Saturday, April 30, 2011
Prince William, Kate Middleton make it official at Westminster Abbey
Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, wed his university sweetheart Catherine Middleton this morning before 1,900 guests in the soaring nave of
Abbey. Billions tuned in to the nuptials online and on television, and tens of thousands of Union Jack-waving Brits and tourists thronged the processional route though central Westminster . London
The hour-long ceremony capped weeks of near-blanket press coverage in which every possible permutation of dress, decor and diplomacy has been debated breathlessly -- Catherine Walker or Alexander McQueen? Chignon or blow-out? Freesias or lillies of the valley? Disinvite the Syrian ambassador or not? (They did.)
It's a day that many royal-watchers anticipated with a zeal that bordered on fanatical: There is apparently a market for royal wedding nail decals, knit-your-own Wills and Kate dolls, and even a commemorative refrigerator splashed with the toothy grins of the lucky couple (talk about a diet aid).
It's also a day that some believed would never come for the poised, patient Middleton, saddled with "Waity Katie" by the British press for the couple's lengthy courtship.
Much has been made of Middleton's "commoner" background -- she was raised in the Berkshire
by a one-time pilot and a former flight attendant who later made millions from a mail-order toy and party good company. But unlike Prince Charles' brief courtship of Lady Diana Spencer, William and Middleton's union appears to a long-considered match of hearts and minds, with the 29-year-old bride, having absorbed Diana's triumphs and tragedies, fully, perhaps painfully, aware of what her village of Buckleberry
new role will entail.
In honor of the marriage, Queen Elizabeth bestowed upon her grandson and heir the title of Duke of
In contrast to Diana's over-the-top profusion of sleeves and skirt at her 1981 nuptials, Middleton opted for romantic but restrained elegance in a nipped-waist ivory and white satin gazar gown with a relatively modest cathedral-length train by Sarah Burtonfor Alexander McQueen, the British avant garde designer who committed suicide last year. Middleton likely set a legion of lace manufacturers' hearts aflutter with the long-sleeved V-neck overlay; roses, thistles, daffodils and shamrocks were hand-cut from the lace and appliqued onto ivory silk tulle. (David's Bridal, the American discount bridal dress chain, shot out a press release hawking a similar pick from its collection less than 90 minutes after Middleton's first appearance.)
The Queen lent Middleton her own 1936 Cartier tiara, and Middleton wore diamand-set oak leaf earrings with a pear-shaped diamond drop and diamond acorn given to her by her parents, and carried a simple bouquet of lily-of-the-valley, sweet William, hyacinth and myrtle, including a spring from a plant grown from the myrtle used in Elizabeth's 1947 wedding bouquet.
British prime minister David Cameronrecalled sleeping along the processional route for Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981. "I suppose like many people my age (I) have watched Prince William grow up and all the challenges he's had -- obviously losing his mother, but now finding love and wanting to get married," he told Sky News. "Like anyone who's lived in
, you feel quite an attachment to this event and that's why I think the whole country's getting so excited about it." Britain
William met Middleton, six months his senior, during their first year at St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland, where they both studied art history. In their first interview following their engagement, Middleton admitted that upon meeting the prince for the first time, she "went bright red and scuttled off, feeling very shy." (She also denied that as a girl, she had a photo of the prince taped her bedroom wall. "I had the Levi's guy, not a picture of William, sorry," she said in the ITV interview. William: "It was me in Levi's, obviously.")
Later the two shared a house with other friends, but their romantic relationship didn't come to light until 2004, in their final year at university. It's unclear when they first started dating, although William's interest was reportedly piqued in 2002, when Middleton modeled a gossamer lace dress over a black bra and bikini bottoms in a charity fashion show. (The dress recently sold at auction for more than $125,000.)
While William underwent military training outside
, Middleton briefly worked as an accessories buyer at the British clothing chain Jigsaw, then went to work for her parents' party supply business. She endured the crush of paparazzi and the sniffs of the upper crust -- Middleton, whose ancestors include lawyers, butchers, domestic servants and coal miners, is the first non-aristocrat to marry a royal so close to occupying the throne since the 17th century. London
In fact, the press tagged Middleton and her younger sister Pippa, who served as her maid of honor, with the insulting nickname the Wisteria Sisters: "highly decorative, terribly fragrant and with a ferocious ability to climb."
William and Middleton weathered a brief split in 2007. According to Claudia Joseph's biography "Kate: The Making of a Princess," William, then 24, felt pressured to commit. He reportedly celebrated the split by dropping nearly $5,000 on drinks at a
nightclub, where he shouted "I'm free" and performed the signature victory dance of a favorite footballer -- the robot. London
Middletown, meanwhile, played it cool, and within three months they had reunited, making their first appearance since the split at the Concert for Diana, organized by William and Prince Harry for the 10th anniversary of their mother's death.
In contrast to his parents -- Diana claimed that she and Charles only met 13 times before their marriage -- William and Middleton certainly took their time getting to the altar, so much so that Charles, upon learning of the engagement, quipped, "They've been practicing long enough."
In the ITV interview, William said their long history as friends gave them a solid foundation for the future. "I knew over the years, I knew that things were getting better and better, and we went through a few stumbling blocks as every relationship does, but we picked ourselves up and carried on."
They had planning on getting married for at least a year before announcing the engagement in November, but William did surprise Middleton when he presented her with his mother's sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring during a vacation in Kenya in October. Giving her that iconic ring was "my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement," William said.
On Thursday night, Middleton stayed at an $8,000-a-night suite at the five-star Goring Hotel, then arrived at Westminster Abbey shortly before 11 a.m. GST, walking down the aisle on the arm of her father to the choral work "I Was Glad," composed for the 1902 coronation of William's great-great-great grandfather Edward VII at Westminster Abbey.
The couple sidestepped at least some memories of Charles and Diana's ill-fated match by choosing to wed at
Westminster instead of 's Cathedral. The 1,000-year-old abbey is where then-Princess St. Paul married Prince Philip in 1947, and where a 4-year-old William served as a pageboy for Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's wedding in 1986. (A TV wedding commentator noted that William, in a sailor suit and bowler, appeared "rather doubtful and rather cross.") Elizabeth
Today William wore the scarlet-jacketed, blue-sashed uniform of a colonel of the Irish Guards, while
sported a butter-yellow suit and hat, both by Angela Kelly, her personal dresser. The millinery spotted on the couple's nearest and dearests were not the for faint-hearted. Elizabeth
The guest list ranged from British aristocrats and crowned heads to pop star Elton John and power couple David and Victoria Beckham to the couple's respective former flames, pals from university and colleagues from the Royal Air Force and William's philanthropic efforts, including the splendidly named Barty Pleydell-Bouverie, who raises money for African wildlife conservation efforts.
The 28-page program included a note from the couple: "The affection shown to us by so many people during our engagement has been incredibly moving, and has touched us both deeply. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone most sincerely for their kindness."
Despite the grand proportions of the abbey and the pomp the circumstances dictated, the ceremony was surprisingly intimate, with the couple flanked by their immediate families just before the abbey's altar. The couple composed their own brief prayer that read in part: "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."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, married the couple, and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in his sermon attempted to make more universal this singular celebration, noting "In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future."
Middleton, like Diana, did not promise to obey her husband, instead vowing to "love, comfort, honor and keep" him.
The threatened drizzle did not materialize, so the couple didn't disappoint those who staked out positions along processional under clouds of confetti. They left Westminster in an open-air 1902 State Landau, crossing Parliament Square and riding along Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall before heading into Buckingham Palace, where they greeted the crowed from teh balcony and exchange two quick kisses. Queen Elizabeth hosted a reception for 600 guests at the palace, and later Charles was scheduled to fete the couple with a private dinner and dancing, although rumors that Beyoncé would turn up to belt "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" were denied by the singer on Thursday. After all, Middleton is Waity Katie no more.