x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The royal wedding of William and Kate

As Prince William and Catherine Middleton prepare to tie the knot at Westminster Abbey, we bring you the glitz and fun as London celebrates the royal wedding.

A royal fan holds British Union Jack flags as people gather to watch the wedding in Hyde Park in central London. AFP
A royal fan holds British Union Jack flags as people gather to watch the wedding in Hyde Park in central London. AFP

LONDON // Prince William married Kate Middleton in regal splendor at London's Westminster Abbey Friday as huge crowds and a global TV audience watched Britain's biggest royal celebration for three decades.

Kate, wearing a stunning ivory and white satin wedding dress with long lace sleeves, a veil and a flowing train, stood composed at the altar with the second in line to the throne who wore a smart scarlet military tunic.

"I will," the future king and queen each pronounced solemnly in turn, before William put a ring fashioned from a nugget of Welsh gold on her finger and then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams pronounced them man and wife.

It is the richest display of pageantry since William's late mother Diana married Prince Charles in 1981 and offers Britain's royal family a chance at renewal after Charles and Diana's bitterly public split.

The absence of Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, was keenly felt, and music played at the wedding 30 years ago and at her funeral in the same abbey were played during Friday's service.

Two billion people -- a third of the world's population -- are expected to watch Diana's eldest son wed the commoner he began dating at St Andrews university in Scotland eight years ago.

As a sea of hundreds of thousands of people waved Union Jacks in London, Kate waved to the crowd as she arrived at the abbey with her father Michael in a Rolls-Royce limousine.

She took four minutes to walk down the aisle, which was lined with trees specially brought in to create the feel of an English garden.William Arthur Philip Louis -- as Diana's eldest son and the second in line to the throne was called during the service -- arrived at the church 45 minutes earlier accompanied by his younger brother and best man Prince Harry.

Kate however did not promise to obey her husband in her marriage vows -- following in the footsteps of Diana, who married Charles on July 29, 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral. Charles and Diana divorced 15 years later.Palace officials confirmed her dress was by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, the iconic British designer who committed suicide last year.

Guests inside included footballer David Beckham, singer Elton John and "Mr Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson. Fifty members of the royal family and dozens of foreign royals were due after William.Queen Elizabeth II granted the couple the titles Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a wedding gift earlier in the day.

Hundreds of thousands of campers transformed The Mall, the wide boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, into a sea of Union Jack flags.

"They will make the monarchy fashionable again. It's good for the country," said Louise Akehurst, 25, an administrator from London.William, a 28-year-old Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, has long been seen as the great hope of the royal family for the future after a string of failed marriages and scandals.

Sandra Russell, 65, who is of French-British nationality, said she thought the marriage would be successful because Kate is "much older than Diana was at the time, much more mature and they are marrying for love."

"Charles was under the pressure of his family. People here are still angry at him, and Camilla (his second wife) too. I hope William will be the next king.

"After the service, the newlyweds will travel in a horse-drawn open carriage from the abbey to Buckingham Palace where the couple will follow tradition by appearing on the balcony with the rest of the royal family and kissing.

More than 8,500 journalists and technical staff are covering the wedding for a global audience.And the world will join in the party. New York's iconic Empire State Building will be illuminated in blue, white and red in honor of the royal couple.

Royalty and celebrities on hand at Westminster Abbey

LONDON // Former England soccer captain David Beckham and singer Elton John mingled with monarchs and politicians as an eclectic cast attended Britain's royal wedding on Friday.

Beckham, his hair swept back and with a medal awarded by Queen Elizabeth on his lapel, chatted with British film director Guy Ritchie before the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

John waved to the crowds and gave a thumbs-up as he arrived with his partner David Furnish for the wedding of Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, and Kate Middleton.The singer performed in the abbey in 1997 during the funeral of Princess Diana, William's mother.

Former Prime Minister John Major was also among early arrivals at the Abbey. Major, a Conservative, was prime minister from 1990 to 1997. His two Labour successors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were left off the guest list.Prime Minister David Cameron, preparing to attend the wedding, said he was very excited.

"It's a mixture of this amazing young couple, the fact they love each other, it's also the institution, the national symbolism, the monarchy, the service of the royal family," he told BBC TV.

"It's all those things and a chance to celebrate. We are quite a reserved lot, the British, but then when we go for it, we really go for it.

"Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition leader Ed Miliband joined the 1,900 inside the abbey, along with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The guest list draws from a broad spectrum of society, the old establishment colliding with the brasher world of celebrity, reflecting William's privileged background and his attempts to reach out to a wider public.

Among those invited was Lance-Corporal Martyn Compton, a friend of the prince who served alongside him in the Household Cavalry and was so severely burned in an ambush in Afghanistan in 2006 that he lost his ears and nose.

Photographer Mario Testino, who took the official engagement pictures, and singer Joss Stone, who performed at a tribute concert for William's late mother in 2007, are included, as is "Mr. Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson.

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, former England rugby coach Clive Woodward, ex-England soccer star Trevor Brooking and Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas will represent the sporting world.