Anne marries on a sombre Highland day

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THE Princess Royal was yesterday married in private at a privatised occasion in a small Scottish church.

On a subdued day, she exchanged vows with Commander Tim Laurence, of the Royal Navy, in a ritual planned surreptitiously, obscured by Highland pines and consecrated granite, and sparsely attended by witnesses who included the Queen.

In contrast to the great state occasion of the Princess's first marriage in Westminster Abbey, when the BBC sent pictures around the world, the Royal Family contracted out pictorial coverage of yesterday's wedding.

Television companies and photographers were excluded from the church and film was shot by Bonham-Carter Associates. At the last minute the company dropped a plan to charge television companies pounds 4,500 each for the film. However, national newspapers had to rely for official family photographs on Rex Features photo agency, at pounds 750 for a set of three pictures. Usually such photographs are distributed by the Press Association as part of its normal service.

Outside Crathie, the small hilltop church overlooking Balmoral estate, commoners gathered in their few hundreds and cheered as the Princess Royal and Commander Laurence emerged and made their way by Land Rover into the dark gardens of Balmoral Castle across the road.

Fifteen imitation Victorian street lamps, costing about pounds 4,000, had been installed by Grampian regional council to illuminate the route taken by the royal party.

The wedding, a festive flicker in the margins of an institution which is in serious trouble, was a far cry from the pomp which had attended previous royal marriages, animating and sustaining the British people. Police were out in great force to control sightseers and an even greater number of reporters and photographers.

No poet laureate was there to lilt about 'vows', 'love knots', or 'screams stuck in the wall', as Ted Hughes had done in 'Lovesong' for the Duke of York's marriage.

But the loyalty the public is capable of demonstrating was still in evidence. It was visible in the large Union flag flown from a car in the car park opposite the church. And it was audible in the hum of a hand-drying machine in the car park's lavatories where a man, who had spent the entire previous night there, tried to thaw out his frozen hands.

Elderly women and men with flasks of tea took up position on the roadside facing the church. It may have been the intense cold, but one detected among them another kind of numbness: their beloved monarchy suddenly seemed less granite-like.

The marriage ceremony, attended by the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh and the princes Charles, Andrew and Edward, was performed by the Reverend Keith Angus, an elderly minister who normally spends his Saturdays hunting and shooting in his gaiters.

The Princess Royal wore a simple cream suit, small brimless hat, and carried a bunch of white heather. Commander Laurence wore his naval uniform.

Her two children from her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips - Peter and Zara - attended her. But the estranged wives of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew were absent.

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(Photograph omitted)