Britain celebrated its second royal wedding in five years today, as Queen Elizabeth's second son, Prince Andrew, married flame-haired Sarah Ferguson in a glittering display of pageantry televised to millions around the world.
A jubilant crowd of tens of thousands lined the processional route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, where the ceremony was held. As the couple spoke their vows, a massive cheer went up from those listening to the broadcast service outside.
Inside the 13th-century abbey, the 1,800 invited guests included Nancy Reagan and representatives from most of the world's royal families as well as diplomats and government officials, actors, rock stars and family friends.
But despite the pomp and solemnity of the official processions and the marriage ceremony itself, the day's events were infused with a relaxed happiness. Although somewhat down the scale of state importance from the elaborate 1981 wedding of Charles, the prince of Wales and heir to the throne, many Britons readily characterized today as "more fun."
The spirit seemed to affect everyone from the flag-waving spectators to the queen herself. As the bridal couple, riding in a gilded carriage decorated with bows and balloons and also carrying a person-sized teddy bear, left Buckingham Palace for their honeymoon this afternoon, Queen Elizabeth joined the rest of the family in running after the carriage through the palace courtyard. She grabbed the hand of sw,-2 sk,1 4-year-old Prince William to keep him from following it through the gate.
Diana, the princess of Wales, jumped up and down, tossed handfuls of confetti and blew a kiss, while Prince Charles gave their younger son, 22-month-old Prince Harry, a ride on his shoulders. The queen's husband Prince Philip, the normally staid duke of Edinburgh, smiled and played with some of the royal children.
The joyous tone of the day was set by Andrew and Sarah themselves, who grinned and waved energetically on the route to and from the abbey, and complied with the wishes of the crowd for a postnuptial kiss on the palace balcony.
As her private wedding present, the queen this morning bestowed upon Andrew the title of duke of York, the oldest dukedom in the country, dating from 1385 and traditionally given to the sovereign's second son. It was last used by his grandfather, King George VI, a second son who ascended to the throne following the abdication of his childless brother, Edward VIII.
Andrew's wife, a commoner with a drop of royal blood, the daughter of a retired military officer and gentleman farmer, is known as the Princess Andrew, Duchess of York. Watching the ebullient pair of 26-year-olds grinning and waving on television, one Londoner commented, "It sounds funny. They don't seem old enough to be a duke and duchess, do they?"
Throughout the day, most eyes were on the bride, whose dramatically flowing, ivory silk wedding gown had been a well-kept fashion secret until she stepped from the ceremonial Glass Coach that carried her to the abbey. The dress was embellished with extensive beadwork and embroidery of bows, bumble bees and thistles, all contained in Sarah's personal coat of arms. At the end of the 17-foot train a silver letter "A," for Andrew, was embroidered.
Made by little-known London designer Lindka Cierach, the dress' tightly fitted, boned bodice and scoop neck seemed to quash all earlier speculation that the bride had a weight problem. With her long red hair flowing in loose ringlets down her back, and a flowered headdress atop her tiara, her appearance was universally approved by Britain's often critical fashion mavens.
The happy event had begun several hours before the bride arrived for the ceremony -- days earlier in the case of many spectators who camped out for several nights along the processional sidewalks to be assured of a good view. Throughout last night, the area around the palace and the abbey became a virtual street party as cars drove back and forth with horns honking and campers popped early champagne corks.
By 5 a.m., thousands of others were pouring on foot across the central London parks that bordered the route from the palace, down the Mall and through Admiralty Arch at Trafalgar Square and into Whitehall to Parliament Square and the abbey. Meanwhile, 2,000 security police began a last-minute check. By 8:30, they had closed off most of the surrounding streets, beginning traffic tie-ups around the city on what for many people was a normal working day.
Invited guests began lining up at the abbey at least an hour before the doors officially opened at 10 a.m., in hopes of getting a good seat. The long abbey nave is divided in half by a floor-to-ceiling "screen" -- an arch containing the organ and through which the aisle passes. While the families of the bride and groom sat on the raised altar area itself, seats in front of the screen were reserved for officials and dignitaries. Those in the back held everybody else in first-come, first-served seating.
Everyone but immediate family members was seated nearly an hour before the ceremony began. Nancy Reagan, in a lime-colored silk dress with matching dress-length jacket and hat, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in fuchsia and navy, were in front of the screen. Actor Michael Caine and pop singer Elton John -- in a ponytail and pink-framed sunglasses -- were in the back, along with friends and lesser relatives.
Despite only intermittent sunshine and chilly temperatures more like April than July, threatened rain did not arrive, and most of the royal family members rode through the crowd in open carriages accompanied by phalanxes of mounted and ceremonially dressed military men.
*Once inside, the royal family proceeded in isolated splendor to the altar, where they sat and waited like any other family in a similar situation. The queen, her expression a cross between sternness and boredom, remained silent. Prince Charles, seated next to his grandmother, the queen mother, attempted politely to chat, while Diana, her shoulders characteristically slumped, exchanged occasional observations with her sister-in-law, Princess Anne. The younger generation tapped its feet, and all read assiduously through the programs they had found on their chairs.
Across the aisle, the bride's family was somewhat more animated, with two grandmothers seated side by side, and a bit of built-in drama contributed by the presence of both Sarah's glamorous mother -- divorced from her father and currently married to a polo player from Argentina, the country with which Britain three years ago was at war -- and her father's current wife.
Prince Andrew was the last to arrive before the bride. Traveling in his own coach and dressed in his naval lieutenant's ceremonial uniform, he was accompanied by his "supporter," or best man, his younger brother Prince Edward.
After some last-minute fussing with her train, whose length and bulk seemed to distract her intermittently throughout the day, Sarah began her five-minute walk up the aisle on the arm of her father, Maj. Ronald Ferguson. Behind them came eight attendants -- four little girl relatives dressed in peach silk and carrying hoops of flowers, and four boys, two in 18th-century midshipmen's uniforms and two in 19th-century sailor suits.
The youngest of the attendants was 4-year-old Prince William, second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles. Grinning and obviously pleased with himself, William kept a modicum of decorum through the 50-minute ceremony, except for a few brief intervals of playing with the sheathed plastic knife that formed part of his costume, and chewing on the neck string of his broad-brim sailor hat.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, conducted the standard 1622 Church of England ceremony. Interspersed with prayers, hymns and presentations by the choir and two soprano soloists that echoed throughout the vaulted abbey chambers, it passed without major incident. Agreeing "to obey" her new husband, the bride, who prides herself on being a "working woman," turned to him and smiled. Despite her best-laid plans to carefully and correctly pronounce all four of his given names -- Andrew Albert Christian Edward -- she stuttered and said the third one twice.
After disappearing into the back of the abbey to sign the official marriage register, the newly married couple reemerged onto the altar area, where the bride dropped into a deep curtsy to the queen and they headed out into one of the day's few brief moments of sunlight for the journey together back to the palace.
The royal carriages past, thousands of onlookers moved from the abbey, behind a row of mounted police straining to hold them back, up the Mall, the wide, park-lined avenue leading to Buckingham Palace, to wait for the new duke and duchess to emerge with their family onto the balcony. When they finally did, after an hour inside posing for wedding photographs, a new round of cheers erupted.
To chants of "kiss her, kiss her," the couple embraced lingeringly on the balcony. The family went inside, but the cheers continued, and Andrew and Sarah reappeared alone, for another session of waves and grins.
Then they sat down with 140 friends and family members in the state dining room on the palace's second floor for their first meal as a married couple. While a band of the Irish Guards played tunes including "For Me and My Gal," and "We've Only Just Begun," plus an assortment of naval marches, guests at the private celebration dined on lamb and lobster, strawberries and wedding cake.
When they emerged again in late afternoon in their honeymoon clothes -- a simple, flowered silk dress for Sarah and a dark suit for Andrew -- most of the crowd was still there waiting.
Just as Andrew had decorated the carriage for his brother Charles' honeymoon departure five years ago, Prince Edward did the honors for his older sibling. In addition to blue and pink bows, the horse-drawn carriage flew several Union Jacks emblazoned with printed photos of the bridal couple, flags of a type sold as inexpensive souvenirs throughout the country. In the seat facing them sat the giant teddy bear.
Fastened to the rear of the carriage was a cardboard replica of a satellite transmitter, with a sign saying "Phone Home" beneath it. Hanging in the license plate position was a white placard with a large red letter L, the "learner" emblem usually displayed here on driving-school cars.
In keeping with the relative informality of the occasion, the new bride did not wear the traditional traveling hat, and her long tresses blew across her face in the wind. The family showered them with confetti as they left; Sarah grabbed some off her lap and threw it back at them.
After a brief trip through West London streets, they arrived at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, where military retirees lined the driveway to wave as they headed toward a red helicopter on the lawn, ready to take them to the airport for their honeymoon flight to the Azores. Although the honeymoon plans are an official secret, it is believed that the royal yacht Britannia left the country several days ago and will meet them in the islands 700 miles off the Portuguese coast.