The Royal Wedding. We all know which one. And I was there amongst the crowds, squished against a black lamppost for nine hours. It was the black lamppost that stood in front of the media stands that stood watching Buckingham Palace. You most likely didn’t see me. My friend, Ellie, and I woke up at 4.15am on Friday 29th April 2011. Plan in place, we caught the 14 bus to Hyde Park Corner while the morning was still young. Very young. When we got to the Palace the over-nighters in their tents and camping chairs were beginning to stir and to stake their claims. They hadn’t slept overnight in the London Spring for nothing and so had fire in their eyes as we joined them. We decided on a spot next to the black lamppost, about three rows back after scouting out positions the night before. It was as good as we were going to get. The two rows in front were over-nighters, the rest were morning-joiners like us.
There were all sorts there. A mixed-bag of people and families from all over the world. One woman had bought her three daughters and mother with her from America, another had bought her son and they were sleeping under an umbrella and had been feasting on bananas all night. The woman from Chicago who shared the black lamppost position with me had only 20 minutes sleep overnight. “It was so cold”, she kept repeating.
We’d brought our picnic lunch; a bread stick, dip, chunky kit-kats and strawberries and realised we’d be having our picnic standing up. To sit meant to loose our spot and be trampled.
The wedding fever began to spread and soon we were in a sea of flapping union jack flags and people trying to start Mexican waves. Official looking cars began to drive past; these were the most important of dignitaries around the world. And then Buckingham Palace gates opened. Different classes of royals began to roll out; first the multitudes of British royalty in Mercedes buses showing they too could be ‘common’, then the immediate family and at 10.35am, the Queen. She was driven out in her Rolls Royce, on the heels of the wedding schedule and was dressed in canary yellow. Ah the crowd gave a massive cheer, “it’s the Queen, oh my goodness it’s the Queen”!
And then we waited. ‘God Save the Queen’ was piped through the speakers and then the wedding began at Westminster. The sounds of the ceremony echoed around the Queen Victoria statue and we had to guess what it was that was being said. People sat with their radios tuned to the ceremony and I strained to listen and heard as the happy couple said their ‘I do’s’. Another cheer from the crowd.
The next event in everyone’s mind was the moment when we could see the carriage and four horses ride past with the newlyweds. “The carriage is coming up the mall,” the crowd kept on throwing around. The cry of the people could be heard closer and closer until the carriage came into view. I got a foothold on the black lamppost and jumped up to see Will and Kate (or Catherine) ride past. It was fast, too fast for a picture to be snapped and I think I saw his red suit and her white veil. The other carriages with flower girls and royalty galloped past straight after.
At 1.25pm it was to be the balcony appearance. There were rumours that the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace (us) wouldn’t be let past our barriers to make a wild dash to the Palace fence. It got very tense. And then the mountains of mall people began to be walked up by the police. We could see the human wall coming closer and filling the space we had thought to fill. The policeman who controlled our barricade let it down at the last moment and so Ellie and I got pushed into the Buckingham swell. Without trying, just being pulled and pushed and squished and stomped on, we made it two meters from the Palace gates, centre position. Prime spot. The doors to the balcony opened wide and the crowd held its breath. And then up there they appeared, looking a bit incrediblous but fully capable. They smiled and waved and shared a few words lost on the cry of a million or more gathered and then smiled and waved some more. The crowd began chanting “kiss, kiss, kiss” and so that was the beginning of their first quick peck. They looked almost normal standing atop that balcony with their family either side of them, but then not so normal as I craned my neck and stood on tiptoes like everyone around me just to have my dose of royalty.
When the balcony doors had shut and Will and Catherine were back inside enjoying their wedding reception and the loud speakers advised the crowd that there would be ‘no more balcony appearances’, we made our slow way out from the crowd that swelled in every direction. We collapsed off to the side in Green Park and counted the hours we had stood in the one spot for: nine. And the hours since going to the toilet: ten. Worth it.