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Cheshire native Hayley Samela was right there, in the middle of the action, as Prince William and Kate Middleton prepared to take the nuptials in London Friday morning. As she has done for The Herald over the last several days, Hayley gives us an exclusive look into what it was like right outside Westminster Abbey the day of the festivities:
I woke up Friday morning at 4 a.m. and, to my surprise, I was not the only one from my hostel who had decided to check out early to attend the wedding festivities. In my original plan I had intended to take the tube to Westminster Abbey, but the tube didn’t start running until 5:30 a.m. So, while waiting for the bus, I went into a convenience store and purchased a newspaper.
On the front page was a large picture of Kate Middleton waving and the headline was "Smile that Says the Waiting’s Over." The guy working at the convenience store said that these newspapers would be sold out by the early afternoon, so I was glad to get mine nice and early. After a quick chat with one of the workers in the convenience store about the upcoming wedding ceremony, I flagged down a red double-decker bus and sat down. At that moment, I still couldn’t believe that this was really happening. I continued to run over in my head several things like mental notes and self questions: Did I remember my camera? Yes. Did I bring the umbrella? Yes. Do I still have my union jack flag? Yes. Don’t drink any water or else I will lose my place once I arrive. OK. What time does the wedding start? 11 a.m. OK.
You could say that I was more than 100 percent prepared!
I got off the bus, turned the corner from where the bus stopped and, already, I could see people lined up across from Westminster Abbey. Most of the people had camped out during the night and others were just arriving. Tents and chairs were being folded up as more and more people crowded onto the sidewalks and behind barricaded areas. While passing by some people standing in the back, I noted that they were smart because they had brought buckets and stepstools. They could stand in the back and still have just as good of a view as someone in front. I finally settled on a spot. I was standing in front of the press box located across from the West Door entrance of Westminster Abbey. Even with several people standing in front of me, I had a great view of everything.
At 5:30 a.m. in the morning, the only thing people could see was security guards and set-up crew. To pass the time people started conversations with their neighbors in front, behind, and to the left and right of them. Afterall, they would be standing next to each other for at least another six hours…
I met people from Germany, Italy, Canada, and London. This one woman I stood next to was from Hanover, Germany and has been closely following the relationship of William and Kate, so close that her news station at home has filmed her private collection and scheduled an interview with her after the ceremony at the Ritz Hotel. She told me that she had previously bought a lot of Will and Kate wedding memorabilia Thursday night, but standing next to her I could see that she also bought every London newspaper that came out only just a few hours before, several flags with the Royal couple’s faces on them, and magazines that featured Kate Middleton.
Everyone that I spoke to was most excited at the prospect of seeing Prince William and Kate get in the open chariot after the ceremony. I thought that was interesting. Also very interesting was that people were more interested in seeing Kate than William! Girls weren’t even upset that Prince William would no longer be single. The people of London seem to be very ecstatic with his choice and now girls are looking at Prince Harry as their other option in possibly becoming a Princess.
Around 8 a.m. more people started crowding in and space was becoming tight. I had no room to move and found that I had nowhere to place my arms. If I had to reach in my bag for something, I had to apologize to the person next to me. Things were beginning to pick up from 8 to 9 a.m. The red carpet had been rolled out and buses were approaching the entrance into Westminster.
Every now and then the crowd would make some noise and everyone would turn to see who was pulling up in a bus or car only to be disappointed that it was no one. People cheered every time news cameras did screen shots of the crowd, and that was quite often. Standing below and right in front of the press, I am sure that our faces were on at least one TV station, if not all at some point or another.
Between 9 and 10 a.m. everyone standing close to me had moved up at least a foot. Each time a new person pulled up to the Great West door entrance, people would get up on the tips of their toes and lean as far forward as possible. I think there were even some points where I could have stood on my toes and been supported by the people in front and behind me! People from other countries standing near me were very excited to see their country’s royal families make red carpet appearance, such as royal families from Spain, Greece, Sweden, and Denmark. Whenever people would go crazy with their cameras, others would always be straining their neck to see what the buzz was all about. There were times when I even said, “who is that?”
As the time got closer to the British Royal family’s arrival, I would hear every now and then, “Oh here she is” or “Look over there, she’s coming!” Everyone would look left and right and wonder to whom people were referring. We would all be wondering, “is it the Queen?” Everyone wanted to see the Queen. For some Londoners, this would be their first time seeing the Queen. When the Queen finally made her appearance, the crowd seemed to forever have their cameras up in the air. It didn’t matter that her back was to us as she was walking into the church, people still kept clicking their cameras to get as many pictures of her as possible. After every arrival of the royal family, there was a sense of building anticipation amongst the crowd knowing that it was getting closer to that time in which we would all get to see Kate Middleton pull up in a car with her father.
Before the car even turned the corner, word had spread that she was coming. It must have been a domino effect because everyone had their cameras up in the air for quite some time before the car pulled up to the Great West door. Everyone held their breath and it seemed like forever! We all had to wait for someone to get out, to walk around to open her door, and then finally for her to step out.
No sooner had she fully stepped out of the car, everyone instantly commented on her dress! Some people were on the phone with family and friends back in the United States, who were watching this live, and they were already commenting and exchanging thoughts in regards to the way Kate Middleton looked. As for me, I instantly logged onto Facebook, wrote a quick status update commenting on the dress, and I then gave my friends back home and in Italy a quick description of what was going on.
So with my right hand, I took pictures and with my left, I gave minute-to-minute updates to all my friend and family back home, all within the first two minutes!
The whole morning really was a spectacular sight. Everyone was just overflowing with happiness, excitement, and national pride. Everyone also agreed that Kate Middleton looked very beautiful and that her gown was very well worth the surprise. After her entrance, that was all that anyone talked about in the crowds, on some TV stations, and, of course, on the internet.
It must have been truly amazing to see the huge crowds cheering and waving their union jack flags. I took my camera and attempted to take a picture of the massive amount of people along the sidewalk, but I can’t imagine that my camera did any justice to what the cameras captured on TV. I also loved the ringing of the bells at Westminster. I had never heard them before, but it really added to the Royal procession before the wedding ceremony and after the ceremony ended. With the ringing of the bells, the crowd knew that the moment we were all waiting for was finally approaching. Seeing the entrances of everybody truly made waking up at 4 a.m. worthwhile.
Some of the morning’s highlights for me: Seeing British Prime minister David Cameron, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, the Queen, and, of course, Kate Middleton’s grand entrance.