Divided Britain unites for royal wedding revelry
London (AFP) –
At street parties and pubs around the country, Britons celebrated Saturday's royal wedding with bunting, booze and bonhomie in a welcome respite from the divisions and uncertainties of Brexit.
Families, friends and neighbours converged to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows in the last major royal wedding for a generation.
After weeks of media coverage on the wedding, and with clear blue skies replacing Britain's often dreary weather, the mood was a joyous one.
"It's a nice way to bring everyone together... at least just for the day," said Maha Khan, 22, watching the ceremony at a London pub called the Duke of Sussex -- the new title for Prince Harry.
"I think solidarity-wise it's a nice thing -- everyone's generally in a good mood," said the student, hinting at divisions that have simmered in Britain in the age of Brexit and government austerity.
Cheers rang out as the first images of the wedding cars were screened inside the pub, and as the ceremony started it was standing room only in the main room with all eyes glued to the screen.
"I feel like the patriotic spirit is really prevalent in London because of where we are," said the pub's party organiser Sam Smith, 25, draped in a Union Jack.
"And everyone loves an excuse for a party."
He had festooned the Waterloo watering hole in Union Jack and US Stars and Stripes flags.
Pimms, the quintessentially British summertime drink, was the popular choice at the bar.
- Country 'comes together' -
Local authorities across the country have approved hundreds of street party applications, which allow roads to be shut to traffic and decked out with decorations.
The gatherings originated a century ago in Britain in the form of "peace teas" as a treat for children in days of hardship. They have evolved into a favourite tradition on national days of celebration.
Revelry was planned far and wide, from the small Kent town of Tonbridge -- hosting the biggest number of street parties in the southeast English county -- to Hertfordshire, where dozens of community gatherings were taking place.
In London there were more than a hundred street parties, from scores in leafy Richmond and Twickenham in the capital's southwest to a handful in trendy Hackney in the east.
While tens of thousands of royalists descended on Windsor to be as close as possible to the big occasion, 1,500 ticketed guests settled for picnics and an open-air screening of the nuptials in the park of Kensington Palace, the residence of the newlyweds.
Sam Wilson, a 26-year-old engineer in flip flops and shorts, brought strawberries and prosecco.
"It's great to see normally miserable people a bit happier," he said.
Pubs have been encouraged to embrace extended opening hours approved by the government. They are allowed to stay open two extra hours until 1:00 am (0000 GMT) while throwing parties of their own.
People had also gathered around a big screen in the Pear Tree pub in Scotland's capital Edinburgh.
"I think it's just feeling a sense of belonging to a wonderful piece of history," said Clare Jevons, 51, from Somerset, one of those who turned out.
Australian Alison Lemaire, 48, originally from Sydney but a London resident for the past 17 years, said she was sharing the day with an old friend in a pub.
"It's such a beautiful day and it really does unite Britain," she said.
"I just like the way the country on these occasions comes together, puts things aside and has a good time."
© 2018 AFP