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British RoyalsHistoryThe Cambridges

On This Day in 2011: Prince William married Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Wedding
Defence Images/Crown Copyright/SAC Gareth Little

Friday, 29 April, 2011, about two billion people are said to have watched from around the world as Prince William wed Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London.

The Metropolitan Police said that about a million people lined the route of the royal procession on the streets of London while another half a million people gathered in front of Buckingham Palace to watch the bride and groom kiss (twice) on the palace balcony.

One of the most noteworthy events of the 21st century, Royal Central takes a look back at the Duke and Duchess’s special day.

Leading up to the wedding:

Engagement

William and Catherine, popularly called Kate, met in 2001 when they studied at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The two began dating in 2003.

On 16 November 2010, Clarence House announced that William was to marry Catherine sometime “in the Spring or Summer of 2011, in London.”

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The two had become engaged the month prior while on a private holiday in Kenya. William gave Kate the engagement ring that William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales had received from Prince Charles in 1981 – an 18-karat white gold ring with a 12-carat oval Ceylon (Sri Lankan) sapphire. The sapphire is surrounded with 14 round diamonds.

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At the time of their engagement, it was announced that the two would live on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales where Willam was based with the Royal Air Force.

The Queen said she was “absolutely delighted” for the couple.

An interview with ITV News political editor Tom Bradby followed the announcement which included a photocall at St James’s Palace.

On 23 November, the date of the ceremony was be confirmed.

December would be a busy month as Buckingham Palace began preparations for the wedding. On 12 December, Buckingham Palace issued the official engagement photographs of the Prince and his fiancée. The photos were taken by Mario Testino in the state apartments at St James’s Palace.

On 15 December, the Queen ordered that the wedding day would be a public holiday throughout the United Kingdom.

The Final Rehearsal

27 April, just two days before the wedding. Prince William and Kate arrived at Westminster Abbey for a final wedding rehearsal.

The couple were joined by Prince Harry and Kate’s parents with senior clergy for the private rehearsal.

Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole had drove to London from their Berkshire home earlier in the day. The two setting up base at the Goring Hotel where they would stay for a total of three nights.

This marked the couple’s first rehearsal inside the Abbey.

The Day Before

The day before the wedding, Kate, Prince Harry, who would serve as best man, and the bridesmaids gathered at the Abbey for one last rehearsal.

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Buckingham Palace had also released the official program of the ceremony. The 27-page program included a full order of service, a personal message of thanks from the couple, and a new black and white engagement photograph.

“We are both so delighted that you are able to join us in celebrating what we hope will be one of the happiest days of our lives. The affection shown to us by so many people during our engagement has been incredibly moving, and has touched us both deeply. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone most sincerely for their kindness.”

Once details of the service were released, another moment planned for the ceremony made headlines. Kate would not promise to “obey” her husband. Following in the similar footsteps of Wiliam’s late mother Diana, who famously departed from the ancient church formulations of the wedding service at her 1981 wedding.

Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury who conducted the service would ask Kate of her husband whether she will “love him, comfort him, honour and keep him in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, keep only unto him so long as ye both shall live.”

16.26

The Duchess of Cornwall is seen on a walkabout greeting those lined up on the mall. She then returns to Clarence House after the impromptu affair.

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When asked how she was feeling about the big day, the Duchess said:

“We’re all ready for tomorrow – it’s wonderful and all very exciting!

There’s a great atmosphere out here and it’s so nice to meet people and see how the celebrations are getting underway.”

17.47

Kate arrives at The Goring Hotel. She is joined by her sister Pippa, and their mother Carole. Kate is seen waving to well-wishers outside the 5-star hotel.

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20.10

The Queen arrives at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge for a pre-wedding dinner with various dignitaries.

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The Princess Royal arriving alongside her daughter, Zara Phillips, and Mike Tindall, as well as her son Peter Philips and Autumn Kelly.

Other royals who made an appearance include the Prince and Princess of Kent, Lord Freddie Windsor, and Lady Gabriella. The Duke of York, Princess Beatrice, and Eugenie, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex were also present.

21. 51

Prince William meets those gathered near Clarence House as they camp out for the big day. William, appearing to be relaxed told one well-wisher: “I just have to make sure I get my lines right.”

Prince Harry joins William in greeting people.

The Wedding Day

The morning of the wedding, it was announced that William was to be named the Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, and Baron Carrickfergus. Kate would become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.

William’s collective titles link him to each of the United Kingdom’s four countries.

8.15 – 9.45

A majority of the 1,900 invited guests begin to arrive at Westminster Abbey. The guests are instructed to enter through the Great North Door of the Abbey. All cellphones and cameras are to remain at home as they are not allowed inside.

9.50

Members of foreign governments begin to arrive. This includes Governor-Generals, and Prime Ministers of Realm Countries, Diplomatic Corps, and other VIPs.

10.15

Prince William and Prince Harry travel from Clarence House to the Abbey.

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William is wearing an Irish Guards mounted officer’s uniform in Guard of Honour Order. While Harry is wearing the uniform of the Blues and Royals.

10.20

Members of foreign royal families arrive as well as Kate’s mother, Carole and her brother James. The two leave the nearby Goring Hotel and arrive at about 10.27 through the Great West Door.

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10.30

Royal family members begin to enter through the Great West Door. The Duke of York is in attendance with his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York. The Earl and Countess of Wessex are also in attendance along with Princess Anne, and her husband Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence.

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10.42

Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall arrive.

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10.45

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive.

10.55

The Bridesmaids and Pages arrive.

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Kate’s Maid-of-Honour, her sister Pippa, wears a gown by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. The bridesmaids are dressed by Nicki Macfarlane.

11.00

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Kate arrives by a 1950s Rolls Royce which was lent to her by the Queen. Accompanied by her father Michael, this is the moment her dress is revealed to the world. A gown by Alexander McQueen.

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Kate begins her procession down the aisle.

11.05 – 12.10

The service is conducted by Rev. John Hall, Dean of Westminster. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury presides over the wedding bows.

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A sermon is delivered by the Right Rev. Richard Chartres. James Middleton would give the only reading at the wedding, a bible verse.

Kate’s wedding ring would be blessed during the ceremony as William chooses to not wear a ring due to personal preference.

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There would not be a kiss at the altar as to keep with the tradition of the Church of England.

12.15

The newlyweds depart Westminster Abbey via a Carriage Procession. The couple travels in a 1902 State Landau horse-drawn carriage down The Mall.

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They are accompanied by a Captain’s Escort of the Household Cavalry as they make their way to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen’s procession follows with a Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry.

12.30

Will and Kate arrive at Buckingham Palace.

12.40

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Members of the royal family and foreign royal families arrive at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s lunch reception. Official photographs are taken of the wedding party.

1.25 – 1.35

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The newlyweds appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for approximately 10 minutes. The couple is expected to kiss as it will be their last public appearance of the day. Surprising spectators, the couple gives each other two kisses.

This was the site of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding day kiss. A departure from protocol that happened just thirty years prior.

1.30

Royal Air Force flyover is conducted with jet and propeller planes.

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1.40

Will and Kate return inside for the first of two receptions. The afternoon reception is hosted by the Queen and is held for 650 guests. The menu features canapés, cocktails, and two different wedding cakes.

3.30

The newlyweds leave for some private time at St James’s Palace before the evening reception.

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7.00

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The second reception for 300 guests begins, hosted by Prince Charles. Speeches are given, including one from Prince Harry, and guests dance to music picked by the couple including their favourite 1980s hits.

The party was attended by many of the couples’ personal friends and would be the least structured event of the day.

The palace saying, it will “finish when it finishes.”

The Honeymoon

Despite reports of leaving for their honeymoon the day after their wedding, Prince William immediately returns to work as a search-and-rescue pilot.

The couple would depart 10 days after their wedding on 9 May. The location of the honeymoon, initally kept a secret.

It was ultimately revealed that the couple stayed in a secluded villa on a private island in the Seychelles.

Costs

The overall price of the wedding reportedly cost £23.7 million. The costs of the wedding itself would be borne by the Royal Family and the Middletons.

Costs for security and transport were covered by Her Majesty’s Treasury.

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In place of wedding gifts, the couple asked that donations be made to charities instead. The wedding established the Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund. The fund focuses on assisting charities such as the New Zealand Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, and the Zoological Society of London.

Life since the wedding

Since the wedding, the Duke and Duchess have had three children. Prince George (b. 2013), Princess Charlotte (b. 2015), and Prince Louis (b. 2017.)

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The family currently resides at Kensington Palace.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.