".

After the service, the newlyweds will travel in a horse-drawn open carriage from the abbey to Buckingham Palace where the couple will follow tradition by appearing on the balcony with the rest of the royal family and kissing.

Kate's dress has been a tightly-guarded secret, but a woman thought to be Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton was seen entering the Goring Hotel where the bride was staying.

More than 8,500 journalists and technical staff are covering the wedding for a global audience.

And the world will join in the party. New York's iconic Empire State Building will be illuminated in blue, white and red in honor of the royal couple.

© 2011 AFP

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