29 April 2011
A Red Letter Day. The Royal Wedding of Prince William, the Queen’s eldest grandson and Catherine Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Certainly a day that many of the millions of people around the world who were watching on television will remember for the rest of their lives. As one has come to expect of anything to do with British pageantry, it was magnificently choreographed, down to the exact minute with every one of the thousands of people involved knowing precisely what they had to do and when.
Of course, it goes without being said, that the bride looked absolutely stunning but, in this case, I can say it with absolute conviction. Her slim figure made it possible for her to wear the simplest of wedding gowns. Pale ivory satin crowned with exquisite lace around the shoulders and sleeves with a flair pleated bottom and a curved train, some two or three metres long, reminiscent of the petal of a giant white lily. She wore a very fine plainÂ white silk veil crowned with a slim, unostentatious, diamond tiara, loaned by the Queen. TheÂ Â maid of honour, Catherine’s sister, again extremely slim. Was in the simplest of ivory satin sheaths and herself looked absolutely stunning. She held the lands of the two tiniest of the four little bridesmaids who were beautifully dressed in matching ivory satin dresses with wide flared skirts and their hair decorated with a daisy chain of white lily-of-the-valley which matched the small bouquet carried by the bride
Bringing up the rear were two little military style page boys in the long red jackets smothered in gold braid on their breasts The groom and his brother, Prince Harry were both magnificently attired in military uniforms smothered in gold braid and decorations, every inch princes of the realm. The Queen was beautifully dressed in a plain soft lemon coloured full-length, coat, made the smarter by being devoid of any decoration. Her hat followed the style she has adopted some years now, pork pie shaped with a wide brim. If she had been my mum I would have been proud of her.
Beyond that I have no intention of attempting to describe the clothes or dress of any of the other 2000 or so guests in Westminster Abbey, suffice it to say that there were 50 heads of state amongst them, many of them kings and queens in their own right, all of whom appeared to me to be reasonably turned out. After all it was Catherine’s day and nobody wanted to steal her limelight. There were only a couple or so of the younger generation of the Royal Family who, in my opinion, were badly dressed, obviously having little dress sense themselves or were badly advised by others.
Catherine had made her own stamp on the majestic Cathedral by having the aisle lined with 20/25 feet high mature trees in full leaf. Apparently the idea is that these will be transplanted to Prince Charles, home at Highfield, after the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony itself, in the magnificence of Westminster Abbey, was a relatively simple and dignified affair, unencumbered by too much ceremony. Of course, there was some exquisite music, mainly choral, and the addresses given by Catherine’s brother and the various religious dignitaries were not too long or heavy and appropriate for the occasion.
The tens, or hundreds, of thousands of people who lined the Mall from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey -some of whom had camped on the pavement for a couple of days and nights – were more than rewarded by the magnificence of the processions, and heard the service relayed to them through loudspeakers from the Abbey when the Archbishop of Canterbury declared them to be man of my loud cheer went up from the thousands outside which even penetrated the walls of the Abbey itself.A poignant moment.
The troops were, as we have come to expect, immaculately turned out. Regiments of colourfully clad guards, foot or mounted, many with gleaming breastplates;; many beautiful horse drawn, open topped carriages; marching bands, drums and trumpeters in profusion engendering great excitement in the assembled throngs. They were apparently 5000 street parties throughout the land, many of them having a full-size screen on which they were able to watch the whole proceedings and few bonded with the occasion. There was joy throughout the land at this new triumph of emerging monarchy.
When it comes to putting on this sort of show there is no doubt that we, the British, do it better than anyone else. I have always thought but we should do something on these lines for the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, like the Edinburgh Tattoo, for example. Something uniquely British as there is no way that we could possibly begin to match the incredible spectacle put on by the Chinese at the opening of the last Olympic Games in Beijing
The processions, to and from Westminster Abbey, were crowned by the now traditional balcony scene (two kisses between bride and groom this time) and the flypast by the Second World War Lancaster bomber, flanked by the two, now famous, fighter planes that prevailed in the Battle of Britain, in the 1940s, the Spitfire and the Hurricane.
Thank heavens the weather was kind and although it was not wall-to-wall sunshine, it did not rain and I have no doubt that for the 2 or 3 billion people, throughout the world, who witnessed the event, through the magic of television, it will be a day they will never forget. The timing was perfect as next year is the Queens Diamond Jubilee and there will be an even more spectacular performance put on for that which will, no doubt, give British tourism a great, and very welcome, boost. Also, of course, it is the year of the British Olympic Games, so this little island should be humming for a while yet. Certainly ‘my lovely’ and I enjoyed every minute of it from mid-morning until early afternoon. I opened a bottle of champagne, despite the good doctor’s absence, in order to toast the happy couple – I did not take very much persuading!
It is not often that I am able to quote Her Majesty speaking off the record, having heard it with my own ears, but as she alighted from the carriage on returning to Buckingham Palace she was heard to say “That was amazing” and coming from someone whose whole life has been spent as the central figure in literally hundreds of such parades and pageants, that comment itself is amazing.
Our houseguest, the good doctor, had decided to choose this day to visit his great aunt, his mother’s sister -an 87-year-old who lives in St Albans. He got Barry to drive him over and then went from there to London to visit an old surgeon friend who is awaiting a major operation. Fortunately when he was with his great aunt he was able to watch most of the days excitement. It is important that as many Australians as possible witness the sort of events as I gather that the republican movement in that country presently has the lowest support that it has enjoyed for many years