Wedding of the Century – William and KateFirst Published: May 21, 2012 Last updated: May 10th, 2017 Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes 1 comment
Two billion people around the world watched live on TV, and hundreds of thousands packed the streets and malls of London to watch the “Wedding of the Century”—a real-life fantasy pulled straight from the storybooks–Prince William marrying his fiancée Kate Middleton!
There hasn’t been anything like it since the last “Wedding of the Century”, when Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, married the young, shy Lady Spencer 30 years ago on Jul 29, 1981. Many young girls who swooned to the romance of that ceremony, with Diana’s legendary 25 foot train, joined their own daughters to revel in this new chapter in the ever unfolding story of the Royal Family. And (perhaps more importantly) to revel in the couture fashion, opulence, tradition, priceless jewelry, and the finest hats in the world.
New Era, New Style
William and Kate are the perfect couple to move the Royal Family into a new, modern era. While tradition is important, the Royals are also “representatives of the people” and must capture and reflect the spirit of the times. Interest in the Royal Family has waned in the years since Princess Diana’s death. The mania around this wedding also speaks to the wide appeal of this young and attractive couple. They are young, fun and personable–a “breath of fresh air”, broadening the appeal of the Royal Family to a new, younger demographic–carrying the ancient traditions into the next era.
And yet, the comparisons of William and Kate to Charles and Diana are inevitable. While Charles and Diana tied the knot at St. Paul’s Cathedral, William and Kate married at the smaller, more intimate Westminster Abbey. Diana travelled to the church in a glass coach—Kate was escorted in a Rolls Royce limousine (and William in a Bentley).
But, after the ceremony, Kate and her husband waved to the crowds along the processional route back to Buckingham Palace from a beautiful open carriage—a 1902 State Landau. It was originally made for King Edward VII for his coronation. Just in case, a glass coach was at the ready just in case of rain. They didn’t have to worry. The weather was perfect.
Perhaps the biggest difference between William and his father during their wedding day– during their ceremonies William actually looked like he was enjoying himself. He beamed as he saw his bride in her dress for the first time, telling her she looked beautiful. You could see how comfortable they were with each other, smiling and relaxed.
On the other hand, in 1981 Prince Charles smiled rarely, and was seemingly detached. That’s because he was. He was in love with another woman—Camilla Parker Bowles. Years later, Diana said that as she walked into the church that day, she looked to see where Camilla was sitting.
It’s hard to believe but Charles and Diana had only met 13 times before their engagement. A reporter asked Diana if she was in love. She said she was. Prince Charles chimed in with, “Whatever “In love” means.”
Diana was young (barely 20) and shy when she got married. Kate is older and has been dating William on and off for over eight years, even living together as they fell in love. Kate was a commoner before marrying into the Royal Family. To some people the word “commoner” gives the impression of a street urchin. In reality, Kate’s family is self made multi-millionaires. “Commoner” simply means that you are not royalty. Diana came from an aristocratic family but she was young, shy and bewildered.
So who is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and the (far away in the) future King? We’ve seen him on TV for years but what is he really like? While some people dream of being a prince, you could say Prince William at times dreams of being a regular person. When he spent time in Botswana’s Okavango Delta in 2010, he said, “The locals have no clue who I am. I love that.” He works hard to lead as normal a life as possible.
People find him very real—direct, likable, approachable. His whole life has been spent learning the ropes of royalty while trying to gain as much normalcy as his station provides. Many of us have indelible memories of him walking behind his mother’s coffin—shocked, confused and intensely sad. It gave you the impression his life would never be normal.
He was very close to his mother. She reportedly confided in him as well. He has inherited her ease with people and you can often see flashes of her in his quirks and mannerisms, like when he was chewing his lip on the altar during the ceremony, much like Diana did years ago.
After they return from the honeymoon, William will go back to his job as a helicopter pilot and he and Kate will return to the farmhouse in Wales they are living in now. He tries to lead a normal life–as much as you can when you are in line to be King of the British Empire.
Catherine “Kate” Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, grew up in the small village of Bucklebury and went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (should she become queen, she would be the first one with a college education). That’s where she met William for the first time in 2001. They started to date and had the ups and downs typical of most relationships– but grew closer together in 2007.
Her family ancestors were laborers and coal miners in Northumberland with a few Leeds businessmen thrown in the mix. Her parents met at work when they were both employed by British Airways. Later they started an online company that sells merchandise related to kids’ parties. Over time they built it up and are now millionaires. Kate and her sister were models for the website as kids and still help out with the family business on occasion.
Kate’s mother Carole is viewed by some of the media as a “social climber” and supposedly talked her into attending St. Andrews with the hope that she would in fact, meet and fall in love with Prince William. British papers have compared her to Hyacinth Bucket- the hapless social climber character from “Keeping up Appearances,” a BBC sitcom. However much she may have “engineered” the romance, it eventually worked.
Whatever her mother’s transgressions against high society, she seems to have raised a level-headed child in Kate. She has maintained a steady disposition with good humor over many years as she waited for her prince. It is that evenness that will serve her well in her new life in the public eye.
Like all of us, the royal couple has some relatives they would rather keep quiet. For example, Sarah Ferguson is the duchess of debt. In 2010 she was caught in a sting operation where she was shown selling exclusive entrée to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for $700,000. How did she try to explain her way out of that one? She said she was drunk.
Speaking of Prince Andrew, he’s come under scrutiny for being friends with an American billionaire who is a convicted sex offender. In 2008, Jeffrey Epstein was sentenced to a year and half in jail after he was convicted for soliciting a minor for prostitution. Prince Andrew also has other questionable friendships including the son of Moammar Qaddafi.
Kate Middleton’s uncle Jerry Goldsmith is another character. He’s crass, low class and he loves it that way. He is the brother of Kate’s mother and became rich when he sold his personnel recruiting company. He has been filmed by undercover reporters chopping up cocaine and telling party guests he would order prostitutes for them. He also regularly boasts about being connected to royalty.
14 Diamonds in White Gold
The royal couple got engaged during a vacation to Kenya in October 2010. While they had dated many years off and on, it was still a surprise to Kate when he proposed at the time. The engagement ring he presented to Kate once belonged to his mother Diana the Princess of Wales. She passed it on to Prince William and Prince Harry. It is a “whole cluster” ring with the sapphire center bordered by 14 diamonds and is mounted 18-karat white gold.
For the Prince, no ring is his future. No reason had been proved by him or the Royal Family. However, it is not unusual—Prince Phillip does not wear a wedding ring. When he married Princess Diana, Prince Charles did not wear a ring either. When he married Camilla Parker Bowles, he started wearing a signet band and a wedding ring.
In all, 1900 people attended the service at Westminster Abbey – family, friends, politicians, royals from other countries, representatives of various faiths, celebrities, and more. About 650 people were invited to a lunchtime reception at Buckingham Palace given by the Queen. Around 300 people were invited to the dinner at Buckingham Palace given by the Prince of Wales.
The official wedding website gives a rough breakdown of guests including spouses:
- The majority of guests were drawn from Prince William and Ms. Middleton’s family and friends – over 1000
- Over 50 members of the Royal Family
- Over 40 members of Foreign Royal Families
- Over 200 members of Government Parliament and Diplomatic Corps
- Approximately 80 guests came from Prince William’s charities (including some people who were not in senior positions whom the Prince has known for a long time)
- 60 governors General and Realm Prime Ministers
As an example of their commitment to a regular life and “regular people,” William and Kate invited many commoners to attend their wedding: their postman, butcher and the pub owner from their favorite Bucklebury watering hole were all in attendance as well as the Indian owners of their local corner store. And they were not shuttled to the cheap seats. The pub owner said he was escorted to the second row right near the Queen.
Of course, there was a good complement of celebrities: David Beckham and his wife Victoria received their inevitable screen time as well as Sir Elton John and his partner. Comedian Rowan Atkinson, a good friend of Prince Charles, was there. Josh Stone, who sang at the memorial concert for Diana in 2007, was also in attendance. Prominent foreign dignitaries like President Obama were not invited due to the fact that this was not a state occasion. The reason is that Prince William is neither the Sovereign nor the Heir to the throne.
For months fashionistas speculated: Who was to be chosen to design Catherine’s dress? The smart money was on Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen. It turned out to be true – moments after she emerged and got into the Rolls-Royce that was to take her to Westminster Abbey, fashion experts spotted it as a Sarah Burton original.
It featured an elegant veil which allowed her long hair to be shown in a good light (which she was wearing down). The veil was made of ivory silk tulle with a hand embroidered trim of flowers. The flowers were embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. The veil included a Cartier “halo” tiara which was lent to her by the queen. The train measured over 6 feet, the sleeves were long lace and the dress front was in a low V.
The official press release said that Kate wanted her dress to “combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterizes Alexander McQueen’s work. Ms. Middleton worked closely with Sarah Burton in formulating the design of her dress.”
The official royal wedding website said, “The dress is made with ivory and white satin gazar. The skirt echoes an opening flower, with white satin gazar arches and pleats. The ivory satin bodice, which is narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips, draws on the Victorian tradition of corsetry and is a hallmark of Alexander McQueen’s designs. ”
One of the most amazing things is that Kate was able to keep the dress top secret as well as the identity of the designer. Given today’s worldwide media, that’s quite an accomplishment. Her goal was to keep William from seeing the dress until she was actually at the altar. Her mission was accomplished as he did not turn his head until she joined him at the altar during the ceremony.
According to the official wedding website the Prince wore the smashing red tunic of an Irish Guards colonel– his most senior honorary appointment. His uniform included a gold and crimson sash, and gold sword slings, both of which are worn in the presence of a Member of the Royal Family. The Prince did not wear a sword. He wore the Garter Sash with the Wings of the Royal Air Force, the Garter Star and the Golden Jubilee Medal.
Prince Harry wore a Blues and Royals officer’s uniform in Dismounted Review Order, with a Forage Cap. It included aiguillettes, a cross-belt and gold waist belt with sword slings with no sword and the Wings of the Army Air Corps and Golden Jubilee and Afghanistan Campaign medals.
Just behind Catherine’s dress in media frenzy was the coverage of the multitude of colorful hats sported by the British ladies. Bookmakers even took odds on the color of the Queen’s hat (winner = yellow).
Shirley Hex, a milliner who has created hats for the queen and many other members of the Royal Family, told the Associated Press, “We’re British. Hats are just what we do. Choosing the right hat is important for the person wearing it, but it’s also important for a designer. The right hat can make a career.”
Philip Treacy is a “rock star designer” of custom hats that can run up to $5,000 and more. He was tapped to design the hats for many of the royal heads for the ceremony, including the bridesmaid’s headpieces.
Inside the Abbey, in keeping with Kate’s wish for “an unpretentious, simple and natural theme,” Maple trees (symbol of commitment, reserve and humility), instead of flowers, were placed in the choir and congregation areas. They will be re-planted at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate after the wedding. It also reflects her country background and the classic Gothic look Kate wanted to display.
The music was lush and gorgeous as it resonated through Westminster Abbey. It reflected Anglican and royal traditions. When Kate came down the aisle, they played “The Introit.” The congregation sang “Blaenwern,” a Welsh hymn after the ceremony (William and Kate will return to Wales to live as that is where he is posted.)
In all, there were two choirs, one fanfare club, and a full orchestra at the wedding–the Chapel Royal Choir, London Chamber Orchestra, Westminster Abbey Choir, and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. The program included the anthem “I Was Glad” during which Catherine glided down the aisle for three-and-a-half minutes to the altar as the choir sang. They also sang “Jerusalem” (words by poet William Blake).
The orchestral march “Crown Imperial” was played during the recessional. This was also performed at Charles and Diana’s ceremony. There were also selections from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Welsh composer Paul Mealor, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten’s Galliard, Delius and Finzi. There was one Book of Common Prayer ceremony–Kate’s brother read “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” (Romans Chapter 12)
Holding her bouquet of sweet williams with myrtle, lily of the valley and hyacinth, Kate joined Prince William at the altar. He beamed and TV viewers could make out his comment to her, “You look beautiful.” And so she did. Her natural charm combined with the watchful training of the Royal Family all came to the fore as she appeared poised, calm, and happy.
She did not promise to “obey” her husband, but pledged to “love, comfort, and keep” him. As they said their vows, the cheers from the crowd outside were easily heard inside the Abbey. It all went off without a hitch. OK, the ring acted stubborn as it refused to glide on to her finger smoothly. After a little jiggering, it was home.
Soon they went into the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor to sign the marriage register under the tombs of Henry V and Richard II among other former kings and queens of the monarch. Within a few short minutes, they emerged into the now sunny skies outside the Abbey to the cheers of the crowd, many of whom had camped for days to get the best seat possible.
Sealed With a Kiss
After the horse-drawn Landau made its way round to Buckingham Palace, the police led a happy crowd over to Buckingham Palace. Over 500,000 people excitedly (and politely) tried to find the best position to see the new Royal couple. One announcer said the noise “was thunderous.”
While watching it you got the feeling that Britons love royal weddings and the royal family. Thousand of breathless people waved banners and flags—one wordsmith wrote “Checkmate Kate, You Got the King.” Another is hoping to capture the next prince: “Marry me Harry.”
Certainly in this economy a joyous occasion such as this takes all of our minds off a struggling economy and bleak job prospects. But watching the wild crowd I felt that it’s even more than that—so many people were heartsick after Diana died—she was so young, beautiful and full of life. It was like a member of your family passed.
And now, the whole world is getting the chance to love a new Princess, both for herself and her special day, but also to fill the holes in our hearts still there from that terrible day Diana left us.
After a little teasing flickering of draperies along the windows of the Buckingham Palace balcony, the new couple emerged amid the cheers of the throng. Kids climbed nearby trees while fathers placed their toddlers on the back of their necks to see better.
And then their cheers were rewarded. Only 90 minutes after entering Westminster Abbey as Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge kissed her Prince. Not once. But twice.
The roar of England was heard in Madrid, Beijing, New York and throughout the world.
If you thing the British were excited, you should have seen the hullabaloo in other countries—like America. Around the country, people woke up in the middle of the night to watch the ceremony live. CBS-TV reported, “The British think it is cute how into it the Americans are. ‘You American’s are so excitable’ one Brit said.’”
And it’s true. Sandy, a mother from Ohio said, “I watched Di and Charles at age 18 and that was the best. I liked Kate because she is real and older and is at a better age to get married. Will is studly for a Brit! Like most people we just want to see the DRESS! And the jewels!!! Romance is so under rated these days-it is nice to see!”
Lauren, a mother in Florida said, “We are definitely getting up to watch! It’s going to be mother/daughter with other mother/ daughter friends–fine white wines for the moms and sparkling juices for the babies…with fine desserts to boot. Instead of pot luck casseroles you bring dessert/wine. We are interested because ‘It’s Disney come to life and romance thicker than a grocery store romance novel.’ Kate is a class act, much better role model for daughters then Lindsay Lohan. The prince is just that …a prince… Need more be said? I think not.”
The Ties That Bind
Once the ceremony was over, old London town braced for thousands of rollicking parties. You didn’t have to walk far to find a “knees up.” The pints started flowing and the dance floors filled.
Reportedly some Britons find the whole Royal Family a farce, a wasteful expense. But they are in the minority.
The Royal Family is much more than the Palace Guard and a fancy wedding every ten years. In our increasingly separated society, they represent tradition and continuity that binds societies together. People tuned in by the billions because they long for the history of pomp and circumstance that England does better than anyone in the history of the world.
With the young, enthusiastic, fresh faces of Prince William and Princess Catherine growing in prominence, the Royal Family is a tradition that will serve England, and the world, for years to come.