Huge crowds share in royal wedding joy
For those with the best of views the rough equation was seven hours for seven seconds. But, they all agreed, it was worth it.
A glimpse, a wave and a free front row seat with a million people and two billion more watching they saw on television.
The British Royal family now only rules the airwaves – but they still know how to do pageantry.
Those at the front were a diverse bunch. Jill Brierley had won a trip from New Zealand with her 19-year-old granddaughter Shylock who had just finished a course of chemotherapy.
Adam, Matt, Ryan and Bethan had decided to come down at two am after they were thrown out of a bar in Colindale, North London. At 5.30am, they were surrounded on The Mall by a sea of red, white and blue and their hangovers were kicking in.
A little further along and Jacqueline Davies, 85, was sitting in her wheelchair, covered in a blanket and wearing a rather fetching £2 silver tiara. Nearly sixty years ago she had camped out on the Mall for the coronation. She is the same age as the Queen, got married in the same year, witnessed Charles and Diana's wedding and wouldn't have missed this for the world.
Mind you, Kate and William were not her favorite Royals. That honour goes to Princess Anne (she works the hardest).
Shortly after dawn and the pavements around The Mall resembled an early morning scene from a (very diverse) music festival.
The bleary eyed die-hards were emerging from their front row tents and heading for the Portaloos (still clean at that stage). The only rule was this: someone had to stay behind to guard the spot from the 6am jonnie-come-latelys.
"I tell you what: If you're camping out for a royal wedding don't get your sleeping bag from Argos," said 22 year old Seb Bradley as he packed up his tent. “They’re rubbish and I'm freezing.”
Sleep was also a problem for brothers Benedict, 10, Francis 7 Maxie, 6, and three year old Alexander Rogers. The night before they had been put to bed in Woking - only to be woken again at eleven pm when their mother and grandmother decided on the spur of the moment to put them all in the car and drive to London. They spent the rest of the night in sleeping bags on the pavement and at 6.30 looked rather non-plussed by the whole affair.
"I don't think they really know where they are," said their mum Margaret. “But we were watching the news and thought - let's just go. It'll be something to remember when they're older."
Others had come from further afield.
Shirley Johnson, 59, had flown in from Edmonton in Canada - a present from her husband.
But his generosity did not extend to camping out in The Mall. He had left his wife (wrapped in a Wills and Kate flag to keep her warm) to save their spot directly behind the barriers.
"He's asleep in the hotel,” she said, before pausing and adding: “In a warm king sized bed."
Down in Westminster, Kathleen Trigg was among those who had claimed the day’s prime location, directly opposite the Abbey forecourt – but even after camping out on the street for three nights it had been a fight to keep her place.
“I was having a scream up until two this morning,” said the mother from Wimbledon. “But then it got very tense. Some newcomers turned up, and people started bickering and pushing and shoving to get to the front.”
The mood was not helped when the police asked people who had camped on a side street overnight to clear the road and move onto the pavement, forcing them to lose their highly guarded viewing places. A thin stream of disgruntled royalist refugees trooped past in their pyjamas, looking for a replacement spot, but the remaining spaces were quickly filling up.
For all it was a long, cold wait.
As six, tuned to seven, turned to eight more and more people flooded into the prime viewing locations. By ten it was too late – the only vantage spots left just had views of the tops of cars amid the waving union jacks. An enterprising company was handing out cardboard periscopes to those at the back on the ten-deep crowd. They were better than nothing but gave a rather surreal and distorted picture of the pageantry going on behind the crash barriers.
In the event you heard the action long before you saw it. As the Royal cars made there way along The Mall a huge cheer would ripple along the road then fall silent until the next limousine arrived. Kate’s car got the loudest cheer as the crowd craned their necks in union to get the first glimpse of ‘that dress’.
When the service started live audio coverage was played from speakers along the route. With no sight of what was going on inside the Abbey, people simply stood listening, smiling, holding hands. “I will” drew a huge cheer as did the pronouncement of man and wife. One woman wiped away a tear from her eye.
Then it was over and the real business of the day began. People jostled for position (and some tempers frayed) as the crowd waited for the carriage procession to make its way back to Buckingham Palace.
First came the ceremonial horse guards and then at a decent trot (slightly too decent a trot for the liking of some in the crowd) the 1902 State Landau carrying the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Within seconds it was over. A glimpse, a wave and, for many, a moment captured on one of the sea of phones and cameras held aloft with the flags above the crowd.
Some had seen it better than others. Angela Cavill – who had been to both Charles and Andrew’s wedding before – unfortunately found herself near the West door of Abbey nowhere near where the procession actually passed.
“All I saw was a couple of cars and a horse,” she said rather mournfully. “I enjoyed the atmosphere but it was a bit of a shame not to see more.”
Others, who missed out on getting close to Buckingham palace for ‘THE KISS’, made their own theatre. One couple is Will n’ Kate masks snogged happily for the cameras of fellow revelers while others made do with getting their photos taken with Michael Portillo who ended up doing his own rather bizarre ‘walk about’ down The Mall.
But then Freddie Durham, his face painted with a Union Jack, had had a ring-side view.
“It was genuinely exciting – an extraordinary spectacle,” said the 18-year-old. “I saw it all. I felt like I was there as history was being made.
Then, realising that he might be sounding slightly un-cool, he added: “I know it sounds lame. But it’s a royal wedding and I loved it.”
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