Then came the event everyone was waiting for -- the balcony kiss
Published 30/04/2011 | 05:00
The service was about a young man and young woman declaring their undying love for each other caption in here
From Ms Middleton's village postman to the Sultan of Brunei, all were equal members of the same congregation, come to bear witness to the marriage of a woman to whom almost all would have to bow or curtsy when they saw her making the return journey.
Prince William and Prince Harry were the last to see Ms Middleton in her bridal gown, as they stood at the altar with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. "You look stunning babe ... just beautiful," William whispered.
He even had time for a joke, as he leaned over to Ms Middleton's father Michael and said conspiratorially: "Just a small family affair!"
Having achieved the daunting task of keeping her composure throughout the 100ft walk, with a mere two billion people scrutinising her every facial twitch, Ms Middleton steadied herself for the most nerve-wracking part of any marriage service: the vows.
Few, if any, of the congregation could have failed to wonder if she would repeat Diana, Princess of Wales', famous slip-up, when she repeated the Prince of Wales' Christian names in the wrong order. No doubt exactly the same thought had gone through Ms Middleton's mind countless times since her engagement was announced last November.
Never fear. Staring resolutely into her husband's eyes, she delivered her vows with quiet determination. Her voice sounded tiny in the cavernous Westminster Abbey but there could be no doubting the weight of her words.
As expected, she did not promise to "obey" her husband, following instead the precedent set by Diana, who promised only to "love, comfort, honour and keep" her husband. Prince William, meanwhile, delivered his vows with a clear, steady voice, which only cracked slightly as he said his initial "I will".
Each of their promises to one another was greeted by cheers from the crowds listening to the service on loudspeakers outside, which were clearly audible to the congregation.
Having got their vows word-perfect, however, the couple experienced an unexpected hitch as the prince struggled to get the wedding ring on his bride's finger, rucking up the skin on her knuckle before finally managing to push the Welsh gold band home.
Eight years after their first kiss, Kate Middleton, finally, became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. The Archbishop of Canterbury completed the ceremony by joining their right hands together with the words: "Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder".
The couple wrote their own prayer, which was read by the Right Rev Richard Charters, Lord Bishop of London, during his sermon. Despite the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, the prayer reflected the couple's grounded and modest nature.
"God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.
"In the busyness of each day, keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
"Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen."
Then, in the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor, behind the altar, the couple escaped the glare of the TV cameras for the only time in the ceremony as they signed the marriage register in private, with their witnesses, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, Philippa Middleton and the bride's parents Michael and Carole.
If the Duchess of Cambridge needed to be jolted into the reality of her new place in the world, this was the place to do it. As she signed her name, the tombs of Edward I, Henry V, Richard II and Edward III and their queens looked down on her in the most holy part of the abbey, the shrine of a medieval saint.
This was a service full of pomp and pageantry, of course, but with no shortage of unashamed, old-fashioned romance. While the strains of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Delius filled the nave of the abbey, and trumpeters played fanfares written for the occasion, no one watching in the abbey or on television had any reason to forget that at its centre, the service was about a young man and a young woman declaring their undying love for each other.
With the registers signed, the royal family returned from the shrine of St Edward to their seats. The couple lingered in the chapel a moment longer, relishing their brief moment alone with Prince Harry and the maid of honour, before emerging to a rapturous fanfare.
Ms Middleton, by now looking ever more assured, curtsied to the queen before she and her new husband walked down the aisle, hand in hand.
How much easier the walk back must have been, knowing the worst was over and that she had, for now at least, done her duty.
For the first time, the bride and groom could begin to relax, to enjoy the spectacle and the perfume of the strikingly beautiful English blooms and saplings lining their route. Ms Middleton now appeared to be brimming with joy, while her new husband was grinning sheepishly.
As they stepped through the gates of Westminster Abbey into the spring sunshine, the peals of the bells were drowned out by cheers.
The immense weight of royal customs, and their immovable rigidity, was at its height as the couple prepared for the carriage ride to Buckingham Palace.
Prince Harry had made it clear in a recent interview that his brother would have preferred a quiet wedding, away from the pomp and ceremony; instead, duty had required him to spend the happiest day of his life at the building in which he spent the worst day of his life, for the funeral of his mother 14 years ago.
Then, as he stepped up into the carriage, he sat in the same seat his mother occupied on her own wedding day.
Royal aides have said in the past that the prince feels close to Diana when he is in the abbey, so if he felt at all overwhelmed by the responsibility he now faces, such an immediate connection to his mother can only have been a source of comfort.
London Mayor Boris Johnston captured the atmosphere inside the abbey. "It was brilliant, a primeval moment in the life of the nation," he said.
"It was not just a young couple getting married, you see the continuity of the country. They were getting married in the very spot where William I was crowned and almost 1,000 years later Prince William gets his princess.
"This is a genuine love match between two young people who have known each other a long time and people are happy and confident because it seems to have every prospect of success."
Now, for the first time, the crowds lining Whitehall and the Mall -- some of whom had camped out since Monday night to secure a prime spot -- got what they had come to see: the newlyweds, whose royal waves contained not a hint of self-consciousness. The couple looked exhilarated, craning their necks they took in wave after wave of goodwill from the tens of thousands of royal well-wishers
"Oh my gosh, so many people," said the prince, seemingly taken aback by the joyous reception. Prince Harry, riding in an open carriage behind them, encouraged the page girls and boys to "go on and wave".
As the carriage drew into the quadrangle of Buckingham Palace, the cheering of the crowds could still be heard. In a tender moment, Prince William helped his bride alight from the carriage, holding her bouquet as she stepped onto the ground.
For many of those who had made their way to London, however, the main event was still to come. Tens of thousands of people bearing Union Jack flags surged down the Mall in readiness for the balcony scene.
At precisely 1.26pm, the familiar glass doors of the central balcony of Buckingham Palace opened, the royal party made its way out and, after another wave, came the event the world had been waiting for -- the kiss.
Ms Middleton was taken aback by the sight that met her eyes as she stepped forward, saying: "Oh wow!" and: "This is amazing." Then she teased the prince by making him wait, as he said to her: "Go on, a little kiss. Go on."
The prince kissed his bride on the lips, but the crowd on the ground below still were not satisfied. As they chanted: "Kiss her again" the prince joked: "Shall we do another kiss? One more kiss? One more, come on!" and Ms Middleton willingly succumbed, this time with a more lingering embrace for the cameras.
There was none of the stiffness Prince William's father had displayed when he had tried to resist the Duke of York's entreaties to kiss his own bride in 1981. Back then, the Prince of Wales managed little more than a peck on the lips, which was over in the click of a finger.
It only remained for the prince, his bride and their families to enjoy a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and four RAF fighter jets before they could go inside the palace for a wedding breakfast with 650 guests.
But once the bride and groom had gone back inside, there was no encore, unlike the scenes 30 years ago when the Prince and Princess of Wales came out on the balcony three times.
As Prince William turned to the crowd, he told them: "That's it, no more!" (© The Daily Telegraph, London)
Irish Independent Supplement