Thousands of well-wishers have lined the mile-and-a-half route to Westminster Abbey in London to celebrate the marriage of Prince William, the second in line to the throne, and Catherine Middleton on Friday.Foreign dignitaries have flown in from around the world and London has been inundated with tourists who have converged at the scene to await the arrival of the first of 1,900 guests at the abbey from 8:15am. William and his brother Prince Harry, 26, who is his best man, are expected to arrive at 10.15am.The wedding will be among the first global news events of the social media age: a service full of pomp and ceremony that has thrust the monarchy to centre stage. It will also be the most important – and, courtiers hope, positive – event for the future of the monarchy in nearly 30 years.Middleton, 29, accompanied by Prince Harry, attended a rehearsal on Thursday at Westminster Abbey, the coronation church for the monarchy since William the Conqueror in 1066.In the evening, Prince William, 28, reached into the crowds waiting on the Mall, shaking hands and telling delighted members of the public he was focusing on “remembering the lines” for the “big day”.
It is expected that the Queen will bestow give new titles – probably a dukedom – on her grandson and his bride.The Middleton family spent the evening quietly at the Goring hotel near Buckingham Palace, which was cordoned off with a marquee shielding the entrance so that the bride will be able to slip unobserved into one of Buckingham Palace’s Rolls-Royces for her journey to the abbey at precisely 10.51am. Her dress will not be revealed until she arrives at the abbey nine minutes later. The designer Sarah Burton,who is creative director for Alexander McQueen, appeared to have entered the hotel in disguise.The couple issued a statement in an official programme, 150,000 copies of which will be sold for charity in central London, saying they were “incredibly moved” by the public’s affection shown them since their engagement.”We are both so delighted that you are able to join us in celebrating what we hope will be one of the happiest days of our lives.”The wedding ceremony itself – the 15th royal marriage to be celebrated at the abbey since 1100 – will place emphasis on Britishness, with music from three living composers, including a specially commissioned anthem by John Rutter, music by the Welsh composer Paul Mealor as well as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The abbey has been decorated with an “avenue of trees” along the nave made up of eight English field maples and two hornbeams.It is likely to be cool and cloudy in London for the wedding day, with rain later.
The police and intelligence services have launched an unprecedented security operation as London prepares to celebrate the royal wedding with an extra 600,000 visitors predicted in the capital on Friday.More than 8,500 journalists and broadcasting staff have arrived to cover the event, more than half of them from foreign news organisations. Across the country, stocks of bunting were said to have sold out.In a show of strength to forestall threats of demonstrations and disruption by anarchists, terrorists or extremist groups, Scotland Yard carried out a series of dawn raids across London. Police with batons and riot gear arrested 20 people during an operation against five squats across the city. Those arrested were taken to the Paddington Green high security police station and may be detained into the weekend.Hundreds of Territorial Support Group officers were involved in what the Metropolitan police said was an ongoing operation to investigate suspected criminality linked to disorder at the student demonstration last December and the TUC march last month. But the action amounted to a controversial pre-emptive strike which the Met said was “intelligence led”.In the Commons, the Labour MP John McDonnell criticised the operation, saying it was “disproportionate and no way to celebrate this glorious day”.
For the wedding itself, under huge political pressure from the home secretary and the mayor of London, the Met is mounting one of the biggest security operations in its history, expected to cost £20m, deploying 5,000 officers.Some 900 uniformed officers will line the route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, and undercover units and armed teams are being deployed to deal with a range of threats, from terrorism to direct action by activists. Thousands of service personnel will also line the procession route.The Syrian ambassador, Sami Khiyami, had his invitation withdrawn by the foreign secretary, William Hague, after growing pressure from the media over the regime’s violent suppression of demonstrations in Syria.Khiyami told the BBC: “I find it a bit embarrassing … well, I don’t really understand it, but I understand the influence of media on government.”But it emerged that another controversial figure is still attending the wedding – the former head of an agency accused of torture and human rights. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa, a former head of Bahrain’s National Security Agency, which is accused of torture and human rights abuses, is due to attend in his role as ambassador to London.
Bahrain’s crown prince withdrew at the weekend because of unrest in his country, but a spokesperson for the Bahraini embassy in London said the ambassador was expected to attend.After the wedding there will be a lunchtime reception for 650 guests at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the Queen, and an obligatory balcony kiss for the newlyweds at 1.25pm – before the monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh head for the country, leaving 300 guests to return for a dinner hosted by Prince Charles in the evening.Thousands of street parties – including one by anti-monarchists in central London – are planned for this afternoon, though undoubtedly the most publicised will be the one for 90 guests in Downing Street, supervised by Lady Warsi, giving a new dimension to the minister without portfolio’s job description. Downing Street is being decked with flags and there will be a large screen to allow guests to watch the wedding coverage, a brass band, an ice-cream stall and children’s entertainment. – Guardian