Thursday, April 28, 2011

William goes on a final walkabout as a single man as he greets his fans on the eve of his wedding

By David Wilkes

The happy prince: Prince William greets well-wishers along The Mall ahead of his wedding

Prince William delighted thousands of well-wishers in The Mall last night as he staged an impromptu walkabout.

Joined by his brother Harry, the beaming prince stunned die-hard fans when he appeared from Clarence House at about 8.30pm to thank them for their support.

A few burst into tears and a sea of hands rose up, desperate for the chance to shake hands with the prince and to wish him luck before the big day.

Best man: Prince Harry joined his brother on the stroll near Clarence House

Dressed casually in a pale shirt, black jumper and chinos, he looked relaxed as he cracked jokes with the crowd, echoing his mother Diana’s easy nature with the adoring public.

He paid particular attention to the children who squeezed forward to peer over the barrier at the tall prince.

His brother Harry kept his distance so as not to detract attention from the man of the hour – so much so that television cameras did not even notice he was there until he strolled back into Clarence House.

Focus on the groom: William is captured on camera by a well-wisher

Some of the crowd had been camped for several days to secure prime position for the wedding procession, but it was all worthwhile for a fleeting glimpse of the prince.

One said: ‘I cannot believe he actually came out to meet us. That shows what a friendly, lovely person he is.’

Earlier, the sense of anticipation had been growing among those who had already bagged spots outside Westminster Abbey.

Among them were Sarah Trotter and Angela Davie, who as giggly schoolgirls in 1981 had made the trip to London to see William’s parents Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tie the knot.

The women, both 46, proudly paraded their patriotic credentials by wearing T-shirts specially printed for the occasion bearing the slogan ‘Back Again’ above a photograph of them as 16-year-olds at Charles and Diana’s wedding.

A casual stroll: Prince Harry greets some fans - and William looked relaxed as he cracked jokes with the crowd

‘We love the pomp and ceremony of a big royal occasion. Nobody does it like the British,’ said Mrs Trotter, a married mother of two from Ashford, Surrey, who runs a wedding dress shop.

‘The Royal Family’s image is brought down a bit by some of its members but they are an institution and I think we should be more proud of them than we are in this country.’

Also among the hundreds who have set up camp outside the Abbey was legendary royal fan Terry Hutt.

The 76-year-old has been a supporter of the monarchy since he was four when the Queen Mother visited Holloway, North London, where he lived, to see the damage done by Nazi bombs in the Blitz.

He claims to have been to watch almost every significant royal occasion since.

Mr Hutt took up his place on Tuesday and will have spent 72 hours waiting on the pavement by the time William and Kate tie the knot.

‘It’s true love,’ he said. ‘They met at university, fell out for a bit, and have had to get to know each other. I can’t wait to see them come out the Abbey a married couple.

‘They are the future King and Queen, I had to be here.’

Others had travelled from New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. Joan Martin, 57, a sales rep from Wisconsin, said: ‘William is wonderful and Kate is so down to earth. It’s the wedding of the century, it’ll be awesome.’

Earlier in the day the Duchess of Cornwall went out onto the Mall to meet well-wishers and see those camping out ahead of tomorrow’s event during an impromptu walkabout.

When asked how she was feeling ahead of 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.'

Meet and Greet: Camilla Duchess of Cornwall stepped out to meet people on the Mall on the eve of the wedding

Royal tent city: Thousands camp outside Westminster Abbey for event of the year

Anyone still hoping they can get close to the action outside Westminster Abbey had better think again because the area opposite the historic church has turned into a camp site full of Royal fans desperate for the best spot for tomorrow's wedding.

The run-up to the nuptials, which are set to be watched by billions worldwide, has proved a quintessentially English affair - with tea, cakes, tiaras, bunting and flags all on show in and around Parliament Square.

Thousands of diehard Royalists from across the world have descended on the patch of central London outside the Abbey as they vie to secure the best viewing position before Kate and Prince William marry.

Many have already camped out for several nights and have come with their tents, sleeping bags and even gazebos as they attempt to cater for all potential turns in the weather.

Royal fever: People camping in tents opposite Westminster Abbey have assured themselves a good view

Red, white an blue: As well as the T-shirt, hat and the hair, this lady even painted her nails in the colours of the Union flag while, right, Terry Hutt 77, from Cambridge, is clearly a fan of the union

What a pair of cards: Royal fans dressed as King and Queen of Hearts walk along the Mall

Huddling together for warmth overnight, they passed around flasks of tea, shared crosswords and pinned reels of bunting to any surface available as they prepared for the Royal event of the decade.

As dawn broke over the historic church, a sea of red, white and blue emerged as hundreds of tents lined the cobbled pavement.

Bewildered tourists were left little space to squeeze past on their way to London's other sights, which have paled into insignificance by the most anticipated Royal wedding since Prince Charles married Lady Diana in 1981.

Some onlookers even wrapped themselves in their Union Flags to beat the brisk morning air, which they will soon unfurl when Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive tomorrow.

Crowning achievement: One hopes this lady's headwear isn't the real thing pilfered from Tower of London while, right, John Loughrey, 56, brought a replica of the official engagement ring, perhaps in the hope of finding his own princess with so many fellow royal fans in attendance

Right royal celebration: Tents lining the cobbled pavement as the world's press do their rounds

Britain's got passion: Amanda Holden quizzes campers outside Westminster Abbey today

Christopher Farrow, 50, was propping himself up on the barricade, wearing a William and Kate tea towel and a Union flag round his waist, with two flags on sticks tucked into his waistband.

Mr Farrow, from Nottingham, said: 'I can't wait. This is what makes Britain great. Because of people like us camping out, everybody else wants to get involved.'

'There will be billions of people watching -- and I will be seeing it with my own eyes. I'm going to go absolutely mad -- cheer, shout and wave my flags.'

A long night: Diehards stir as the sun rises with 24 hours to go before the Royal event of the decade

Who will buy? A street vendor draped in a William and Kate flag sells his royal wedding souvenirs in Trafalgar Square and, right, there's a smart suit somewhere under the clingfilm and cut-outs combination belonging to Richard Firth from Reading

Royal watchers wearing tiaras talk amongst the tents outside the entrance the historic church

Nice lie in: A man sleeps in his open tent covered in a Union Flag duvet

Some fans pitched camp as early as two days ago in a bid to get as close to the action as possible.

John Loughrey, 56, was the first to arrive last night with only a sleeping bag and two carrier bags at the start of a week-long vigil to ensure a prime position for the event.

He was dressed in a Kate and William T-shirt, emblazoned with the words 'Diana Would Be Proud' with the images of Kate and William tied round his waist and a Union flag hat.

From across the pond; Four royal fans from the U.S. are show their own version of the red, white and blue outside Westminster Abbey

Suitably attired: One supporter sports a suit made from pictures of the Royal family while, right, one wonders if this fan already wearing a ring on that finger - there'll still be one unmarried Prince in town after tomorrow's festivities

Cold time: The royal watchers had camped out all night in a bid to get the best spot to see the event

Carnival: Campers set up trellis tables and passed round sandwiches to get through the cold night

The former assistant chef, from Wandsworth, south west London, a self-confessed 'super fan' of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, said he planned to stay in his position until Saturday.

'I have always been loyal to the Royal Family,' he said. 'I think they are good for Britain and good for tourism. We have had them for more than 1,000 years and they make a great contribution to the life of this country.'

Mr Loughrey said he had attended every single hearing of the inquest into the death of Diana, camping for three days outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

He became so well-known at the inquest - with 'Diana' and later 'Dodi' painted on his face - that he was even given a special mention by the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker.

Oh, what a knight: Colin Bickers walked 55 miles from his home town of Worthing in his full suit of armor for the wedding - raising money for charity along the way

Hat's entertainment: Tina Pittock from Aldershot with headwear created specially or the occasion but the event has brought visitors from across the Atlantic too

Tired of the wedding festivities already? Two boys catch up on sleep on the pavement outside Westminster Abbey

Tornado GR4 aircraft take off from RAF Coningsby station in Lincolnshire for a fly-past rehearsal

Typhoon (top and bottom) and Tornado GR4 (left and right) aircraft rehearse their fly-past for the Royal wedding

Mr Loughrey, whose partner Marion died of skin cancer in 2003, also spent four days camped outside following the death of Diana in 1997.

He said he believed Miss Middleton and William would be together 'forever'.

'They have taken their time over marriage, unlike the Prince's late mother - she got married maybe far too young,' he said. 'The Prince has learned from his mother to take his time.'

The mass of well-wishers from all over the globe included Canadian hairdressing duo Cathy Shepphard, 50, and Isabell Mackey, 47, from Ontario. They arrived in the UK yesterday and said they were surprised that so many people were already camping at the abbey.

Union Flag and George Cross flag bunting hangs outside the Lamb and Flag pub in central London

'When we heard William and Kate were engaged we thought we'd never get the chance to see the royal wedding, but then we thought why not?' Ms Mackey said.

'Just to see William and Kate will be exciting, we just want to enjoy all of it. 'It's always been my dream to see England, I'm fascinated by it,' she added.

The duo have come prepared with Union flags and homemade royal hats which incorporate the Canadian flag. 'We know that the British wear fancy hats and you can't come to a royal wedding and not wear your hat,' Ms Mackey said.

Union flag bunting and other brightly coloured flags adorn the metal barriers that line the busy main road. An array of red and white balloons hovered in the air above collections of wedding memorabilia.

Street peddler Tony Mullarkey, 52, had travelled to London from Worcester with a thousand red and white rubber bracelets adorned with the royal couple's names.

The trader, whose face was painted with a Union flag attracted a lot of media attention as he pitched up. He said he hoped to sell all the bracelets along with bunting and flags but had been warned he would not be allowed to set up a stand.


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