Relive the wedding day of Prince William and Kate Middleton, from the moment the guests arrive to the moment the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
6 minute read
Sixteen royal weddings have taken place in Westminster Abbey and the tradition goes back nine hundred years - to the marriage of Henry I and Princess Matilda of Scotland in 1100. It’s been ten years since His Royal Highness Prince William married Catherine Middleton at the Abbey on 29th April 2011.
Here we look back on a very happy day in the Abbey’s history, and relive the wedding ceremony – a service watched by an estimated billion people around the world.
There were seven months between the couple announcing their engagement and the day of the wedding. Here are some key dates in the run-up to the big day:
The Abbey’s doors are opened and guests begin to arrive – from official guests including members of Foreign Royal Families and government and Commonwealth representatives, to friends of the couple and figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment including David Beckham and Sir Elton John. In all, around 2,000 specially-invited guests fill the Abbey.
Before the service, the Abbey’s bells peal joyously across London as the guests arrive.
At 10.15am, Prince William and best man, Prince Harry, arrive at the Abbey and are escorted inside to wait in St Edmund’s Chapel for the start of the ceremony. They had both stayed a mile away at Clarence House the night before.
From 10.20am, members of Foreign Royal Families arrive followed closely by Catherine’s mother, Carol Middleton, and her brother, James.
From 10.30am, members of the Royal Family begin to arrive with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall joining guests at 10.42am.
At 10.45am, a fanfare is sounded by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry as Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh arrive.
The Bridal party arrives soon afterwards, making the journey to the Abbey from the nearby Goring Hotel, close to Buckingham Palace.
Catherine steps from her car revealing the first glimpse of her beautiful lace and ivory wedding dress which has been designed by Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen. Her bouquet is myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet william and hyacinth. She enters the Abbey with her father Michael through the Abbey’s West Door and pauses at St George’s Chapel, where the Coronation Chair is located.
This video recreates the steps Catherine Middleton took on the day of her wedding when she entered Westminster Abbey.
She starts her walk down the Abbey’s Nave to the High Altar, a distance of 97 metres, carefully making her way around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior – the only grave in the Abbey which is never walked upon. The aisle has been transformed into an avenue of trees, lined with six field maples and two hornbeams, reflecting the couple’s love of the English countryside.
‘I was Glad’ by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry is sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace with the London Chamber Orchestra and the Fanfare Team from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, conducted by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers.
Catherine walks through the Quire with Prince William and Prince Harry ahead, waiting at the High Altar.
Just below the steps leading up to the Altar, the families of the bride and groom are seated, with the Royal Family on the south and the Middleton family to the north.
Finally, after a four-minute procession, Catherine reaches the Lantern, and takes her last steps to the High Altar to greet Prince William.
The marriage takes place in the Sacrarium upon the beautiful Cosmati Pavement, a rare mosaic pavement laid in 1260.
The service is conducted by the then Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, and the marriage solemnized by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams.
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer is sung by the congregation, a powerful and much-loved Welsh hymn often sung at State occasions.
The Archbishop receives Catherine from her father’s hand. Taking Catherine’s right hand, Prince William says after the Archbishop:
Prince William: I, William Arthur Philip Louis, take thee, Catherine Elizabeth, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.
They loose hands. Catherine, taking Prince William by his right hand, says after the Archbishop:
Catherine: I, Catherine Elizabeth, take thee, William Arthur Philip Louis, to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.
They loose hands. The Archbishop blesses the ring:
Archbishop: Bless, O Lord, this ring, and grant that he who gives it and she who shall wear it may remain faithful to each other, and abide in thy peace and favour, and live together in love until their lives’ end. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prince William takes the ring and places it upon the fourth finger of Catherine’s left hand.
Prince William: With this ring I thee wed; with my body I thee honour; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Couple kneels.
Archbishop: Let us pray. O Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy name; that, living faithfully together, they may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this ring given and received is a token and pledge; and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Archbishop joins their right hands together and says:
Archbishop: Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
The Archbishop addresses the congregation:
Archbishop: Forasmuch as William and Catherine have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be man and wife together, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Prince William and Catherine sit.
The congregation sing the hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, a popular choice at English weddings and often voted one of Britain’s favourite hymns. It was sung at the wedding blessing of HRH Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles on 9th April 2005.
The Lesson, Romans 12: 1, 2, 9-18, is read by James Middleton, Catherine’s younger brother. It includes the words: ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.’
The Choirs sing This is the Day, a new anthem commissioned specially for the service by the Abbey from celebrated composer and conductor John Rutter, a beautiful setting of verses from the psalms with elegant melodic lines and warm harmonies.
The Address is given by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. Richard Chartres, then Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal. He quotes St Catherine of Siena, whose feast day this is, telling the couple: ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’
Prince William and Catherine move to the High Altar the Choirs sing Ubi Caritas et Amor in a newly-adapted setting by young Welsh composer, Paul Mealor, which catapults him to international stardom.
Prayers are said.
The congregation then sings Jerusalem, Hubert Parry’s beautiful setting arranged by Edward Elgar which many consider to be the nation’s most popular patriotic hymn.
The Dean pronounces the blessing, saying:
‘Let us pray. O almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.’
The congregation sings the National Anthem accompanied, by the Fanfare Team from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.
The Bride, Bridegroom and their witnesses, including Prince Harry and Maid of Honour, Philippa Middleton, move to the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor for the signing of the Marriage Registers. This is the only part of the ceremony not shown on television to the audience of tens of millions of people watching around the world, giving the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a private moment with their families before they depart the Abbey.
The Choirs, accompanied by the London Chamber Orchestra, sing Blest Pair of Sirens, Parry’s setting of John Milton's ode At a solemn Musick.
After the Bride and Bridegroom sign the Marriage Registers they exit the Shrine and process with their families to the West Door as the London Chamber Orchestra plays William Walton’s stirring Crown Imperial.
The newly-wed couple depart to the sound of the Abbey bells and cheers from the crowds. A full peal of 5,000 changes is rung by the Abbey’s Company of Ringers which will last three hours.
Full peals are rung on the Abbey’s bells only for significant occasions. One long-standing member of the team of ten bell ringers taking part had also rung the bells in celebration of Prince William’s birth, 28 years earlier.
The Royal Standard flies until The Queen leaves when the Abbey flag will again be raised.
Prince William and Catherine travel to Buckingham Palace followed by Prince Harry, Pippa Middleton, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Mr and Mrs Middleton, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.
The couple appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before a large crowd. The pair wave, smile and share a kiss or two!
After the wedding, The Duchess of Cambridge returned her bouquet to the Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, joining a poignant tradition begun by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. On entering the Abbey for her marriage to The Duke of York (later King George VI), the future Queen Elizabeth laid her flowers on the Warrior's grave in memory of her brother Fergus who was killed at the Battle of Loos during the First World War.
HM The Queen continued the tradition at her wedding here to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. And since 2011, royal brides The Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice have all sent their wedding flowers to rest on the Warrior’s grave, continuing the tradition.
It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.