Simon Carr: A smattering of villains and a dollop of tradition

At the Abbey
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The Independent Online

What on earth was Mohamed al Fayed doing in the Abbey?

That was taking Christian forgiveness too far. Unless he'd bought his ticket on eBay. The Palace press insisted it was in fact the King of Tonga in a frock coat (he could have a useful second career as a lookalike).

It was a diverse congregation, a little light on British ex-prime ministers perhaps. Dukes, princes, some kings, a few queens. Elton John. A generous smattering of mass murderers and criminals against humanity. But had security actually searched that Prince of Saudi Arabia? And those fellows from North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran... They have very different wedding customs from us. Might they not mistake the crowd for pro-democracy demonstrators and open fire on them with concealed machine pistols? They – we – took the risk; it all came off very well.

For where were the pro-democracy demonstrators? They'd either been arrested earlier or cowed by this display of power by our otherwise silent majority.

There seemed to be a million people in The Mall and it felt like a million more in the feeder streets and parks. Screaming, hooting, whooping, whistling, chanting, cheering, waving their flags, holding up banners. Union flags, Prince of Wales flags, Burger King coronets.

Two military bands marched past the Queen Victoria memorial, troopers on prancing cavalry blacks bringing sharp tears to the eyes of every sentimental monarchist. Soon, the crowds walked quietly up The Mall. Trafalgar Square was full, Hyde Park was packed around the screens – and not a soul heckled when "if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together" was broadcast.

Inside the Abbey we had one of those state-occasion congregations. It's a glimpse of that other England so many assume has disappeared. Dukes in military uniform. Gold braid, medals and honours. And it all served up an argument the republicans are powerless to answer: would you really want Gordon Brown as head of state?

The service too, that was a powerful reminder of another world. The clergy talked about God as if he really existed – no one expected that. And the words of the service – love, fidelity, honour – private words said out loud in front of everyone you know plus another couple of billion round the world. It was transporting.

And then the Royal Family, in a sequence of vehicles that marked their position in the hierarchy, glid past. It started with the newlyweds in an open coach, followed by the Queen's Cinderella carriage then her heir – he had to have the coach with naked golden babies blowing trumpets on the roof, then the boat-sized Rolls Royces, then a saloon car, then some Wings Luxury Travel minibuses, then the Wings Executive Travel minibuses. Oo, that must have have stung.

"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Cheer!" Damn! I missed it! (We're back outside the Palace again.) I made my way behind the statue of Charity to get a better view and missed it again. But the cheer was enough.

Lord, all it needed was – I don't know – Spitfires. And then there were Spitfires. Or a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Lancaster bomber – a Battle of Britain fly-past coming in over Trafalgar Square, low down The Mall and thundering over the Palace. The young crowd cheered again. That finished me off.