Hatch reporter, Bishoy Bassilious, was in the crowd for the royal wedding as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot.
Weddings are traditionally intimate ceremonies, shared with a couple’s closest family and friends; that was not the case for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
An estimated two billion people worldwide tuned in for the nuptials at Windsor Castle’s 14th-century St George’s Chapel on May 19.
In the week leading up to the ceremony there was an air of excitement and intrigue on the streets of London.
Britain was obsessed that their most eligible bachelor was finally to wed, and to an American no less – the first to marry into royalty in over 60 years.
Former actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956.
Upholding the royal tradition of wedding on a weekday, William and Kate were married on a Friday in 2011. In tying the knot on a Saturday, Harry and Meghan broke with tradition, hoping that the public would be able to be a part of their day.
Like many others, I rolled out of bed early Saturday morning to catch a train to Windsor before the rush of royal watchers made it hard to find a seat.
As many as 120,000 people from all over the world converged on the Royal Borough to witness history first-hand.
To my surprise, there weren’t any queues when I arrived at Paddington Station for the 7:42am train. The usual 30-minute trip was punctuated by a 90-minute change in Slough, where several thousand passengers were snaking through the outer concourse, queuing for shuttle trains to ‘Harry & Meghan Central Station’ (Windsor & Eton Central).
Railway staff pushed a large box of ‘Royal Wedding 2018’ chocolates in my direction, urging me to take a handful as they had 60,000 to give away.
Finally I managed to squeeze onto a train – although I was pressed up against the door – it was jammed with tourists from Germany, the USA, even Nicaraguans, proudly draped in their nation’s flag and sporting blue T-shirts with ‘Harry & Meghan’ emblazoned on the front.
The excitement on the passengers’ faces turned to pure delight when the train rounded a bend to reveal Windsor Castle set behind the sparkling River Thames. The historic market town of 32,000 was swimming in red and blue.
The streets were awash with banners of Union Jack flags. Cardboard cut-outs of the couple appeared in shop windows and balconies, and royal face-masks were on sale on every corner.
It was a short 500-metre walk from the station to Victoria Barracks where I found a pocket of space near a mounted television camera. I was stationed here until proceedings ended a few hours later.
The crowd fell silent as the haunting notes of Elgar’s Chanson de Matin echoed through the streets. The Queen had taken her seat and the ceremony had begun.
There were cheers after every ‘I do!’, and tears of laughter during American bishop Michael Curry’s address.
The service came to an end – and soon followed a Mexican wave from the adoring public.
Ironically only the Mexicans, across the road from our vantage point did not participate – in our section of the route, as the wave flowed downstream towards the castle.
The crowd held its breath as onlookers waited for the newlyweds to begin a 25-minute, three-kilometre open-topped carriage procession through the town to thank everyone for being part of their day. A huge cheer erupted as the carriage rounded the corner preceded by a mounted-guard escort.
Few people can say they had front-row seats to this last celebration of its kind, perhaps until four-year-old Prince George’s wedding. – Bishoy Bassilious