Rain threatens to dampen Britain's royal wedding

The world's first glimpse of Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William on Friday could be under an umbrella after forecasters said it may rain and even thunder on the big day.

But the grim prediction failed to dissuade devoted fans of Britain's royal family who have already begun camping out in front of Westminster Abbey for Britain's biggest wedding in 30 years.

As final preparations were under way on Tuesday, British police vowed "robust" action against planned Muslim protests but said they had no specific intelligence about any security threat.

Scotland Yard said more than 5,000 police, including specialist protection and firearms officers, would be on duty for the ceremony, while military personnel would also line the processional route.

"In London we operate on a daily basis against a backdrop of a severe threat from international terrorism, and of course we have planned to this threat level for this event," said Commander Christine Jones, one of the officers leading the massive security operation.

London has suffered previous terror attacks like the suicide bombings on the transport system on July 7, 2005, in which 52 people were killed, while in Northern Ireland there has also been a recent surge in dissident violence.

Meanwhile, after an unseasonably warm Easter break, forecasters warned rain was highly likely and conditions will be much cooler for the big day, spelling bad news for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to gather.

"In London there is a risk of some showery rain, but equally there may well be some brighter interludes at times. A brisk northeasterly wind could make it feel distinctly cool," a Met Office spokeswoman said.

Aisling Creevey, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, said there was a danger the crowds could have to contend with stormy conditions.

"It is looking at the moment that there are going to be quite brisk north-easterly winds, showers and possibly a few rumblings of thunder - that's sneaking into the charts at the moment," she said.

"We wouldn't rule out the odd lightning strike as well."

Rain would also affect global TV coverage of an event expected to be watched by two billion people worldwide.

But if it does pour on the big day, the crowd will be treated to the sight of the couple leaving Westminster Abbey in a glass coach that William's mother Princess Diana used to travel to her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981.

If the weather is fine then they will use an open-top horse-drawn carriage.

Bad weather is unlikely to deter John Loughrey, 56, a self-confessed "super fan" of William's mother Princess Diana. He was the first to arrive at the Abbey late Monday to ensure a front-row spot.

Equipped with only a sleeping bag and two carrier bags at the start of his four-day wait, he was dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Diana Would Be Proud" with pictures of Kate and William tied round his waist.

"I think they are good for Britain and good for tourism. We have had them for more than 1,000 years and they make a great contribution to the life of this country," said the former chef from London.

Mother and daughter Guen Murray, 76, and Patricia Easthope, 48, arrived outside the abbey early Tuesday.

"I did the same thing for Princess Anne's wedding, Charles and Diana, Andrew and Sarah. It's going to be uncomfortable as we've slept on these cobbles before for a few nights," she said.

But in a rare case of someone turning down an invitation to the wedding, the captain of Ireland's rugby union team, Brian O'Driscoll, said he had been invited but he had to stay at home to prepare for a big match for his club.

The first public prayers for William and Kate were held on Tuesday at the abbey by duty chaplain Reverend Martin Hume. They will be held hourly until the wedding.

The Dean of Westminster John Hall, who will be the first person to greet Kate when she arrives at the abbey in her Rolls Royce Phantom on Friday, said separately he expected she would have a "sense of calmness."

"It's important that she enjoys it. It's important that Prince William enjoys it," he added.

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