With less than 24 hours to go until Prince William and Kate Middleton walk down the aisle, BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt previews the ceremony. What should eagle-eyed royal watchers look out for? (Follow Mr. Hunt on Twitter.)
If you are watching the wedding live, then you will be rewarded for being up at such an ungodly hour with plenty of activity to observe with your bleary, royal-starved eyes. Buckingham Palace has already released very precise timings – nothing at this wedding will be left to chance.
All times are in both UK British Summer Time (BST) and in U.S. Eastern Time (ET). There’s a five-hour time difference.
The Comings and Goings
At 10:10 am BST/5:10 am ET, we’ll have our first sight of Prince William and Prince Harry as they leave Clarence House, their London residence, and head to Westminster Abbey. Once there, Prince William will mingle with his guests for 25 minutes before disappearing from view into a side chapel with his brother to prepare himself. William will probably be the last person on this planet to see his bride’s dress.
With 1,900 guests – arriving from 8:15 am BST/3:15 am ET until 10:45 am BST/5:45 am ET, when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be greeted at the Abbey’s Great West Door – there’ll be plenty of people-watching to indulge in. There is a challenge, though. The royals are well versed in wearing hats that don’t obscure their faces. Will others follow suit?
Gathered inside the medieval building, where so many kings and queens have been crowned, will be 52 members of the British royal family, 45 foreign royals, and celebrities like David and Victoria Beckham, Sir Elton John, and David Furnish. The vast majority of the guests, at the couple’s insistence, are their close friends and family members.
Given that my 12-year-old daughter believes I have questionable sartorial judgment, the less I write about that dress, the better. Suffice to say, the world’s possible first glimpse of it will be at 10:51 am BST/5:51 am ET when Kate Middleton leaves the Goring Hotel (a luxury hotel where she’ll spend her last night as a single woman with her family) and heads for the Abbey. We will only see her outfit in its full glory when she emerges from the royal Rolls Royce at 11:00 am BST/6:00 am ET – or will she be late and keep her princely husband-to-be waiting?
From the outset, Kate has been determined to keep the design a secret from her fiancée and the rest of the world. This is not a new phenomenon for royal brides. In 1947 they had to cover the windows at the dressmakers preparing the then-Princess Elizabeth’s outfit; and in 1981 those working on Diana’s dress were offered bribes to spill the beans.
The order of service is available to download from the official website, www.officialroyalwedding2011.org. It will be a traditional Anglican service which will last more than an hour.
As you watch the couple before the High Altar, also make sure you catch a glimpse of the flooring there. The Cosmati Pavement is a precious 13th century mosaic floor composed of 30,000 small pieces of marble and glass. It’s been covered by a carpet for the past 150 years and has only recently been restored and put back on permanent display.
The only time the couple will be out of view, will be when they go into the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor to sign the marriage register. It’s a place that is home to several tombs of English kings and queens.
Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace
This will be the moment when Kate Middleton’s transformation will be complete. She will be on display as a senior royal, sitting next to her husband, in a horse-drawn carriage. Also in the procession will be the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and, of course, the bridesmaids. They are aged between three and eight and will have been on their best behavior for more than an hour. When Prince William was a page boy at Sarah Ferguson’s wedding in 1986, he was seen pulling faces at a bridesmaid.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Princess Anne, the Queen’s daughter, declared in 1973, before her first wedding, that she had “no intention of being followed up the aisle by hordes of uncontrollable children.”
It would once have been unthinkable that the Windsors, with their famous stiff upper lips, would kiss in public. It’s now obligatory. The tradition of newlywed royals kissing on the iconic Buckingham Palace balcony began with William’s parents in 1981. Their son will follow their example at around 1:25 pm BST/8:25am ET. It’s likely to be an image that will grace the front page of many newspapers.
And That’s It
Once the flypast over the Palace has taken place at 1:30 pm BST/8:30 am ET, the public element of the wedding will pretty much be over. Prince William and Kate Middleton (she’ll have a title by then) may well be seen briefly when they travel from the Palace to Clarence House for some downtime in the afternoon.
But, otherwise, the afternoon reception and the evening dinner dance are private affairs. The evening event – for close friends and family – will, in the words of an official, finish when it finishes.