Archive for May 2nd, 2011

What a fabulous event! Kate; or Catherine as she is now to be known, the Duchess of Cambridge looked absolutely radiant, just as every bride should!
I feel as if I have truly fallen through the rabbit hole, it was surreal! The Pomp! The Pagentry! The Ceremony! The Horses! The Traditions! The Colours! The Music! The Troops! The Flags! – only the British can do Pomp and Ceremony like the British! ūüôā

royal wedding soldiers marching by

Pomp and Pagentry on The Mall

Who would have thought when I sat in front of my TV that day back in South Africa in 1981, and watched the wedding of Prince Charles and the soon to be Princess Diana, that in just under 30 years time I would be in London and at the wedding of her eldest son; Prince William!
To say that I am thrilled and exhuberant to have been part of the fantastic event would be a total understatement. I could probably use every descriptive word in the dictionary and it still wouldn’t describe the fun, the excitement and the sheer unadulterated amazement I felt at being there.

royal wedding on the mall processional route

two very excited people, on The Mall waiting for the fun to begin

Earlier in the month, in a moment of what can clearly be described as madness, I had decided to join the hundreds of other people who would be camping out on the Mall for the Royal Wedding.

my place for the Royal Wedding

You may recall, (or not), that I went along to mark this ‘spot’ a few days before which was great fun.¬† Of course when I did arrive at The Mall on Thursday evening, the whole area was already filled with people camping out –¬†¬†note to self: take leave from duty when these events occur! In other words, there are other people just as mad who get there early too!!

royal wedding, crowds camping on the mall

you gotta get there early

So, there I was, rucksack strapped on, the pop-up 2woman tent that I had purchased the day before in another ‘moment of madness’,¬† (I am not safe with a credit card when I get excited about something!!) in one hand, a bag of food in my other hand and my stomach churning with excitement, wandering about looking for a spot to camp out!¬† I was delighted that my daughter had decided to join me for the night and she was to arrive a wee bit later.

royal wedding, camping on the mall

our 2-woman pop-up tent prior to being popped-up

The Mall was a sea of tents, and camping chairs, plastic ground sheets, and thousands of people either already set up or just milling about. And dust!!!  Without further ado, I set off to find a reasonable spot and chanced upon a row of ladies who had already set up their chairs right against the barrier. There was a space behind them with a clear view of The Mall in front, a good view of Buckingham Palace and most importantly a good view of the balcony where the couple would appear after the ceremony! And hopefully for a kiss!! In the event we got two, and in the event I missed both coz by the time it happened we had crowds of people in front and many were up on shoulders and that was that.

royal wedding the couple on the balcony

The Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace - a sea of heads below

The souvenir vendors were out n force and we had people selling flags, badges, buttons, hats, scarves and two enterprisng young ladies on Barclays Bikes selling t-shirts

royal wedding
enterprising vendors selling t-shirts; getting around on Barclays bikes

One thing is for sure, the Barclays Cycle Hire were making a roaring trade, I saw dozens of bikes being used that afternoon and night!    I set myself up behind the ladies who were from Somerset, got to chatting to folks around me and leaving my bags with the ladies in front I went walkabout for a bit. Not too far mind, I had a spot to keep!  If you moved away for more than a few minutes, your spot was gone!  My question about where to go to the loo was answered as soon as I arrived.

royal wedding on the mall portaloos

portaloos for a party

 There were people from all over the world, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, America, Japan, Germany, Poland and UK citizens from all corners of the country. I saw Piers Morgan being interviewed, I watched reporters reporting, I got to see David Cameron go walkabout,

royal wedding, david cameron

David Cameron on The Mall, being interviewed by Tim Wilcox

but I missed William and Harry’s walkabout near Clarence House. In terms of distance it is a 5 minute walk, in terms of the night I could just as well have been on the moon….it was impossible to get anywhere near the place.
Soon my daughter arrived and we put the tent up!¬† Now here is the thing, there is something I learned over this episode; a pop-up tent ‘pops’ up a lot easier than it ‘pops’ down again!¬† After numerous fruitless attempts on Friday morning to get it back in the bag, we gave up, strapped it together and that was that!

royal wedding, camping on the mall

a fruitless attempt to pop-down the pop-up...........

¬†I was almost happy to see the back of it,¬†however, since it did cost ¬£60, I didn’t just toss it!¬† ¬†But it was a great little to tent to sleep in (probably what saved it’s skin), and in due course, at about 10pm we snuggled in, sleeping mats rolled out, sleeping bags spread out and hallelujah my daughter brough a couple of pillows along! All the comforts of a 5-star hotel and we had a view like none! ūüôā

royal wedding camping on the mall

settling in for the night.

By this stage we were covered in dust, The Mall sidewalks are after all sand and grit, and despite repeated washing of my hair when I got home the next day, I can still feel grit in my hair.¬† My pores, despite a real scrubbing under the shower still feel clogged. The sand got in everywhere, and by the time I got home Friday night my clothes, the tent, the sleeping bags, my rucksack and my trainers collectively contained at least 90% of the Mall’s gritty sidewalk!

dusty tents on The Mall

The excitement on the night was palpable.  It never ceases to amaze me how at these events people who are total strangers get chatting and laughing together, the normal British reserve is no-where to be seen. Reporters from different countries and TV Stations were roving around, looking for interesting people to interview.  And by interesting I mean the people that were dressed for the occassion.  There were Brides, a Queen Victoria, ladies in hats fit for a Queen, Union Jacks disguised in all manner of items; painted on faces, hats and t-shirts.  We had scattered sing-songs, hundreds of flags waving about and the atmosphere was electric.

royal wedding, on the mall for the royal wedding

do not press my button.........

I managed to sleep for about 3 hours between the hours of 1am and 4am through the noise, the shouting, the tramping feet that constantly kicked and knocked our tent, the lights, the shouting, the singing and the occassional Porta-Potty truck!  We had Police milling about keeping an eye on the crowds and may I say that I was totally impressed; no aggression, no fighting, no bad behaviour and everyone was in a very jolly mood.
We woke really early the next day, and my very clever daughter went off to find us some tea and breakfast.¬† Lesson #1 dont bother to bring food next time….just buy when you are there! Never has a cup of tea tasted so good! And the croissants even better.¬† We also had red-velvet cupcakes for elevenses!!

royal wedding, buckingham palace

very early the next morning

By 7am the crowds had swelled to enormous proportions, we had unsuccessfully packed up our tent, packed away our accoutrements and got ready for a party. The air was electric and in no time at all the party got under way.  Wills and Kate went walkabout, The Queen walked by and waved

royal wedding camping on the mall

the 'Queen' goes walkabout

and The Mall looked like something out of Glastonbury.

royal wedding camping on the mall

the crowds at 7am the next day

We had Pomp and Pageantry like you cannot believe.  The Police were out in force, armed Police, yer man Plod and the Metropolitan Mounted Police, in regiments and groups all there to Protect and Serve!

royal wedding, metropolitan mounted police

The Metropolitan Mounted Police

They also took no truck with disturbances and if you didn’t obey instantly when they told not to climb into the trees……… !!!!!
As the hours went by, the excitement rose, cheering and clapping, flag waving and music, helicopters, marching soldiers, mounted police, armed police, people pushing and shoving allwanting the best vantage point they could get….¬†and then the Procession began…….

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Katie, Katie give me your answer true, I’m half crazy just for the love of you.
It was a stylish marriage, We used my granny’s carriage,
and you looked sweet, good enought to eat,
so glad you said I do!

william and catherine royal wedding 29 april 2011

the newly married couple; Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - William and Catherine

The big day had finally arrived, one of the most anticipated events in the last 30 years!!!   At first light the campers started to wake, spectators began to arrive and the dust rose into the air in swathes!!!  and we kept an anxious eye on the weather!!
As the morning progressed the excitement mounted and the crowds swelled.  They had been expecting an estimated crowd of 600,000 on the Processional route, in the event it swelled to over 1million!
I do believe that the reality of the importance of the occassion had started to sink in as the day wore on and as the excitement set in……this was our future King who was getting married!¬† Diana’s eldest son and 2nd in line to the throne! How could you not be there!!!
The Mall was closed off, the Metropolitan Police, lunch packs in hand, started spreading out into their marked positions.  Armed-Police marched by, some heading for the roof of Buckingham Palace, snipers and marksmen all positioned on the corners of the Palace roof.  Suddenly we noticed that the Royal Standardwas aloft!

royal wedding william and catherine royal standard

The Royal Standard

 Reporters reported; interviewing anyone they thought looked suitably attired or somewhat crazily quirky- and there were many to choose from!!  Street sweepers went by to roudy applause, the crowd cheering anyone who walked by.  We had Mexican waves, we had cheering, we had more and more people trying to squeeze into tiny spaces, the flag waving increased in intensity and the volume of sound swelled to deafening proportions. And you did not dare to leave your place to go to the loo!!!
Suddenly¬†the music from the Abbey burst forth from the speakers lining route and we cheered!¬† And then the procession began………
When the first of the Mounted Police rode by the sound swelled, when the Marching bands went by, the cheers escalated, and when the first of the Royal Family; Princes William and Harry left Clarence House the crowd roared!
With frequent glances at watches or phones, we impatiently awaited the girl whose day this was! Our Kate! Our Queen in waiting!! The excitement built by the second and we watched anxiously for the flags at the top end of the circle to start waving and for the crowds to start cheering.   The Mall was filled with Marching Bands, Mounted Police, Regiments of the Crown, cars and coaches; Ambassadors, Minor Royals, and then Tah Dah!!! the Queen and Prince Philip went by and the crowd cheered,

royal wedding, queen elizabeth II, processional route to westminster abbey

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on their way to Westminster Abbey

flags waving energetically. Suddenly time had marched on and there was the car with the Maid of Honour; Pippa Middleton and the bridesmaids, and now we knew for sure that within seconds the girl we had been waiting to see with bated breath and rising anticipation was on her way.  The excitement rippled like electricity through the crowd!!
And suddenly the level of sound rose with an enormous roar!!!! Kate was on her way! And finally there she was, looking radiant and exquisite, every inch a Royal Regal lady; born for this position.. smiling beautifully behind her veil she elegantly waved with evident happiness!  Her father beaming proudly at her side.   The crowd cheered and cheered, tears flowed and we all had one thought on our minds; her future.  There she was, one of us, and within the next hour she would be one of them!  Our future Queen-in-waiting, and she looked it!

royal wedding kate middleton

the bride; radiant and beautiful - Kate Middleton

Within seconds the car was gone, enroute to Westminster Abbey and the moment her life would change irrevocably!¬† She would soon become one of the most photographed and talked about women in the world, on a par with our Diana and we all loved her!¬† Loved her because she had brought a sparkle to William’s eyes, a lovely girl who loved him, and it showed!
As the music flowed from the speakers the crowd fell silent and you could almost hear a pin drop as the crowds waited for the ceremony to begin.
Next we heard the voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury; and as William said ‘I will’ the crowds cheered, but that was nothing compared to the roar of the crowd as the soft trembling of Kate’s response came through the loudspeakers. Deafening!¬† She said ‘I will’ and the country roared!¬† What a brilliant moment; a historical moment, a moment that set the seal on a future that we can only imagine, and never truly comprehend! And I was there!! I will never in all my life forget the feelings and the emotions I felt in that moment, and as she said ‘I will’ the sun shone out from behind the clouds, just a short burst and I knew that Diana was there!!!

The rest of the service passed in a flash as we sang the National Anthem and then the¬†words of ‘God Save the Queen’ rang out, voices raised in lusty jubilation, patriosim at it’s very best.¬†¬†Soon the formalities were over and as¬†they left the Abbey,¬†once again the sun shone out, the rays no match for the smiles on the faces of these two young people, happily in love and happy together!! William proud, and Catherine, as he had said at the altar; “beautiful”.
The exhuberation as the carriage procession made it’s way along the Mall to Buckingham Palace,¬† along the Processional Route was electrifying, powerful and emotional.¬† ¬†I got so excited by the magnificence of the horses, barely controlled at galloping-trot or whatever style of motion it is called; overwhelming!¬†¬† You could feel the energy of the moment, the sheer power as the carriage swept by, preceded by these magnificent creatures that looked as if they would break loose at any second!

royal wedding, the queens guards, the mall

all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men...........

¬†The smiles, the radiance of the bride, regal and royal, the elegant wave of a dainty hand and the pride on William’s face!
All too soon they were gone, followed closely by the rest of the wedding party; Pippa and the bridesmaids, Prince Harry and the page-boys, the Queen and Prince Philip in their glass coach, then Charles and Camilla with Mr & Mrs Middleton, and then the coaches with other members of the Royal Family.
Once they were all safely tucked up inside, a wave of humanity surged along The Mall, controlled, yet eager, thousands of people preceded by Her Majesty’s forces heading for the Palace.¬† It’s is a sight so surreal, it’s hard to imagine. The crowds moved inexorably forward and the crush became almost too much to bear as people surged forward in their desire to stand below the balcony where the newly-married couple would soon appear.

a mass of humanity along The Mall; heading for the Palace for the balcony scene

   I so remember the moment Diana and Charles stepped out onto that balcony almost 30 years ago and the feeling that came with it, and now here I was just metres away about to watch her son step onto that same spot his parents had stood all those years ago.
And of course the main reason for the excitement………..the kiss!!!!! Would they? Or would they not? But they did, and the crowd went wild, kiss her again they cried and he did, to a roar of approval and jubilation like no other!

royal wedding, catherine and william, duke and duchess of cambridge

the newly weds - William and Catherine; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The heavy drone of the fly-past competing with the roar from the crowds; and then it was all over.  The Royal Family, preceded by the Queen left the balcony to continue their celebrations in private.  I loved the moment, as seen on TV, when Catherine walked out onto the balcony; her gasp of surprise was delightful.

And I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic it was to be standing there, part of this celebration of such momentous importance and joy.  It is something I will never, ever forget! A day to be remembered and celebrated, I hope, for decades to come!

all photos in this blog are the copyright of Cémanthe Harries of Stop and Think Photography

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