The Queen, for once, just the mother worrying if everything was perfect
The national state of emergency was briefly shelved yesterday was the Queen, and some 50 million others, watched her only daughter being wed. It was coincidence of course, but the stunning sights and sounds, and the tangible happiness, in Westminster Abbey smacked of the British genius of sounding a flourish when times look black or, at any rate, dim. It was above all else, a happy wedding. It was, you might say, a damned close run thing, but whatever passing, political trivialities were going on outside, they failed to seep into the Abbey.
The happiness kept breaking out all over. Princess and and Capt Mark Phillips were away on a cloud of their own making. They could hardly stop talking to each other once the Archbishop had tied the knot and the final prayers had been said. It was the primates 69th birthday. It was Prince Charles 25th birthday. There were moments, waiting for the bride, when he looked thoughtfully at the rose damask faldstools (freshly vacuumed by Mrs Gwen Henderson, of Clapham) in the knowledge that he, the future King, would probably be the next and only member of his family to kneel there this century.
But his sense of fun Bubbling over any shared it with the Queen Mother. She in turn, leaned over Prince Philip’s empty chair to try and bring a smile to the face of a daughter, the Queen. And the Queen tried to smile. Heavens, how she tried, but here was a moderate noted, among other things, for her composure and her private sense of humour, visibly running short of both. Of course it was not just another family wedding will stop but the Queen, for once in a life, was just another mother, worried to know that it would go without a hitch.
Her almost legendary calm went out of the nearest high window. Unlike most people in the Abbey, she did not have a TV monitor screen to watch her daughter’s smooth passage to the Abbey, Prince Philip’s reassuring pat on the arm at the West door, Anne’s look of determination.
She craned forward, impatient for the first sites other daughter. Unlike 500 million TV viewers, she couldn’t see the Princess glide serenely up the nave, her train no more than a wisp of mist on the blue river of carpet. It was not until Princess Anne and her father came into view through the arch of the choir screen that Queens saw that all was well. And she permitted herself an almost audible sigh of relief. She sighed again, a huge, happy side, when the couple had said most firmly, “I will.” She sang all the hymns without, incidentally, having to read the words.
For a time, she was every bit wedding day mother, alternately apprehensive and happy. The cloak of monarchy returned only when the National Anthem began.
It was a rare moment, almost the entire Royal family, including the husband at her right-hand sang in God save the Queen. Herself apart, the only other person in the Abbey not singing was the Queen Mother who stood, her eyes closed, looking quite blissful.
It was, in many strange ways, a unique wedding. No other bride, on her wedding eve, has had four Alsatians sniffing through the church for explosives.
While Capt Phillips was asleep in the Cavalry Club, with a new ceremonial sword presented by the makers of my razor blades, six special Branch officers were cat napping in camp beds in the transepts. While doubtless trusting in the protection of the Almighty, they made doubly certain by closing the major part of the Abbey Church for nine days during which it was search vaulted roof to crypt. They were discreetly present yesterday, made an anonymous buyer Moss Bros for the trifling sum of £6-£20 a head. They were the only ones who moved when, at 12:15 PM a door banged.
Nothing else marred the flawless royal tapestry which was woven with threads of scarlet and gold, white plumes, and glittering mitres.
Chief among the reigning guests was Prince Rainier of Monaco, with Princess Grace all in white, looking as serene and beautiful as she did when she rained on the screen. Ex-King Constantine of Greece and his Queen sat among Hanovarian princes, princesses, moregraves, and moregravines who are distant cousins of the Royal family.
Mr Peter Phillips and his wife Anne led their family group to the north side of the sacrarium. Alongside them, facing the Royal family, were Capt Phillips sister, Sarah, his aunt Flavia, and his grandmother, Mrs Evelyn Tiarks. First take her seat on the bright side was 90-year-old Princess Alice, one of Queen Victoria’s two surviving grandchildren. Then came the Kents, the Ogilvy’s, the Gloucester’s.
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon sat with their son, Viscount Linley, very much on his best behaviour between them. Almost unnoticed, Capt Phillips and his best man Capt Eric Grounds, entered through a cloistered door from the deanery, where they had changed into their regimental number 1 uniforms. They chatted together until the flourish of trumpets announced the arrival of the bride will stop the Queen caught the grooms eye, and gave him the closest thing to a Royal wink.
Then came their bride, and all the pomp and the colour paled against the dignity and a transparent happiness will stop in about K of lilies was tapped a sprig of White Heather in Scotland, the place where she would most like to live.
Yesterday was her day and she led all the way, with beauty and grace.
As the Dean of Westminster, Dr Eric Abbott, says “the special character of any wedding service is given to it by the bride and bridegroom themselves.” And that became obvious from the moment Prince Philip will his daughter to the groom’s side. A shy man, he gave a shy smile as the last words of the hymn ‘Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken’ died away.
Prince Philip put his daughter’s right-hand into that of Mark Phillips. Ting Grounds slipped the wedding ring from the little finger of his right hand, the homeless safe place and are no pockets in his dress uniform. As with the Queen’s ring, it was made from a nugget of Welsh gold, mined at Dolgellau. As it lay on the prayer book, Princess following the Archbishop plighted her troth.
In the hushed Abbey, she spoke firmly “I, and Elizabeth Alice Louise, take the, Mark Anthony Peter to my wedded husband.” And with the final words “and thereto I give thee my troth,” she turned and looked her husband full in the face. The Archbishop pronounced them man and wife.
After the national anthem, the bride and groom went to sign the register, or, rather, four registers. One, the royal marriage register, which is kept by the Lord Chamberlain’s office, two Abbey registers, and the Abbey’s own distinguished visitors book. Then, all tension gone, the Queen looked down at Prince Edward, the page, and Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, who had been left at the altar steps and looked a bit uncertain about the next move. She gave a little sideways nod to tell them to follow the newlyweds.
Then, as is the way with all weddings, the couple wed look so young and vulnerable a few minutes earlier, he merged to face their families, the sea of faces, the whole world with the happiness they could scarcely contain.