Prince William and Kate Middleton marry

Prince William and Kate Middleton exchanged vows in Westminster Abbey on Friday in Britain’s biggest royal wedding in decades.

Middleton emerged from a Rolls-Royce outside the abbey in a long sleeved dress designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen.

She began the long walk up the aisle to the strains of Charles Parry’s I was glad.

The marriage between William, second in line to the throne, and Middleton, dubbed “Waity Katie” for their long courtship, has cemented a recovery in the monarchy’s popularity.

A series of scandals involving senior royals, Britain’s economic difficulties and Diana’s death in 1997 aged 36 in a car crash after her divorce from Prince Charles led many to question the future of an institution rooted in the imperial past.

But William’s image as a more rounded, less distant figure than his father, and the fact that Middleton (29) is the first “commoner” to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in over 350 years, appear to have worked in the monarchy’s favour.

While Queen Elizabeth (85) exercises limited power, and is largely a symbolic figurehead in Britain and its former colonies, critics question the privileges she and her family enjoy, particularly at a time when the economy is so weak.

The monarchy officially costs the British taxpayer about £40-million a year, while anti-royalists put the figure at closer to £180-million.

Some estimates say the cost of deploying about 5 000 police officers on the streets on Friday, not to mention intelligence and military personnel, could exceed £10-million.

Former England football captain Beckham, wearing his OBE medal pinned to the right lapel of his grey Ralph Lauren morning suit and with slicked-back hair, attended the wedding with his wife, Victoria.

Singer-turned-fashion designer Victoria, pregnant with the Beckhams’ fourth child, was dressed in a midnight blue “trapeze” dress from her Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, Philip Treacy hat, with hair pulled tightly back into a neat ponytail.

Beckham, given time off to attend the wedding by his club LA Galaxy, got to know William, the president of the English Football Association, when they worked together to promote England’s unsuccessful bid to win the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Others attending were Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson and Chelsy Davy, the on-off girlfriend of William’s younger brother and best man, Prince Harry.

The guest list featured a host of celebrities, also including singer Elton John together with his partner David Furnish, Guy Ritchie, who directed the cult 1990s film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and singer Joss Stone.

John, famous for his flamboyant stage outfits, was dressed in a restrained black morning coat and grey trousers.

Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe and England’s World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward were among the first to arrive.

British socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson caught the eye with a striking royal blue dress and hat, while British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in a traditional morning suit with wife Samantha and they were joined by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.—AFP, Reuters

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