At seven this morning in London, we walked past boys in Union Jack cowboy hats, little girls in princess gowns, a couple in Charles and Camilla masks, and teenage girls in wedding dresses who had gathered in droves along the Pall Mall to watch the royal wedding procession. We parked ourselves next to a friendly group of Champagne drinkers sitting on folding camp chairs. The little girl with them was wrapped in aluminum, waving a British flag, and the two women with her wore Will and Kate shirts. “Do you smell spicy sausage?” one asked. “We’ve been here all bloody morning and I’m starving.” They had arrived at 6 a.m. to get their spot on the steps overlooking the parade route — and were already drinking. “I reckon there’s 5,000 police officers. The burglars are going to have a field day — the cops are all here.”
The entire crowd was ready to celebrate at any sign of action. A flatbed city truck drove by at 8 a.m., hours before any royals were expected, and the crowd cheered at the movement. When a band of red-clad Welsh guards marched up and started playing songs that we recognized from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, we decided to venture closer to the road for a better viewing spot at the front. Spectators were ready to fight for their spots right up against the barricades, where one British woman screamed at us, “How long are you going to be there? Will’s coming by soon.” “Only for a minute,” we told her nicely. “Yeah, well will you lose your job?” she asked. Well, no? “Well, you’ll lose yourself if you don’t move soon.” A man in a jester’s hat nearby told us “a guy before you nearly lost a hand to her, careful.”
We retreated for Prince William’s drive-by. A wave of cheering traveled down the mall, reaching us before his car came into view. Cameras and phones went up, kids were hoisted on their parents’ shoulders, and suddenly everyone paused as they turned to their neighbor to ask, “Did you see him?” Cars carrying Prince Charles, the queen, and other VIP guests drove by in intervals, but Kate’s arrival trumped everyone else's; the entire crowd seemed to be jumping up and down to catch a glimpse, as the cheering and whistling reached deafening volumes.
During the ceremony, which was broadcast over loudspeakers, people in the Mall sang along with the choir. Some girls from Jersey who had come for the wedding commiserated with a couple nearby about cell-phone service being completely out. Some in the crowd expressed disappointment about Kate being named Duchess of Cambridge instead of Princess Catherine — making quite a few "Princess Kate" T-shirts rather problematic. The crowd cheered and hugged when the "I do" came on the speakers, and then stood up, flags waving, to join in the national anthem.
Everyone screamed and waved all over again as the parade went past us on the trip from Westminster to Buckingham Palace for the wedding reception. When the royals and their guests had finished driving past, the barriers were removed and the crowd surged forward like a stampede toward Buckingham Palace to see The Kiss on the balcony. Excuse us — kisses.