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royal wedding Sunday, 20 June, 1999, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Something old, something new
Smiles all round for Edward and Sophie
Smiles all round for Edward and Sophie
By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy

Watching on television, it looked like a royal wedding in the truest sense of the tradition.

Royal Wedding
Crowds packed the streets of Windsor, as they did those of London for the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

There were crash barriers to keep order, Union flags fluttered in the hands of well-wishers as they cheered and clapped, spreading the infectious aura of nuptial joy.

Thirteen years after Britons last rolled out the bunting, for Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, many seemed thrilled to once again be toasting royal matrimony.

One of the thousands of supporters
One of the thousands of supporters
This time their best wishes were with Prince Edward, newly conferred as Earl of Wessex, and his bride, Sophie Rhys-Jones.

But in those 13 years the House of Windsor has been humbled by a series of public embarrassments that have tarnished the institution of royal marriage.

The result has been a stated wish to move with the times and so, while Edward and Sophie's big day embodied much of the pomp and pageantry of a traditional royal wedding, it came with a hitherto unknown personal touch.

The venue, St George's Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle, was grand, but in terms of scale it was not a touch on Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral.

The decision for a 5pm service, also set a more relaxed tone of dress. The women guests came in evening dress - no ball gowns since anything off-the shoulder would be disrespectful in a place of worship - and invitations requested "no hats".

The Queen looked relaxed and comfortable
The Queen looked relaxed and comfortable
The guest-list was geared more towards friends than foreign dignitaries. The presence of actors Anthony Andrews and Ruthie Henshaw, composer Lord Lloyd Webber and television journalist David Frost were a reminder that both bride and groom are media careerists.

Careful arrangements were also made in a conscious effort to break down traditional barriers with the public.

Eight-thousand local people, picked at random, were invited into the grounds of the castle. One television commentator even called it a "people's wedding".

Yet the public at large was less certain.

The fact that Edward's siblings, Charles, Anne and Andrew, have all been through the divorce mill, has unsurprisingly instilled widespread cynicism.

One of several famous guests - Lord Lloyd Webber
One of several famous guests - Lord Lloyd Webber
Outside Windsor, there was nothing approaching the royal wedding "fever" of yesteryear. There was just a sprinkling of street parties up and down the country and London's West-End seemed busy as ever on Saturday lunchtime.

Yet Sophie and Edward doubtless had more pressing matters to think of.

As is befitting for the biggest day in the life of a public relations careerist, everything went like clockwork for Sophie.

Even the odd hiccup looked well placed - adding a frisson of excitement to the proceedings.

Naturally, the bride was late but even that seemed well-timed. There was a heart-stopping moment as Edward struggled to fit the plain wedding ring on Sophie's finger.

Starting life as a married man
But otherwise it passed off smoothly, no fluffed lines and the soon-to-be Countess of Wessex did not trip on the steps up to the chapel - as she had feared.

Meanwhile, worries that anti-royal demonstrators would disrupt proceedings came to nothing.

The pair spoke their vows in assured tones and intermittently exchanged smiles and intimate glances.

For all the world, and that meant 200 million people according to the estimated television audience, it looked like Sophie and Edward were, like any other couple on their wedding day, happy and in love.

Links to more royal wedding stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more royal wedding stories

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