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Final touches underway as wedding countdown begins

Text by Katherine THOMPSON

Latest update : 2011-04-29

As Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton draws closer, hundreds of members of the British armed forces took part in a pre-dawn walk-through on Wednesday along the royal wedding route.

It’s the news that everyone has been waiting for. After endless speculation, baseless predictions and even a prayer or two, the official UK weather service, the Met Office, has finally issued its forecast for Friday, April 29: heavy rain in London for the wedding day of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This being Britain, would it really do anything but rain?

The weather forecast threw the media into full frenzy mode: how would Kate cope with disaster – would she have to wield a royal umbrella to protect her dress, or would the accursed British weather ruin another bride’s big day? Attempting to calm the hysteria, St. James’s Palace, the official residence of Prince Charles, revealed that the entire royal family will travel to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony in covered glass coaches if it rains.

Final touches

The hundreds of members of the British armed services, the Royal Air Force and the Royal navy who will be lining the streets between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace on the royal wedding day participated in a full-scale walk-through before dawn on Wednesday. Dressed in their crisp uniforms, the officers and soldiers stood to attention as Horse Guards paraded through the empty streets in the early morning. The military band, however, did not play their instruments, out of consideration for the slumbering residents of London.

The nuptials of Prince William, the future king of England, and Kate Middleton – who have been dating since they met while studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland eight years ago – have gripped the British nation. There have been acres of media coverage on the ceremony, the wedding dress (endless predictions, but still a closely guarded secret) and the controversial guest list.

There has even been a heated debate about Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to wear an ordinary work suit for the ceremony rather than a traditional morning suit. Apparently the British premier – who is attempting to distance himself from his privileged background – is worried about looking too posh. However, he is already being ridiculed for the move, with the Daily Telegraph writing tartly, “David Cameron’s 'just like us' routine is wearing as thin as his hair".

The event is expected to draw nearly two billion viewers from around the world, which dwarfs the 750 million who tuned in for the marriage of Prince William’s parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, in 1981.    

Is the royal family still relevant?

The royal family has once again moved into the media spotlight with the impending marriage of Prince William, who is generally viewed as the modern face of the British royal family – and potentially its saviour. He enjoys more goodwill than most of the other royals due to the untimely death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. A recent poll by UK pollster YouGov showed that when the Queen dies, most Britons would like to see the crown go directly to William instead of passing to his father, Prince Charles, who is next in line to the throne.

A poll last week by the left-leaning Guardian newspaper also showed that while 67 percent of British people are still broadly supportive of the monarchy, most are not die-hard royalists but moderate monarchists. And most are far more pleased about the extra day off work that has been alloted for the royal nuptials than with the wedding itself.

And despite the blanket media coverage, Britons do not appear to be caught up in the fairy tale. The Guardian/ICM poll showed that just 37 percent of respondents are "genuinely interested" in the wedding, with 46 percent saying they are not.

Global media frenzy

In Republican France, the level of interest in the wedding has been surprising, with many French citizens reporting that they will be watching the event. Across the country, the front pages of magazines and newspapers have been dominated by pictures of the happy couple, with the popular Point De Vue magazine featuring little else in the run-up to the wedding.

But interest is not just confined to Europe. In Mexico City, a tenacious teenager living in a slum staged a 16-day hunger strike in front of the British Embassy to get an invite to the wedding. Unfortunately for Estabalis Chavez, the British government refused her request, but a Mexican lobbyist funded her flight to London last week. Even though she didn't make it onto the guest list, Chavez will be outside the Abbey on Friday.

In the United States, a movie has already been made about the royal romance. Unfortunately, film critics have slammed the effort, with the popular UK daily The Sun reporting that audiences called it the "naffest ever made" and "God awful".

More than 8,000 international journalists, photographers and technical staff will be descending on London on Friday, ready to provide every detail of the royal wedding day to an inquisitive public.

Around the world, at least, the fairy tale of William and Kate has truly taken hold.

Date created : 2011-04-27

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