Even A Stiff Upper Lip Trembles For Royal Wedding

Saturday is the first full day of marriage for Prince William and his new bride, Kate Middleton. The royal couple was wed Friday at Westminster Abbey, capturing attention around the planet. Much of the build-up focused on how foreigners, especially Americans, seemed more obsessed about the event than people in Britain. Still, thousands of Britons flocked to the wedding. NPR's David Greene went to find out what they were looking for.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Scott Simon.

Today is the first full day of marriage for Prince William and his new bride, Kate Middleton. The British royal couple married yesterday at Westminster Abbey with the world watching. Much of the buildup focused on how foreigners, especially Americans, seemed more obsessed about the event than people in Britain. Still, thousands of Britons flocked to the wedding.

NPR's David Greene went to find out what they were looking for.

DAVID GREENE: During the week, things weren't looking so good for the royal wedding. Rain was forecast and people like Jay Salomin were dampening enthusiasm. His T-shirt read:

Mr. JAY SALOMIN: Never mind the wedding. Let's go to the pub.

GREENE: Yesterday morning, those dark clouds were lurking. Still, people began to fill into St. James' park along the route to Buckingham Palace.

Ms. CAROL SAMPLES: Good morning, sir. Just had a cup of tea so we're awake.

GREENE: Carol Samples and her husband Paul are from Yorkshire. They got a hotel in London for several nights. Mrs. Samples assured that she doesn't usually wear patriotic headgear. Something overtook her.

Ms. SAMPLES: I'm normally a very sensible woman but I've put something on my head.

GREENE: A little Union Jack sort of dangling off...

Ms. SAMPLES: Yes. Which wobble. (Laughing)

GREENE: In fact, the Union Jacks, the red, white and blue British flags, were everywhere - draped around women's shoulders, on men's ties and lining the avenue where the royal couple would take their ceremonial carriage ride. For Americans, maybe all this looked like Britain's version of the Fourth of July, but for a nation that doesn't often celebrate national identity, this was rare.

Ms. SAMPLES: We never show flags, no. Never ever show flags. We don't normally do this. So, it's nice for us to see, because we see other countries and they display their flags, and we just don't. It takes something like this to think, you know what, come on. Let's do it.

GREENE: Inside Westminster Abbey, a beaming Kate Middleton elegantly walked down an aisle that was lined with 20-foot trees. Her groom, the prince, was dressed in bright red military garb.

Bishop RICHARD CHARTRES (Bishop of London): Lord, have mercy upon us. Our Father, which art in heaven...

GREENE: Only 1,900 people were on the guest list to be inside. That's where the outdoor sound system came in. People packed into London's parks and streets were able to follow every last moment, even take part.

(Soundbite of music playing over sound system)

GREENE: They sipped champagne on the grass while singing with the choir and reading the prayers.

Ms. ALICE WELLS: And the fact that they've made it so public and they really tried to get everybody involved is really nice.

GREENE: That's Alice Wells, a 19-year-old college student from Rochester, England, who sat on a blanket with her sister and dad. Alice said she's felt a sense of connection with this young couple who are in line to be king and queen.

Ms. WELLS: It's nice to see them blossom together - the fact that they went to university and they grew up together. And they obviously had the break before and now they're together again and they've got married. It's a really nice love story.

GREENE: Her father, Geoffrey, recalls another bride, the late Princess Diana, giving that same feeling of accessibility to an earlier generation.

Mr. GEOFFREY WELLS: I remember watching their marriage, and, of course, all of that went wrong. And it's very disappointing and sad and so now it's a fresh start.

GREENE: That rain never came. In fact, the sun burst through by late in the day when I met a woman named Anna Webster Tomlinson. She was strolling near the Thames River pushing a baby carriage - her 14-year-old dog Posey was aboard. The dog attracted attention all day because she was wearing a tiara.

Ms. ANNA WEBSTER TOMLINSON: All these men that are interested and it took us over three-quarters of an hour to cross the bridge.

GREENE: The men all had a crush on your dog.

Ms. TOMLINSON: Men had a crush on the dog.

GREENE: Can you kind of capture of this day for me? I mean, what was most important to you, what struck you?

Ms. TOMLINSON: This day... Yes. This day was very special for Britain as a whole. It's brought Britain together. It's made Britain happy. We need this.

GREENE: If people here needed this, it was for different reasons. Tomlinson, for her part, wanted to get past the lingering sadness over Diana. Others said this was a good excuse to smile in tough economic times. Whatever the deeper meaning, Britain once again pulled off a celebration in royal fashion.

David Greene, NPR News, London.

Ms. TOMLINSON: Well, have a lovely time in Britain.

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