After eight long and sometimes lonely years of waiting, Kate Middleton will today marry Prince William.
11am, the middle-class graduate – who, so legend has it, used to lie in
her dormitory bed gazing at a picture of her husband-to-be – will enter
Westminster Abbey as a commoner and an hour later walk out as the
future Queen Catherine.
night Kate was positively glowing as she arrived at the central London
hotel where she was to spend her final night as a single woman.
Relaxed: The newly released photo of the couple was taken by Mario Testino - a friend of William's mother, princess Diana
With her mother, Carole, and
younger sister, Pippa, she paused for several minutes and waved to the
delighted well-wishers who had gathered outside.
Wearing a cream jacket on which the hem had given way and a pair of wedge heels, she grinned with uncontained delight.
Later Prince William went for a walkabout on the Mall to meet the crowds preparing to spend the night there.
Centre of attention: Kate plays with her hair as
she surveys the incredible scenes before her and, right, she arrives at
the Goring Hotel
It's really happening: Kate reacts to well-wishers at her hotel and, right, how our cartoonist sees things....
Camera phones flashed and cheers rang
out as the casually-dressed second in line to the throne and his best
man, Prince Harry, made their brief visit at 8.30pm.
Today's chapter in the couple's romance –
punctuated, like many relationships, with tearful break-ups and
emotional reunions – will be watched by an estimated worldwide audience
of two billion.
More than half a million will line
London's streets as part of a joyful celebration similar to the outbreak
of optimism 30 years ago when William's parents, Charles and Diana,
married at St Paul's Cathedral.
Prince William greets well-wishers along The Mall ahead of his wedding
Royal fans gather outside Westminster Abbey in preparation for the big day
The only fly in the ointment could be the weather.
Forecasters admitted that a burst of April showers was a distinct possibility.
couple's thoroughly modern relationship has seen them become the most
senior members of the Royal Family to live together before marriage, an
unthinkable arrangement even a couple of decades ago.
the Queen, who promised to obey Prince Philip when they married in
1947, Kate will today pledge only to 'love, comfort, honour and keep'.
She has kept the country guessing
right up until the 11th hour over the identity of the designer of her
much-anticipated dress, telling friends she wanted it to be a surprise
However a woman looking suspiciously
like Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton last night attempted to
slip into the Goring Hotel, which is being used by Kate as a base for
her wedding day preparations, in a 'cloak and dagger' operation.
Earlier, Carole and Pippa Middleton
joined Kate and members of the royal family for an informal and
'high-spirited' lunch at Clarence House.
DIANA LINK TO THE RING
Kate's wedding band was fashioned by the jeweller who made Princess Diana's ring.
warrant holders Wartski used a nugget of Welsh gold which was given to
Prince William by the Queen as an engagement present.
146-year-old family firm, originally from North Wales, is now based in
Grafton Street in central London. A spokesman said: 'It's a great honour
This morning the slender, plain band will be
entrusted to William's brother and best man Prince Harry, 26, who will
be responsible for taking it to Westminster Abbey.
wedding service, William will say 'with this ring I thee wed' as he
slips the band on his bride's finger. Unlike his father, the prince has
chosen not to wear a ring himself.
Kate is expected to wear the band alongside the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that once belonged to Diana.
The rest of the day was devoted to a 'girly' afternoon in, courtesy of Kate's future mother-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall.
She arranged for her manicurist, Marina Sandoval from the Jo Hansford hair salon in Mayfair, to visit Clarence House.
38, treated Kate to a one-hour £36 'signature manicure'.
She said: 'She
was so happy and radiant and chattered about how much she was looking
forward to the day. She just can't wait.'
Camilla popped out afterwards, telling wellwishers: 'We're all ready for tomorrow, it's wonderful and we're all very excited.'
The couple have told how 'incredibly moved' they have been by the affection shown to them since their engagement.
a message printed in their official wedding programme – which includes a
black and white picture of the couple by Princess Diana's friend Mario
Testino – they said: '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
'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.'