"I think they should just be left alone to live their own lives," says Jean Lowen, 58, as she cranes her neck to catch a glimpse of Charles and Camilla. "I agree," says her friend. "It's cruel the way they're forced to live in the public gaze all the time and - wait - is that them? No, it's another police-woman."
Last time Charles Windsor got married, a billion people huddled around their televisions, a million people huddled around St Paul's Cathedral, and the bride wanted to turn around and run. This time, the televisions roam impatiently over a thousand channels and I am standing in the cold, surly streets of Windsor with the last foaming fans of monarchy.
The mood of the mob - a curious mixture of Barbour and Burberry, Queen Victoria and the Queen Vic - is bemused and bored as they wait for the royal cortège. "I thought they would put on clowns or something for the kids," says one mother. "Is this it?" asks another. Children scream. Parents moan. A few Union flags - provided by The Sun - are waved in the frosty wind. The biggest placards are huge arrows directing the crowds to the nearest McDonald's.
Then the TV cameras approach and everybody springs to vigorous, cheering life. "Whooh! Yeah!" shouts Jean. "Yay!" says her friend. "Charles! Camilla!" bleat the crowd. It's as if we are all conspiring in producing a media product, a propaganda video about a Prince-loving public. The cameras are switched off, and the crowd sags back into a sullen mass.
Somebody spots a group of celebrity lookalikes on a nearby balcony, employed to promote an online casino.
"Elton - sing us a song!" yells one man, to polite laughter. A few people join in. "Sing! Sing!" they chant. Apologetically, the mini-Elton says, "I'm a lookalike. I can't sing." The crowd falls silent then turns to the David Beckham lookalike. "Kick us a ball! Kick! Kick!"
A rumour ripples through the crowd: the couple aren't going to pass this way. "We're at the wrong place. They're not coming here," says one woman, angrily waving a newspaper map. Nobody moves. They carry on blankly staring at the empty space sealed off by metal railings, like cows in a field.
Just as I am about to gnaw off my left arm in boredom, a group of girls runs through chanting: "Diana will always be the queen of our hearts!" I rush up to Grace Michaels, 16, who explains: "There will always be three of them in that marriage. Diana will never die!"
A woman in her mid-fifties looks them up and down and says, "Listen love, we all wish it was Diana and Dodi getting married today, but they're dead. Just settle for this lot and wish them well." I ask the crowd what they would say to republicans.
"Get lost!" cries one. "You're sick! Why do you hate the royals?" demands another. But it's not republicans who are torturing the Windsor family, I say - it's monarchists. We want to set Charles Windsor and his family free to live normal, private lives in the Republic of Britain. Charles and Camilla could have married 30 years ago if it wasn't for the creepy demands of monarchists that Charles marry a virgin and produce an heir.
They glare, speechless, in my direction. "There they are!" screams somebody suddenly. The crowd pushes me aside and surges forward. "No, it's the lookalikes," somebody moans.
Hours pass; Charles and Camilla do not come.
And Out There - beyond the Windsor streets - I can feel the nation and the world giving an almighty shrug.Reuse content