Streets turn red, white and blue

The Beckhams arrive
The Beckhams arrive
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Well-wishers turned the route of the royal wedding procession into a sea of red, white and blue as the world came together to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton’s big day.

Waving flags and clutching umbrellas against the predicted rain, the crowds waited with mounting excitement for the first glimpse of the couple - and in particular the bride’s dress, which has been kept a closely-guarded secret.

Kate was said to be nervous but calm as she made her final preparations for a ceremony that will be watched on television by two billion people worldwide.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, who is conducting the service, told Sky News: “I think she will be quite calm, as a matter of fact.

“She seems to be very much in control of herself and looking forward very much to the day.

“After the final rehearsal when William and Catherine came on Wednesday evening, they both seemed to be very happy. I’m sure they will be a little bit nervous but I’m sure they can cope with that.”

Among the 1,900 guests invited to the Westminster Abbey service are a number of celebrities, including David and Victoria Beckham.

Victoria spoke of her delight at the occasion, writing on Twitter: “London looks beautiful!!! We are so proud to be British!”

Another of those attending the ceremony, TV presenter Ben Fogle, also expressed his excitement.

He wrote on Twitter: “Quick walk in Hyde Park with the dogs while the girls have their hair done. Very excited. London feels electric.”

As hundreds of thousands of well-wishers made their way to join the celebrations, a proud owner carried his British bulldog, draped in a Union flag, through Victoria station.

Burly men in crowns, women in glittering tiaras, children clutching flags and families with picnics all took to the Tube on their way to central London.

At Green Park station, the nearest to Buckingham Palace where William and Kate will kiss on the balcony later today, the platforms resembled rush hour as early as 6am.

On the Mall opposite Stable Yard, a group of students wore wedding dresses bought from charity shops as they joined the celebrations.

The famous Buckingham Palace balcony, where William and Kate will appear after the service for their first kiss in public, was decorated with a crimson drape lined with yellow edging.

There was a cheer from the crowd as palace staff began preparing the balcony for the historic kiss.

At London’s Heathrow Airport, the national anthem was played as passengers awaited their flights this morning.

The crowd employed their Union flags for a wide variety of purposes - as well as waving them furiously, they wore them as scarves and draped them around their shoulders against the early morning chill.

The royal wedding has captured the imagination of the American public, and the stars and stripes was also in evidence outside the abbey.

Many of those who travelled to London for the occasion made special efforts, with young girls sporting princess outfits and one man wearing a fake crown and sunglasses.

Kingsley Glover, a fellow pupil of Miss Middleton’s from her days at St Andrews school in Pangbourne, near Reading, was in Bucklebury to celebrate the big day.

He told ITV’s Daybreak: “She was quite quiet, she was good at sports, she was in the hockey team, the swimming team as well.

“I was in a few plays with her at school, we were in the choir as well.”

Mr Glover played alongside Miss Middleton in the Victorian melodrama Murder In The Red Barn, when he played the role of William.

Footage of the play, when Miss Middleton was 13, has been posted on YouTube.

Mr Glover said when the royal bride first rose to fame, he had no idea she was the same person he had gone to school with.

“I had no idea that Kate Middleton meant Catherine Middleton who I went to school with.

“Someone said, ‘Didn’t Catherine do well?’, and I said, ‘What’s she doing now?’.”

Teacher Jackie Fowler, 28, from Putney, south London, and her friend Clare Gregory, 27 - who travelled from Leeds for the occasion - got up at 5am to make their way to the Mall to join in the celebrations.

“We’re so excited. I’m a massive royal fan anyway so this is just brilliant,” Miss Fowler said.

“We’ve dressed up like we’re going to a wedding, with our fascinators in. We’ve got champagne in our bag and we’re ready for a really great day.”

Miss Gregory added: “I’m originally from Northampton, which obviously has links to Diana, so as soon as it was announced I knew I’d have to be here to watch it live, not just on the TV.

“It’s a really great atmosphere, everyone’s so excited.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told Sky News: “I always look forward to weddings and this is a really rather special one.

“Just getting to know the couple a little bit, to see how they think about it, has really been a very positive thing.”

The couple were both “deeply sensible” and “realistic”, he said, but at the heart of the day was a strong desire that “what’s basic, what’s really central to them, needs to come through strongly”.

The wedding service at Westminster Abbey was the hottest ticket in town.

Guests began lining up outside the historic place of worship before the doors were opened at 8.30am to joyful cheers from the crowd.

Those lucky enough to be invited were dressed in their finest outfits, sporting colourful hats, fascinators and morning suit tails.

Officers in military uniforms waiting patiently in the exclusive queue rubbed shoulders with Christian and Jewish clergy.

Hash and Chan Shingadia, who run the local shop in Bucklebury, were lucky enough to get invitations to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey today.

Speaking from the abbey, Mr Shingadia told ITV’s Daybreak they were “totally shocked” then “very excited” to receive an invite to the wedding.

The couple are among a group of guests invited from Miss Middleton’s home village of Bucklebury - along with local butcher Martin Fidler and wife Sue, and John Haley, owner of the Old Boot Inn in nearby Stanford Dingley.

“They come into the shop all the time so the family have sort of become friends,” said Mr Shingadia, whose wife donned a traditional sari for the occasion.

“She (Kate) would come in about two or three times a week, she’d buy all sorts obviously, but does like Haribo sweets.

“She is very nice, very polite, very beautiful, of course.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here, we’re very, very happy for her.

“She is a wonderful person and will make Prince William a lovely wife and will make a great future queen.

“It will be great to watch her father walk down the aisle with her on his arm.”

Former England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward, who was among the guests at the abbey, said he was “very proud” of William and Kate.

He told the BBC: “Coming down last night, to see the whole scale of the event, it was just absolutely fantastic.

“I’m just so glad to be British because the whole country’s clearly behind this wonderful couple and it just should be a wonderful day.

“He will be very nervous, and I’m a little bit nervous for him.”

Among the other flags seen in the crowd were those of Scotland, Canada, Australia, Germany and South Africa.

Prince Harry’s on-off girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, smiled broadly as she took her seat in the abbey dressed in an aqua green satin top and modest fascinator.

She had been due to wear two custom-made outfits by Italian designer Alberta Ferretti and is expected to change into an asymmetric, midnight blue satin gown for the evening.

Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, one of the most high-profile sports stars to be invited to the wedding, arrived at the abbey’s Great North Door shortly after 9am.

William met Thorpe on a visit to Australia last year and has supported his Foundation for Youth, which focuses on improving health and education for children.

There were squeals of joy from the crowd when David Beckham waved as he arrived at the abbey with his pop star-turned-fashion designer wife Victoria.

Beckham wore a Ralph Lauren morning suit with the OBE he received in 2003 pinned to the right lapel, and had his hair slicked back with a parting on the left side.

His wife, who is pregnant with their fourth child, wore a dark blue dress she designed herself accessorised with a hat by celebrated milliner Philip Treacy.

William’s close Eton friend Harry Meade was seen queuing to get into the abbey, as guests waited to take their seats.

The Prince was pictured last year attending the event rider’s marriage, along with Miss Middleton, who wore an elegant cobalt blue dress.

At the time, the then 28-year-old was described as “every inch the princess-in-waiting”.

Inside Westminster Abbey, the pre-ceremony atmosphere was more like a garden party than a religious occasion.

As the organ blazed out music, brightly clothed guests mingled in the aisles, chatting happily.

Hats of all hues and shapes were to be seen as well as fascinators.

Most men were in morning suits.

Earl Spencer, who paid a moving tribute to his sister Diana, Princess of Wales in the abbey at her funeral in September 1997, arrived shortly before 9.30am.

Commons Speaker John Bercow and his wife Sally arrived at Westminster Abbey shortly after 9.40am.

Mr Bercow wore a morning suit while his wife towered over him in heels, wearing a knee-length grey and black patterned dress with a slit at the front and a plunging neckline.

Mrs Bercow topped off her outfit with a fascinator with a black detail.

London Mayor Boris Johnson revealed he was giving the royal couple a tandem bicycle as a wedding gift.

“It’s a fantastic day for the city,” he told BBC News. “Obviously it shows the city at its best. In many ways it’s a great dry run for the Olympics.”

Commons Speaker John Bercow and his wife Sally arrived at Westminster Abbey shortly after 9.40am.

Mr Bercow wore a morning suit while his wife towered over him in heels, wearing a knee-length grey and black patterned dress with a slit at the front and a plunging neckline.

Mrs Bercow topped off her outfit with a fascinator with a black detail.

Sir Elton John drew some of the biggest cheers as he arrived at the abbey.

He did not show off his usual flamboyant style as both he and his partner David Furnish were dressed in black morning coats and grey trousers.

They both gave a brief wave before hurrying inside.

As the abbey filled and the clock ticked closer to the 11am start of the ceremony, guests continued their cheerful chatter.

Friend happily greeted friend as if this was Royal Ascot or Wimbledon rather than the ancient abbey.

Like Victoria Beckham, Lady Major, arriving with her husband former prime minister Sir John Major, also sported a dark-coloured hat.

On lookers cheered as the Rolls-Royce which will take Kate to the abbey was driven down The Mall to The Goring hotel, where she spent her last night as a single woman.

The luxury vehicle - which is the same car that was attacked by student fees protesters as it carried the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to the Royal Variety Performance last December - was preceded by two police motorcycle outriders.

Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, an old friend of William and Kate, who is credited with reuniting the couple after they split up in 2007, also attended the service.

He played down his role in reviving the relationship, telling the BBC: “To be honest, I think they got themselves back together again. But it was nice to get them in a room together and have a chance to have a good chat.

“They’re fantastic. To see the big smiles on their faces, you know they’re two people who are just very much in love.”

Mr Waley-Cohen, who will himself get married in June, said he did not envy the intense scrutiny placed on the couple’s wedding.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to walk down that aisle in front of so many people,” he said.

“I suspect for him, he’s been brought up with it to an extent, he’s done a few of those trips in Australia, Canada and all the rest of it, he’s probably used to it.

“I would imagine for Catherine this is a whole other kettle of fish. For any bride, your dress being scrutinised and you want to look your most beautiful and all the rest of it - so I would imagine she’s absolutely terrified.”