Britain prepares for biggest royal wedding since Diana

Hundreds of members of the military took part Wednesday in a pre-dawn rehearsal for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, as Britain readied itself for the biggest royal event for 30 years.

Two billion people are expected to watch live on television and the Internet to see the eldest son of Princess Diana and his commoner bride tie the knot on Friday after a romance that began at university in Scotland eight years ago.

Up to 1,000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, wearing ceremonial uniform and around 160 of them on horseback, took part in a pre-dawn rehearsal Wednesday, lining the procession route the newlyweds will take.

It will be followed by musical rehearsal involving military bands, the orchestra and the two choirs that will sing at Westminster Abbey during the ceremony, and a run-through for the broadcasters and clergy on Thursday.

Rain is set to fall on the big day but that is unlikely to dissuade hundreds of thousands of revellers from cramming into London, with the first die-hard royal fans camping out in front of the Abbey since Monday.

Around 1,900 guests including foreign royals, politicians and celebrities including Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham and Rowan Atkinson have accepted invitations to attend the exclusive ceremony.

British police have launched a massive security operation involving some 5,000 officers, including armed protection specialists, and warned that they will "robustly" deal with any protests during the wedding.

The excitement around the ceremony partly reflects the public's enduring fascination with Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and whose emotional funeral was held at Westminster Abbey.

William, the 28-year-old second-in-line to the throne who works as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, proposed last year to Kate, 29, the daughter of self-made millionaires, using Diana's engagement ring.

But it is also the grandest royal wedding since blushing bride Diana tied the knot with William's father Prince Charles - the heir to Queen Elizabeth II - on July 29, 1981.

The couple divorced in 1996 after revelations of extra-marital affairs.

Friday's ceremony will aim to bring events full circle more happily.

"William and Catherine, as they will be known, are saying 'we are the future of the British monarchy and we are going to be a success,'" royal expert Robert Jobson told AFP.

The couple have personally overseen "every detail" of their "exquisitely beautiful" wedding day, said St James's Palace, William's official residence.

The service will be attended by some 40 monarchs, although the Crown Prince of Bahrain cancelled because he said he did not want unrest in the Gulf kingdom to detract from William and Kate's happiness.

Kate will drive from her hotel to Westminster Abbey in the Rolls Royce that was damaged when protesters demonstrating against government cuts targeted Charles and his second wife Camilla in December.

William will have a nerve-wracking 45-minute wait there until the wedding starts at 1000 GMT.

Afterwards the newlyweds will lead a procession to Buckingham Palace, travelling in a horse-drawn carriage past landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and the Mall, accompanied by soldiers on horseback.

Forecasters have predicted rain, and if the heavens open the couple will travel in the glass coach that Diana used on the way to her own wedding.

Some 650 guests have been invited to the reception at the palace, while the hottest ticket in town will be a dinner-dance hosted by Prince Charles for a lucky 300 or so people.

Thousands of street parties are planned, including in Middleton's home village of Bucklebury in southeast England, while the British government has declared a public holiday and pubs are allowed to stay open late.

In a sign of the couple's status as the first royals of the Facebook generation, the wedding will also be streamed live on YouTube while royal officials will post blog and Twitter updates.

Police said they have no intelligence of specific security threats but said they would not tolerate a planned protest by a hardline Muslim group opposed to Britain's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As part of the security measures, key details about William and Kate's big day remain shrouded in mystery.

The wedding dress has prompted acres of media speculation, while there is no news on what titles the couple will take - or whether the newlyweds will emulate Charles and Diana and kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon have just launched their new streaming service in the UK
Donald Trump
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager (FP&A) - Surrey - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful leisure company is seek...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionist, Bar and Waiter / Waitress & Housekeeping

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The positions above are available either part ...

    Guru Careers: Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager

    £25K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager ...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food