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For Hayley Samela's last account of her experience in London for the Royal Wedding, she recounts the chaotic scene after the wedding as everyone headed towards Buckingham Palace to see "the kiss."
The bells started ringing again in Westminster Abbey and at that moment everyone turned their attention from the press box TV screens behind us to the Great West door in front of us. For the first time everybody would see Prince William and Kate Middleton walk down the aisle and through the door as husband and wife. Again, cameras were raised up high and everyone leaned as far forward as possible. Seeing the royal couple come out was an amazing sight. They both looked very happy and I am sure that everyone took a ton of photos to document the moment. The moment that William and Kate both got into the open carriage was very similar to that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage. I think that made the sight that much more important to onlookers. Following the exit of the royal couple was the rest of the wedding party and members of the Royal Family. Everyone stayed to see the Queen’s exit, Prince Charles, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, and Kate Middleton’s parents. After that it seemed that people started to disperse.
Some people went to local pubs for celebratory drinks, a few rushed to Hyde Park, and the rest all attempted to get as close as possible to Buckingham Palace for the balcony kiss. I was asked by several people back home on my blackberry (via Facebook and email) if I would make it to see the couple kiss on the balcony. I told them definitely not. I had said that it would have been too crazy to try to get from where I was currently standing over to the Palace. So I did not plan to see the kiss, but as I attempted to reach the nearest tube line towards my hotel, it seemed as if I was going against traffic. Literally everyone was walking in the direction of Buckingham Palace. Security prevented people from flooding the streets and barricades were still set up along the main roads. I figured if everyone else was walking towards Buckingham Palace, why shouldn’t I also try to get another glimpse of the royal couple?
Walking there took forever. The sidewalks were filled with people trying to get into pubs and reporters were stopping people every now and then to get a quick interview. One reporter was from Italy and kept asking people passing by if they were Italian. I was tempted to stop and do an interview with them, but then I shook my head. My Italian isn’t good enough to be featured on prime time Italian TV, nor did I have time for an interview! I cut through St. James’s Park and, even there, the main walking paths were overflowing with people. Going in one direction towards the Palace I tried to get up onto the main road, but people were at a standstill. When I made my way to the front, I saw that security was preventing people from getting past the barricades. Some people called out to the security men that what they were doing was unfair and that they were being treated like animals. Instead of waiting, I turned around and looked for an alternate route. Close by I saw people moving, so I joined them as we each snuck past the one open barricade that led to the main road. Had I not seen this road the day before (the one lined with flags), I would not have known it was a road. People were everywhere and there wasn’t a car in sight. With the amount of people moving through the one open barrier and onto the road, people had reason to be worried about safety. There were children and elderly people who could easily have fallen or been trampled on with all the pushing and shoving.
I felt such a feeling of relief when I entered the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Now that I had made it here, I only had to try to find a spot where I could get a good view of the balcony. In front of the Queen Victoria memorial was also another setup solely for press. Instead of mini setups, there appeared to be only tripods and cameras. So, surrounding the Queen Victoria memorial people crowded in as close as possible and began a countdown. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. And the doors opened and out walked Prince William and Kate. The crowd went crazy with happiness and excitement. Flags were waving and cameras went off. After a few quick moments of just the two of them on the balcony, the rest of the Royal family and wedding party walked out to make an appearance.
Shortly after the first kiss, people began to cheer “kiss her again, kiss her again.” The royal couple didn’t immediately listen to the crowd’s chant. I wonder if they could even understand what we were all saying. Prince William must have eventually found out that the crowd was waiting for more because the crowd went wild once again when he did kiss her again! It was a very surprising and romantic moment for everyone. People commented on how the second one differed from the first. One woman said the first one was very quick and more like a “peck.” We all agreed. The second one though was much more of a sight for all of us in the crowd.
After the Royal Air Force flew by and a few more waves from everyone on the balcony, the Royal family and the Middletons walked back inside. Prince William and Kate were the last ones left for everyone who wanted a few more photos and then the couple turned around to head inside. The doors closed and people turned to one another and said how very sweet and lovely the whole scene was. I couldn’t have agreed more.
The nightmare now was getting out of Buckingham Palace and making it to a tube station. People didn’t know which way to go. Everywhere, people were trying to go in one direction or the other, and yet there were also still people standing hoping to see more of the Royal family. After about five minutes of chaos, an announcement was made on the speakers that said for people to exit and that there would not be a second balcony appearance. This helped move people along, but there were still people sitting on lawn chairs and taking up space. They must have been the ones who camped out the night before. I finally made my way out of the Forecourt and passed through Green Park. I exited through the opening between Green Park and the Ritz Hotel. Stationed a few meters away from the exit/entrance were several security guards. They were controlling traffic; otherwise it would have been a huge mess in trying to get through.
I didn’t get back to my hostel until the late afternoon. Even getting into the metro station was chaotic. There were lines to get through the gates of the tube station and the trains were packed with people inside the trains and waiting on the platforms. When I got off at my stop and exited the tube, there were already newspapers ready to be handed out! I was given three copies of the London Evening Standard… and for free! I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that news could be published so fast! I thought I was given three copies by accident and I didn’t know why I would need two extras, but that thought was quickly replaced with, “I’m going to keep these forever!" I can show my friends, family, and neighbors. And then someday, I can pass these on to my children and grandchildren!”
With everyone celebrating, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep. I wanted to be out with people, to hear about their thoughts, and to share my morning experiences with others. I walked around the city, visited London’s landmarks, and continued to meet more people from all different parts of the world. It was interesting to hear how someone’s experience at Hyde Park watching the screens differed from my experience in front of Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. For example, I heard from one young woman that she must have seen at least 20 women at Hyde Park dressed in wedding gowns! I couldn’t believe it and I wish I had seen that. Instead, I got to see the Royal wedding party in person and I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything.
While riding the London Eye in the late afternoon, I stood in awe of what I had just seen. Parliament, London Bridge, the River Thames, Buckingham Palace... and the Royal Wedding. I had to remind myself that I had just witnessed history. Not only did I see the wedding, but I was standing right in front of Westminster Abbey for a wedding that will probably be known as the wedding of the century.
Our thanks goes out to Hayley for sharing this once in a lifetime experience with The Cheshire Herald.