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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 13:19 GMT
Lining royal 'route to happiness'
Mary Smith
Mary Smith waited hours for a glimpse of the bride

As Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten on 20 November 1947, Mary Parker, formerly Mary Smith, of Bexhill-On-Sea, joined the well-wishers lining the royal route.

The 17-year-old typist 's account of her "perfect day" lay undiscovered in the family attic for decades until found by her son and sent to the BBC news website.

I left home at 0615 and after meeting my friend Jean at the station we caught the 0641 train to town.

Alighting at Charing Cross at 0730 we proceeded to move step-by-step towards Whitehall, along with several other thousands of people, continually being requested to buy flowers, posies, ribbons, streamers, periscopes, mirrors on sticks, hot chestnuts, toffee-apples, in fact anything that was likely to keep us amused while we were standing waiting.

At 0745 we arrived in Whitehall, outside the War Office, and took up our stand, about three rows back from the edge of the pavement.

From where we were standing we could see quite plainly the horse guards across the way. People began to collect behind us and soon we were considered to be "some of the lucky ones in the front" by those that were standing behind us.

Those in the front row had nearly all been there throughout the night, and conversation revealed that most of the others had been there since 0400 and 0500.

Princess Elizabeth looked really lovely, and radiantly happy as she stood smiling beside her husband
Mary Smith, 17

At 0800, Whitehall was closed to all traffic, apart from those vehicles, which had something in connection with the wedding itself.

From then onwards it was a continual stream of cars, some carrying famous people, others people we did not know.

Mostly women

Among them were Mr Churchill, Mr Anthony Eden, the choirboys, and the beefeaters, all of whom received loud cheers from the crowds. Many other famous people passed, waving as they went, but as most of them were foreign royalty we could not distinguish them.

At about 1000 the armed forces began to arrive, and rather subdued our spirit when we realised that they were to stand in front of us.

However, we were particularly lucky in being just between two soldiers, so we had quite a clear view. It must have been our lucky day, as there seemed to be only short people in front of us. It was interesting to notice that the majority of the spectators were women.

wedding crowd
The crowd's patience was rewarded by the bridal party on the balcony

At about 1030, we were entertained with a selection of old-time dance music, played to us on gramophone records by Harry Davidson.

This was followed by some more music, this time played by the band of the Grenadier Guards, who were lined up opposite the barracks ready for the procession.

By this time the crowds were beginning to get a bit restless, and many people were fainting from fatigue as the crowds grew denser.

There were quite a number of stretcher cases and the St John's Ambulance men were being kept very busy.

As Big Ben boomed out 1100, the excitement grew and suddenly the guards were drawn to attention.

Loud cheers echoed from Trafalgar Square as the first of the procession began to pass. First came the big saloon cars carrying various members of all the royal circle, intermingled with the bridesmaids, going in twos.

It must have been our lucky day, as there seemed to be only short people in front of us
Mary Smith

Then came Queen Mary, gracefully waving to either side, dressed in a coat of gold and turquoise, with a silver fox fur at her neck.

Now it was beginning to get really exciting.

Officers shouted words of command all down the line and as the guards drew to stiff attention the advance guards to the Queen's coach came into view.

These were followed by the splendid Household Cavalry, stately and bold on their beautiful black chargers.

Everybody began to push as the royal coach came into view conveying the Queen and Princess Margaret - the chief bridesmaid.

'Trifle nervous'

I think the princess looked particularly pretty with her white tulle dress and orange blossom head-dress. The Queen too looked lovely in an apricot coloured dress accompanied by pink plumes in her hat.

We had a marvellous view and could see every detail. The coach was followed by Household Cavalry and a mounted police escort.

Mary and Alan Wootton
Mary in 1950 with her own future husband, Alan Wootton

As the hands moved slowly round the clock there were cries of "Here she comes" and "Hurrah".

The band started playing the national anthem after the guards and the cavalry had passed, and after what seemed an eternity - actually only three and a half hours, the great moment arrived and along came the Irish coach carrying the bride, sitting on her father's right hand, looking very beautiful, and very stately, but, I thought, just a trifle nervous as she raised her hand in salute to the cheering crowds who lined her "route to happiness".

Now we had an hour to wait before we should again see our princess, this time a married woman.

Suddenly the voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury sounded over the loudspeakers. There was a tense silence throughout the crowds as the bride and bridegroom shared their solemn vows.

I have never known so many people to be so quiet as they were during that hour.

A police officer's horse caused some amusement when it began to neigh during the service. There were immediately a few polite "voices from the deep" asking him to be quiet, and thus causing considerable embarrassment to its rider.

As soon as the Wedding March resounded and the abbey bells rang out, everybody put away their sandwiches and prepared themselves for a good view once more - the past hour seemed to have been "cue for lunch".

'Gracie, Gracie'

First came the bride and bridegroom in the glass coach, followed by the bridesmaids. Then came the King and Queen, other members of the Royal Family and the guests.

By this time the crowds began to stir and the crush began. We decided to make our way towards Buckingham Palace.

Then we intercepted the crowds coming the opposite direction, from Trafalgar Square.

We could not move, and I felt as if every breath in my body was being squeezed out of me.

Gracie Fields
Wartime sweetheart Gracie Fields sang for the crowd from a rooftop

We finally found ourselves across the road, outside the Whitehall Theatre [Trafalgar Studios], and suddenly there were shouts of "Gracie, Gracie".

Yes, it was Gracie Fields herself, right up on [a rooftop], about six stories up.

After a vigorous wave of the hand she commenced to sing Now Is The Hour, and for a second time the crowds were hushed, as they listened intently to every word, which reached us so clearly, from that great songstress.

What showmanship, to be able to sing a song, without a microphone, from the top of a six-storey building.

Everybody seemed to have sorted themselves out after this great spot of entertainment, and we made our way round towards Pall Mall, through Admiralty Arch.

Here we met another minor crush, but managed to push our way through.

At this moment there were loud cheers, and we knew that the Royal Family had appeared on the balcony.

When a lady fainted in front of us and the police sorted us out a bit I sat on a policeman's shoulder and had a grandstand view.

Radiantly happy

People began to move when the Royal Family had gone in so we [went] round to the palace gates.

Here we were nearly against the railings, and thought we would get a good view, but when time passed by and nobody appeared on the balcony we began to think it was of no avail.

There must have been literally thousands behind us by now, and it was impossible to get out, even if one wanted to.

Royal wedding
The newly-married princess's dress gleamed with pearls and lace

At 1600 we were rewarded for our patience and the bride, bridegroom and bridesmaids appeared.

Just before this, we had caught sight of Princess Margaret and the Duke of Gloucester peeping through one of the windows.

Up till now we had been entertained with cries of "We want the bride".

Princess Elizabeth looked really lovely, and radiantly happy as she stood smiling beside her husband. We could see quite plainly the pattern of the dresses, and we could see the pearls gleaming on the wedding gown.

By this time we were beginning to feel a bit peckish and decided that we did not want to stay until the pair were ready to leave for their honeymoon, so we pushed our way through the crowds and proceeded through St James's Park, as the Mall was absolutely packed with people, waiting to cheer the couple on their way.

Perfect day

At Admiralty Arch we came to a standstill and were forced to stay there until the procession came by.

Once again luck must have been with us, and we had a perfect view.

The princess was dressed in her favourite colour, love-in-the-mist blue, and they both looked very happy as they passed by in their open landau, waving to either side.

Now everything was really over and after having a cup of tea in a tiny cafe we managed to catch the 1712 train home.

It was surprising how quickly the crowds had dispersed, and travel was back to normal again.

This had been, what I thought, a really perfect day, and was well worth the hours of waiting.

I think special credit ought to be given to the police force and St John's Ambulance brigade, who, although extremely busy all day long, were cheerful and bright, and caused amusement more than once.


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