At 10.52 came the moment everyone had been waiting for as Michael Middleton came out of the Goring Hotel with his daughter Catherine. She was helped into the Rolls Royce Phantom 6 (the same car that had been damaged during the student protests earlier in the year) with her beautiful dress designed by Sarah Burton, creative director of the Alexander McQueen label. Almost immediately parallels were being drawn between the clean, classic lines of Catherine’s dress with the iconic Grace Kelly dress she wore for her marriage to Prince Rainier in 1956. The clean cut 50’s style of dress with its elegant nipped in waist, delicate lace sleeves, stunning satin bodice and cleverly pleated skirt combined traditional fabrics with a contemporary silhouette. Catherine had chosen the Alexander McQueen brand according to a press release from St James’ Palace for the, “beauty and craftsmanship and its respect for traditional workmanship and the technical construction of clothing.”
The wedding dress was understated but very beautiful with intricate details incorporating romantic styles of decoration. The lace applique for the bodice and skirt was handmade by the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. The lace design was hand-engineered using the Carrickmoss lace-making technique which originated from Ireland in the 1820’s. Hand-cut English lace and French Chantilly had been used throughout the bodice and skirt and also used for the underskirt trim. Much care was taken to ensure that each flower was the same colour. The dress was made with ivory and white gazar. The skirt echoes an opening flower with white satin gazar arches and pleats. The train measured 270cm and the style of the dress with the nipped in waist is a re-interpretation of Victorian style corsetry. The ivory duchesse satin shoes were made by the team at Alexander McQueen with lace hand-embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. The veil was made of layers of soft, ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers. It was held in place by the beautiful 1936 Cartier Halo Tiara. The tiara had been a present for the Queen mother from her husband George VI and it was presented to the Queen herself on her eighteenth birthday. For the day the Queen lent her tiara to Catherine, whose hair had been beautifully styled to compliment it. The stylists James Price and Richard Ward from London’s Richard Ward Salon created a sleek but natural look with a demi-chignon which still allowed them scope to create wonderful cascading curls. Michael and Carole Middleton’s contributions to the bridal trousseau was a beautiful pair of diamond set earrings with stylised oak leaves with a pear shaped diamond set drop and a pave set diamond acorn suspended in the centre. They were made by Robinson Pelham and inspired by the Middleton family’s coat of arms. Catherine’s younger sister Philippa was the picture of elegance in a slim-fitting dress also designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. She looked absolutely lovely from the moment she stepped out of the Goring Hotel. Pippa would fulfil her maid of honour duties seamlessly and calmly shepherded the tiny bridesmaids into the abbey before returning outside to arrange her sister’s train. Her hair had been styled similarly to her sister’s in a demi-chignon. The journey to Westminster Abbey for Catherine and her father was short and after pleasing the crowds with a dignified wave and lots of smiles she arrived at the abbey simply radiating beauty and happiness. She was helped out of the car by her father to the awaiting bridesmaids, pageboys and her sister, Maid of Honour, Philippa Middleton.
The four bridesmaids Lady Louise Windsor (7), the Hon. Margarita Armstrong-Jones (8), and 3- year-olds Grace van Cutsem and Eliza Lopes all had their ballerina length, box pleated dresses handmade by British designer Nicki Macfarlane and her daughter at their homes in England. They used the same beautiful fabric that had been used for Catherine’s and Philippa’s dress and were hand finished with English Cluny lace. The bridesmaids also had pale gold silk sashes, each was embroidered with the bridesmaid’s name and the date of the wedding. Their beautiful shoes were made of satin and they were fastened with Swarovski crystal buckles. Master Tom Pettifer (8) and Master William Lowther-Pinkerton (10) were dressed in the red tunics of a Foot Guards Officer, similar to William’s formal Irish Guards attire of a red jacket with gold braiding. The bridesmaids and pageboys have close ties to Prince William. Lady Louise Windsor is William’s cousin, while Master Tom Pettifer and Grace van Cutsem are his god-children. Master William Lowther-Pinkerton is the son of the private secretary to both Prince William and Prince Harry, James Lowther-Pinkerton. Margarita Armstrong-Jones is Prince William’s second cousin. After Philippa Middleton had organised the wedding train and gathered together the bridesmaids and pageboys, they all entered and processed through the nave to Sir Charles Hubert Hasting Parry’s anthem, ‘I was Glad’. It was at this moment that the sun managed to break through the clouds and reach the celebration, beaming fleetingly to accompany the bridal procession into the nave.
As Catherine approached the altar where William was waiting, Harry had already managed to turn around, glance at the dress and tell his brother “Wait ‘til you see the dress!” As Catherine joined William and took her place beside him he mouthed “You look beautiful”. The two greeted each other with reassuring smiles and a few words were exchanged. Kate’s veil was lifted by her father as the congregation sang the hymn ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,’ by John Hughes (1873-1932) and William Williams (1717-91). William and Catherine looked serious and focused for the ‘Welcome and Introduction’ from the Dean of Westminster but smiled gently for the solemnization of the marriage by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Michael Middleton then ‘gave away’ Catherine’s hand to the Archbishop. The Archbishop received her hand after which Prince William took his betrothed’s hand and recited his vows. The closeness of the couple was apparent as the magnitude of the occasion unfolded around them. Catherine now took Williams right hand and declared her vows. The Archbishop blessed the very special wedding ring which follows a tradition started in 1923 by the Queen Mother. It is made out of Welsh gold from the Clogau St David’s mine at Bontddu in North Wales by Royal warrant holder Wartski.The Queen made a present of the plain thin band of gold to William on the news of his engagement. William put the ring on Catherine’s finger and with the Archbishop’s words “Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder” the couple’s union was sealed and a whole new chapter of royal history commenced.
The famous hymn ‘Love Divine All Loves Excelling’ by William Penfro Rowlands (1860-1937) and Charles Wesley (1707-88) was the first hymn that they would sing together as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Next Catherine’s brother James Middleton read movingly the lesson from the Romans. The choirs then sang the ‘The Anthem’ by John Rutter (b 1945), commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster for this service. The sermon by Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, was particularly memorable for its oratory, powerful imagery and contemporary focus. From its inspiring opening – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day this is. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves” – and its message of a return to spiritual values shared through marriage, “As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light.This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.” he Motet by Paul Mealor (b 1975) was then performed by the Choirs as Catherine and William moved to the High Altar. The Percentor, the Reverend Michael Macey, led the prayers, joined by the Dean and Archbishop. That most quintessential and rousing of English hymns ‘Jerusalem’ by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry and arranged by Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1943) with words by William Blake (1757-1827) was then sung by all.
The Dean blessed the married couple and this part of the ceremony drew to a close with a brass fanfare and the singing of the National Anthem. William, Catherine and their witnesses then moved to the Shrine of Edward the Confessor for the signing of the Marriage Registers. The Procession of the Clergy moved to the Great West Door as the choirs sung ‘Blest pair of Sirens’ music by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry using a poem from ‘At a Solemn Musick’ by John Milton (1608-74). The fanfare was sounded again and the London Chamber Orchestra played ‘Crown Imperial’ by William Walton (1902-83) as the Procession of the Bride and Bridegroom left the Abbey. In an age of loud and ostentatious weddings so favoured by people known to the masses it was a wonderful relief and breath of fresh air for the British nation to share in such a warm, dignified and understated occasion. (Extract from Royalty Magazine vol. 22/02)