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11 May 2011

Eyewitness Views of William and Catherine's Royal Wedding














I had the tremendous pleasure to be in London during the week of William and Kate's wedding, soaking up the atmosphere and completing my research for my wip for NAL, ROYAL ROMANCES: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe, which features a chapter on the young royal couple. As I am currently in deadline Hades for three projects, this will be a largely pictorial post, but suffice it to say that the capital was in a holiday mood that week.




The first one to reserve a spot outside Westminster Abbey, this middle-aged man with a teddy bear and a working-class accdent, wore a homemade tee-shirt that read "Diana Would Be Proud"


Native pride was in full force, with Britons camping out days ahead of the April 29 wedding day in order to secure a premium vantage point of the procession, creating tent cities along the Mall and opposite Westminster Abbey. And of course visitors from across the globe joined them, gleefully displaying their nation's flags or sporting clever hats (a Wisconsinite wore her "cheesehead" chapeau) to denote their place of origin.



My husband and I rented an apartment back in November as soon as William and Kate announced their engagement. Who could have known then how felicitous our location would be. Of course we knew we were about a quarter mile from Buckingham Palace, but we were right around the corner from Beeston Place, the address of the Goring Hotel, which had been rented for the week by the Middletons for the bride's family and their guests. As the days went by, we saw floral displays as well as numerous hatboxes and garment bags go into the hotel, and security go from our being able to walk right by the hotel on Wednesday morning to a barricaded lockdown of the street by Thursday afternoon.




On Wednesday, we strolled by the palace, marveling at the media city that had been erected around the perimeter of the Victoria Momument. Sporting one of the hats I'd brought, I was stopped by an Italian television journalist and interviewed about the wedding.





She was surprised to have found an expert in royal history, since she'd chosen me because I was dressed up. When I gave her my card so that she'd have my name spelled correctly, she recognized it because I've had a lot of Italian translations of my books.




On Thursday we walked down to Westminster Abbey to take a gander at the budding tent cities. High above them was another media aerie, while journalists trolled the gawking crowds for stories. An entertainment journalist interviewed me on her cellphone. Afterwards I realized I probaby should have removed my sunglasses.




Friday morning we hit the streets at 6am, securing a spot on the Mall at 6:15 diagonally opposite Clarence House, the home of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (as well as Princes William and Harry). On Thursday evening, Harry had looked out the window at all the crowds, and moved by all the people so eager to be there for his brother's nuptials, suggested to William that they go outside and thank them. So William and Harry milled among the crowd. I guess the folks we'd seen stationed outside Clarence House wearing silly sunflower headdresses weren't so daffy after all; they captured the attention of the princes.



The mood on the street throughout the week, and particularly on the wedding day was simply magical. In my experience (standing on the Mall, with four people in front of me and several behind me), there was no rowdiness or drunkeness or rudeness despite long hours of waiting with nowhere to sit, unless you wanted to risk losing your place by seeking respite in St. James's Park. I described the mood later in interviews (I spoke to USAToday, the Wall Street Journal, and cbcradio [the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]) as the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade meets a Renaissance Festival -- on steroids. Inside the park, wooden vending stalls sold Champagne and Gin & Tonics, tapas, pizza, Belgian waffles, and crepes. And news reports had announced that 1200 Porta-potties had been imported from Wales.




Finally, about 4 hours after we arrived, the procession began. Even though we didn't see as much in person as people did watching on television from the comfort of their homes, the experience of being on the street amid half a million revelers was worth it because it was a sensation that cannot be captured or duplicated on TV. We heard the wedding ceremony on loudspeakers and sang along with the hymns, holding our souvenir programmes (proceeds from the sale of the programmes went to one of William's charities). "Jerusalem" choked me up, as it always does, and I have a hard time singing "God Save the Queen" without getting teary. My paternal grandmother's family was English, so not only am I rabid Anglophile, but a part of me feels like she's "my" queen, too.



After the vows were spoken, people all around us broke out bottles of Champagne and freely shared it, as long as there were paper cups or plastic goblets to be had. I made a new friend (an adorable Scotswoman named Cavell) and traded a signed copy of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES for great photos of the daffodil-yellow clad queen in her Bentley from a young woman who had a better view than I did (I'm still waiting for the pix).



Look closely and you can see the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the carriage


It took us nearly an hour to get from our position on the Mall to anywhere near the palace, yet people were surprisingly patient. We caught an oblique view of The Kiss, and were surprised that the military jets in the flyover swooped so low. Then it was back to the apartment to watch the wedding ceremony on television!


Did you wake up at dawn to watch the royal wedding? Did you catch up with the coverage later? Or was it all a big yawn to you?

6 Comments:

Blogger Evangeline Holland said...

Your post brought it all back! It's so odd, because I can't say I'm a "royal watcher" at all, but I was so excited to watch the wedding, and consider staying up until 6 am (PST) to see the entire ceremony well worth it!

1:51 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I was lucky enough to be in London when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer so I've had first hand experience of what the royal wedding hoopla is like. I arrived four weeks before the wedding and my host family who were a bunch of leftie anti-monarchists grumbled the entire time about the cost of the royal wedding and whether it was necessary, to my disappointment since I was full of royal wedding fever. Unfortunately all my pictures were destroyed when the tin shack where my father had put all my books on the lawn of our house upstate was destroyed during a particularly hard winter. I can still remember seeing Diana's dress in the window of a department store in Edinburgh the day after the wedding soon after we arrived.

So yes, there was no way that I was going to miss seeing William get married! I was up at 4 am sharp to watch all the arrivals until they arrived at the Palace. I arrived at my day job just in time to see the two kisses on the balcony. I came home that night and watched the CBS News coverage, Kathy Griffin's special and Fashion Police.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Oh, what fun! So nice to see your pics and stories from "the front". And cool is it that you got to be interviewed as an expert?!!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

It was quite an experience, though next time (Harry and Chelsy in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, perhaps?) I've decided that I'm either going as a fully paid expert or watching it on TV rather than standing on the street for 8 straight hours. My husband deserves martydom for being such a good sport -- for the entire trip, really. He's a true romantic, but the fanatacism of the crowds who arrived days in advance of the wedding to stake out a prime vantage point, or who decked themselves out in so much Union Jack regalia, as if they were attending a match for Windsor United, had him genuinely bemused.

It was interesting to see the British TV coverage when I went back to our rented apartment and then, when I got back home, to watch the CBS coverage (where Katie Couric kept mispronouncing Kate Middleton's hometown -- and I was surprised that no one tactfully corrected her during a commercial break). Still, the Brits were also all about what everyone was wearing and there was little other news reported all day.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Oh, Leslie, how I envy you! Thanks for sharing your royal wedding adventure with us. How wonderful it must have been to be there. I would have teared up as well. My father's ancestors on both sides immigrated to Pennsylvania from Wales in 1892. He had three Welsh grandparents and one English one. With a last name (my maiden name) like Bolton, how could I be anything but a devoted Anglophile!

7:37 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

What fun! Thanks for the great report, Leslie! I did get up to watch the wedding (at 1:00 am west coast time to start the coverage, then slept from about 5:30 am - 11:00 am). Definitely glad I did it.

12:15 AM  

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