LONDON, April 29 (IANS): The chimes rang across the square, the crowds outside cheered and millions watched on television. The times they were a changing but the fairytale came alive Friday as Britain's Prince William wed his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton with kings and queens, showbiz stars and world leaders present.
It was a spectacle, an end to the eight-year romance that could well have begun with 'once upon a time'. And would end with 'happily ever after', was the fervent hope as the bride walked into the historic Westminster Abbey as Kate Middleton, a commoner, and came out as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Wacky hats, morning suits, tailcoats, gowns and tuxedos, elaborately uniformed cavalry guards, sleek limousines and open carriages rolling down the manicured streets from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace lined by an estimated half a million people� the trappings were complete.
There was something old, something new, something borrowed (and maybe something blue?) as tradition blended with modernity to serve up a wedding fit for kings, a spectacle lapped up not just by Britons but also an estimated two billion people in a world battling recession and economic doldrums.
Newspapers hired lip readers to cybercast live what was being said inside the Westminster Abbey and microblogging site Twitter recorded a high of 237 tweets per second on what was billed the wedding of the decade.
The British royalty, so long out of fashion and battling controversy, was back in vogue.
The weather gods too obliged, confounding forecast of rain.
Prince William, 28, who was only 15 when his mother Diana died, opted to wear the red tunic with a blue sash, the uniform of an Irish Guards colonel, his most senior honorary appointment, instead of the blue Royal Air Force uniform.
The search and rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force, the second in line to the British throne, is the elder son of Prince Charles and late Diana, the princess of Wales.
His bride, a year older and from a business family, looked a vision in white in her long Chantilly-lace sleeved dress that flared gently from the waist and a train - much shorter than her late mother-in-law's though.
The dress, which was kept secret until the very last moment, was designed by Alexander McQueen's creative director Sarah Burton. There was much speculation over whether she would follow Diana's footsteps with an elaborate gown, but the new Duchess of Cambridge stuck to her signature, simpler style.
Her tiara was a Cartier, lent to her by her grandmother-in-law Queen Elizabeth, and the Robinson Pelham earrings a gift from her parents.
Amongst the 1,900 inside the Westminster Abbey, which has seen history unfold over 1,000 years, were Queen Elizabeth in a buttercup yellow dress, the Duchess of Cornwall and William's stepmother Camilla in an ivory white outfit as well as other family members and showbiz stars like Victoria and David Beckham, Elton John and Guy Ritchie. Global leaders like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard were there too.
Given the political import of the much awaited event, the Foreign Office withdrew the invitation to the Syrian ambassador following the clampdown on pro-democracy protesters.
The bride and groom, and their families, had driven up to the wedding venue in stately Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars. After that, though, it was back to tradition with the royal family stepping into horse-driven landaus.
The newly-weds were in the State Landau, specifically built for King Edward VII in 1902 and the same carriage used by Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. The couple waved to the delirious crowds, with William also saluting as he passed fellow soldiers.
An estimated 300,000 people had gathered at Hyde Park, with thousands camping overnight to grab the best location to see the royal couple.
The marriage was a culmination of eight long and sometimes lonely years of waiting for Kate.
Unlike the Queen, who promised to obey Prince Philip when they married in 1947, Kate pledged only to 'love, comfort, honour and keep'.
There were mass celebrations in Britain, with over 5,000 street parties, including one hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street.
It was a Kodak moment as the couple emerged on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to exchange their first public kiss as the surging crowds below cheered lustily.
And, this one should be for keeps, wished Britons - unlike the Charles-Diana wedding that ended in divorce.