A quiet wedding for Edward and Sophie

After only a few hours the Union Jack flags had been marked down to half-price

PRINCE EDWARD always said he wanted a private wedding.Yesterday the British public seemed happy to grant him this wish. In Windsor town centre, crush barriers were plentiful but there was a notable lack of people interested in being crushed for the sake of a view of a television executive and a PR woman riding past in an open landau.

Local traders seemed convinced that the traffic and pedestrian restrictions would lose them more trade than they'd gain by the day's big events. But they'd hardly thrown themselves into that.

Souvenir-hunters went away empty handed. The Windsor gift shop - probably not a family business - had only one Edward and Sophie plate, a rather sad affair in pink, silver and grey. The proprietor said he'd been offered more, "but we all know what always happens to them".

Outside you could have picked up a balloon in red, white or blue. "Edward and Sophie Windsor 19 June 1999", it said on one side. On the other was the legend: "The Body Shop - Congratulations".

Or there were plastic union flags - pounds 1 at 10.30am when the queue was building steadily. By 1.30pm, when the first of the 8,000 members of the public with tickets were admitted into the precincts of Windsor Castle, you could have had two for the same price.

The moment of real excitement outside the castle came when rumours of impending anarchist attack spread around the grounds. This was obviously ludicrous. Everybody knows a decent bit of anarchy takes a lot of organisation.

Besides, anarchy is the kind of thing Windsor Castle was designed to deal with. A lot of the afternoon's guests felt themselves equally well- equipped: many appeared to be of the build of a rugby player.

Inside the castle walls, however, the mood was rather different. Here were thousands of people enthusiastic about the Royal Family - at least keen enough to put a stamp on an envelope and apply for tickets. They like heritage, history, tradition, pageantry, and all the things the New Labour government would like to modernise.

Who better to supply all that those monarchists love than the House of Windsor, brand leaders in Royalty for more than a century, as the media- management speak of the happy couple would have it?

This was supposed to be a Continental-style wedding, chiefly on account of its unusual timing. It seems to have been ideally suited to a particular continent - across the Atlantic.

But however we describe it, it was rather enjoyable for those who made it inside the castle gates. The fun really began as the last of the public collided with the first of the guests.

Most people on both sides had dressed up in honour of the occasion, and it was difficult to decide which was which. That extraordinary creature in the fuchsia negligee? Answer - public. The woman with a tree from a Doctor Seuss book on her head? Answer - a guest.

The guests arrived in white micro-buses from the park-and-ride, like OAPs on a sightseeing trip, which of course many of them were, though noticeably fewer of the wives were in any position to apply for a bus pass.

What a thrill this little trip must have been for the likes of Sir David Frost, who looked as if he hadn't been on a bus since decimalisation.

Meanwhile, the public clapped, cheered, laughed and passed judgement. Not in a cruel way, mind you. There was a sympathetic "Aaahh" when one unfortunate woman arrived in an identical frock to a woman in the previous coach. It was cream with red diamond motifs. Then a man in a waistcoat in similar material. Could these be leftover costumes from It's a Royal Knockout 1987?

Then on to the main course. The Royal Family rattled through nonstop. No opportunities here for sans culottes witticism. Although two women did groan, "Lilac!" when they saw the Queen's ensemble.

The Windsor boys then did the long walk down the hill to the chapel. Charles, with his uncomfortable gait, looked more than ever like a gentleman farmer of eccentric views and habits. Andrew was a man in a different mould - the helicopter hero he undoubtedly is.

Edward in the centre, between his two brothers, looked relaxed and dignified. You could tell he was the television presenter.

Sophie and her father arrived in the fastest-moving vehicle of the day, which must have greatly disappointed all the dress spies from Top Shop.

The bride looked remarkably blonde, under a net of icing sugar. Both spoke their vows flawlessly. Sophie was a little quiet - an excellent thing in a woman, especially one who vows to obey.

It really was a different royal wedding. Perhaps it will be a different royal marriage.

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