The biggest anticipation of Royal Wedding between William and Kate was for the bride, the wedding dress she had so successfully managed to keep secret, and that heart-stopping walk down the aisle on her father’s arm.
The Middleton family had booked out all 71 rooms at the luxury Goring Hotel in Belgravia for their party, and this is where Catherine Middleton spent the last night before her wedding, sharing the Royal Apartment on the top floor with her mother and sister.
The next morning, a marquee outside the hotel’s entrance allowed Catherine to make her way carefully into the car that would take her to the abbey without giving away any of the details of her dress. All that could be seen in the car was her diaphanous veil, big smile, and white-gloved hand waving to the cheering crowd.
And then, in a carefully choreographed moment, she stepped out of the car in front of the Abbey to reveal her exquisitely elegant ivory dress designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. The crowd cheered, the commentators squealed with delight, and Catherine herself positively beamed.
The dress combined a slim-fitting bodice with a flowing skirt, 2.7 metre train, and lace appliqué floral designs detailing roses, thistles, daffodils and shamrocks, one for each of the regions of Britain. The lace was all made by hand in secret by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace, using traditional Carrickmacross craftsmanship.
Catherine wore her hair down in a demi-chignon, covered by her veil, which was held in place by a Cartier “halo” tiara made in 1936 and lent to her by the Queen. She carried a lovely, understated bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, hyacinth and sweet William – in a nod to her groom.
The demure V-necked lace covering her shoulders sparked comparisons to Grace Kelly’s iconic, graceful wedding dress, and she looked every inch the princess. Most impressive of all, though, was her serene composure and glow of happiness on this very special day.
Mention must go also to the four bridesmaids and two pageboys: the Lady Louise Windsor (age 7), Margarita Armstrong-Jones (age 8), Grace van Cutsem (age 3), Eliza Lopes (age 3), William Lowther-Pinkerton (age 10) and Tom Pettifer (age 8).
They were led into the Abbey by Catherine’s maid of honour, her younger sister Pippa Middleton, who looked stunning in a figure-hugging ivory crepe creation with a cowl front and lace trimming, also by McQueen – a dress that beautifully complimented her sister’s more traditional gown.