History in the making: Kate, William ready to wed

2011-04-29 09:44

London – From Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, royal fans lined the streets of London by the tens of thousands this morning, hoping to snatch a glimpse of history as Prince William weds Kate Middleton in a marriage expected to revive Britain’s beleaguered monarchy.

A third of the planet was to watch as the future king and queen of England start their lives as husband and wife with the two simple words “I will”, ending months of buildup and sealing their love with the most public of spectacles.

All the clamouring over every detail – the wedding dress, her hair, her makeup, the romantic kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony, the honeymoon – finally will be answered.

Save perhaps for the biggest question of all: Is this one royal couple who will live happily ever after?

Will their union endure like that of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, now in its 64th year, or crumble spectacularly like that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, William’s own parents?

Recent history augurs badly: The first marriages of three of the queen’s four children ended in divorce. But the couple’s chemistry brings confidence that this one will work.

William and Kate look fantastic together, seeming to glow with happiness in each other’s company, and unlike Charles and Diana they’ve had eight years to figure out they’re made for each other.

But the fate of their marriage will depend on private matters impossible for the public to gauge amid the hoopla. A beautiful bridal gown and eye-popping sapphire and diamond engagement ring do not guarantee a happy ending. Money, power, beauty – it can all go wrong if not carefully nurtured.

Much will depend on whether 28-year-old William and 29-year-old Kate can summon the things every couple needs to make a marriage work: patience, love, wit and wisdom.

But they face pressures most of the world doesn’t: the twin burdens of fame and scrutiny.

These are the thorny issues upon which the fate of the monarchy rests, as the remarkable Queen Elizabeth II, now 85, inevitably ages and declines.

With just hours to go, dedicated royal watchers camped outside got an unexpected surprise – a visit from Prince William.

The groom-to-be emerged from his residence last night to greet the hordes of well-wishers gathered along the processional route. Dressed in khakis and grinning broadly, William shook countless hands as his photo was snapped on cellphones and digital cameras.

By dawn today, crowds were awake and waving flags for television cameras under steely gray skies. Technicians ran last-minute checks on huge television screens that will broadcast the ceremony at Trafalgar Square.

Despite the forecast of scattered showers, William and Kate Middleton will brave the elements and travel from the abbey to Buckingham Palace in an open-topped carriage, royal officials said.

Everything is set: The rehearsals have been held, the cakes have been baked, the toast of the best man (William’s brother Harry) written, suits and uniforms pressed, hats carefully chosen, shoes buffed, flowers arranged and the champagne put on ice for two exclusive receptions at Buckingham Palace.

The government has declared a national holiday, universally welcomed by schoolchildren, and there has been a marked proliferation of Union Jacks in the last week as London spruces up for the big event, which has drawn thousands of journalists and hundreds of thousands of visitors from overseas.

Some 1 900 immaculately dressed guests, including fellow royals from around the world, a smattering of pop stars, sports idols and dignitaries, will jam Westminster Abbey.

Though the designer of Middleton’s dress remains a mystery, William surprised royal watchers with the announcement that he was wearing the scarlet tunic of an Irish Guards officer. Observers had expected the groom, a highly trained helicopter rescue pilot, to wear his navy blue air force uniform.

William’s choice of ceremonial military dress sends a strong signal of his support for the armed forces, reinforcing his preferred image as a dedicated military man and distancing him from past characterisations as a club-hopping party boy.

A number of famous people were left off the guest list, including President Barack Obama and most other world leaders.
Also not invited were Britain’s last two prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in a snub to their Labour Party, which traditionally is not as strong a backer of the monarchy as the ruling Conservatives.

The invitation for Syria’s ambassador was rescinded Thursday because of Britain’s unhappiness with the bloody government crackdown in his country.

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