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.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Holiday Homes - £100,000 OTE

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + £100,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: Birmingham, Derby, L...

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game