Tuesday 23 May 2017

Die-hard fans roll out sleeping bags as they settle in and wait

Raphael G Satter

New flags went up, cleaning crews scrubbed down, police checked for explosives and two die-hard fans were already camping out. Welcome to Westminster Abbey, ground zero for Britain's royal wedding frenzy.

Yesterday was the last day the abbey was open to the public before closing for wedding rehearsals and preparations today and tomorrow. Dozens of tourists milling around the building were asked to pause for a moment of reflection as a public prayer was offered for the upcoming royal marriage.

At a prime spot along the wedding procession route, John Loughrey, of London, a 56-year-old self-described "super-fan" of the late Princess Diana, was already camped out.

Wearing a shirt with Prince William and Kate Middleton's photo and the words: "Diana would be proud," Mr Loughrey predicted that Friday would "be a fabulous, fantastic day".

Guen Murray (76) had camped out for the 1981 royal wedding between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer and was ready to do so again for their son William. She staked a place outside the abbey with her two daughters at 8am.

Ms Murray said the wedding was important to her because she "grew up during the war and learned to respect the royal family".

Forecasters have predicted a windy, cloudy and possibly wet Friday morning, but Ms Murray didn't seem bothered. Asked what she will do if it rains, she replied: "Well, get wet."

Tourists

London has been bracing for a surge of visitors ahead of the wedding and yesterday those predictions were borne out as the Tower of London recorded its highest weekly number of visitors in 12 years.

London and Partners spokeswoman Jacqueline French said the city could expect some 600,000 tourists specifically there for the royal wedding.

Meanwhile, scores of police yesterday carefully examined the large temporary media structures that have gone up near the London abbey, which will offer standing room for thousands of journalists.

Scotland Yard's cavalry arm put its ceremonial division, known as the Grey Escort, through its paces ahead of the wedding, and the military geared up for an overnight dress rehearsal involving hundreds of service personnel expected to line the procession route.

Police plan to deploy around 5,000 officers to police the wedding procession.

Meanwhile, British bookmakers say they could see more than £1m (€1.12m) worth of wagers on the wedding.

"As a nonsports event that will be second to only our pope-betting in 2005," said Paddy Power spokesman Darren Haines, referring to the election that followed Pope John Paul II's death in 2005.

William Hill has bets out on whether Ms Middleton will get a kiss on the cheek or on the lips when the couple appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony, whether her father will cry as he walks her down the aisle, and whether Prince Harry will catch her bouquet.

Irish Independent

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