Thursday 22 February 2018

'You look stunning, babe,' he whispered

With a lingering kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Prince William introduced his "stunning" new bride, and the future of the royal family, to the waiting world yesterday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as we now know them, treated ecstatic crowds thronging the Mall to a perfect moment on a day when everything went without a hitch.

Kate Middleton, as she had been only 90 minutes earlier, kissed her prince twice, by popular demand, as they were kept on the balcony for seven minutes by a public that didn't want to let them go.

The prince had earlier put into words what the whole nation was thinking when he told her: "You look stunning, babe."

In a breathtaking lace and satin bridal gown and a Cartier tiara borrowed from Queen Elizabeth, Ms Middleton looked like a woman fulfilling her destiny, full of poise and polish after a word-perfect wedding ceremony.

Prince William, resplendent in the red tunic of the Irish Guards, was a picture of joy mixed with relief as he led his bride by the hand back inside the palace.

On a day that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, up to one million people lined the streets of London. Many of whom had spent days camping on the streets to ensure they had the best view of the procession. Around the world, an estimated two billion people were following the service on television.

They watched, spellbound, as Ms Middleton, who had woken up a commoner, was transformed into the future queen of England. Wearing a classic design by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, Ms Middleton drew gasps from the crowds as she arrived at Westminster Abbey just one minute late to reveal her ivory dress and 10ft train.

Her bridal gown resonated with tradition. It was made from hand-cut Chantilly lace, stitched together using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique of Co Monaghan by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace, with intricate flowers, including roses and daffodils.

The bride's diamond tiara, the Russian fringe, had previously been worn by the Queen Mother and Princess Anne, while her shield-shaped bouquet included Sweet Williams, in tribute to her husband, with myrtle, lily-of-the-valley and hyacinth.

By tradition, the myrtle came from a bush planted by Queen Victoria at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, in 1845, and contained a sprig from a plant grown from the myrtle used in Queen Elizabeth's wedding bouquet in 1947.

It was an ensemble that offered something for everyone: something old in the Carrickmacross lace-making technique; something new in the diamond-set, oak leaf ear-rings, which were a gift from her parents; something borrowed in the form of her tiara; and something blue in a small, blue ribbon sewn into her dress.

Before the ceremony had even begun, the queen had given the couple their first wedding gift by bestowing on Prince William the title of Duke of Cambridge, meaning Ms Middleton would be HRH the Duchess of Cambridge from the moment the Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced them man and wife.

The day began with the most cosmopolitan congregation ever assembled for a royal wedding filtering through Westminster Abbey -- the Middleton family's local newsagent rubbing shoulders with pop stars, sportsmen, war heroes and even the odd prime minister or two.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, opted to wear tails despite initially indicating that he would wear a lounge suit. His wife, Samantha, wore a teal dress with a simple flower decoration in her hair. Mr Cameron said the wedding demonstrated the "best of Britain".

"It's not just about the handsome prince and the beautiful princess," he said. "It is about the monarchy and the public service they have given us over the years."

David Beckham, the former England footballer, wore a bespoke Ralph Lauren suit, and his wife Victoria, the pop star turned fashion designer, chose a midnight blue suit from her own collection, accessorised with a hat by Philip Treacy, the celebrated milliner.

Singer Elton John and his partner David Furnish became the first civil partners to attend a royal wedding.

We had always been told that this would be very much the couple's own day, rather than a state occasion, and the evidence was there for all to see. Personal friends of the bride and groom, including the housemates who watched their love blossom at St Andrew's University, were there in their hundreds.

Then, at 10.18am, came the groom himself, wearing the bright red dress uniform and blue sash of his position as colonel of the Irish Guards, bestowed on him by the queen in February.

How the souvenir sellers must have rubbed their hands with delight at the thought of postcards of the prince looking like every tourist's dream of a Buckingham Palace guard.

As he and his brother, Prince Harry, stepped out of the chauffeur-driven Bentley, they took a moment to wave to the crowds, drawing an ecstatic response. Prince Harry turned to his brother and asked him: "Are you OK?" before they went inside. The groom, whose comments were picked up by a lip reader, replied: "Yes, it looks fantastic, it's beautiful."

If he had any pre-wedding nerves, the only sign was a quick, self-conscious check of his hair and a slight tug on his collar before he walked down the aisle, smiling and joking with family and friends for five minutes, and reassuring them: "I am very calm, very relaxed," and telling one female friend: "You look beautiful."

The prince then retreated to the sanctuary of the Chapel of St Edmund for a final 35 minutes to gather his thoughts.

Next to arrive was Carole Middleton, the mother of the bride, wearing a sky blue, wool crepe coatdress over a matching silk day dress.

The queen wore an exquisite primrose dress to mark the occasion, while the Duchess of Cornwall opted for a champagne silk ensemble by Anna Valentine, who also designed her wedding dress.

Half a mile across town, Ms Middleton was only just emerging from the Goring Hotel, coming out at 10.51am and teasing the banks of photographers gathered there with the merest hint of silk and lace as she ducked into the waiting Rolls-Royce Phantom VI.

Nine minutes later, the most anticipated dress for 30 years was finally revealed to the world as she stepped onto the red carpet outside Westminster Abbey to wild cheers from crowds.

She was greeted by her sister and maid of honour Philippa Middleton, who herself looked stunning in an ivory satin crepe train, also created by Sarah Burton.

All eyes, however, were on Ms Middleton, whose beautiful dress was reminiscent of Grace Kelly's 1956 wedding dress.

After a brief pause, Ms Middleton's father Michael held her by the arm for the three-minute walk into history.

As she made her way down the aisle in the footsteps of 15 other royal brides dating back to Princess Matilda of Scotland in 1100, Ms Middleton smiled nervously, looking humbled by the extraordinary surroundings as she passed the congregation of 1,900 friends, relatives, dignitaries and celebrities.

And while necks had been craning to see David Beckham and Elton John before the service began, as soon as Ms Middleton made her entrance there was only one true A-lister in Westminster Abbey.

Irish Independent Supplement

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