The kiss between William and Catherine, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, was for many the most memorable moment of the day. Once the procession of carriages had made its way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, the crowd was allowed to fill the Mall and move right up past the Victoria memorial to the gates of the palace itself, providing a grandstand view for the formal balcony appearance.
Ever since Romeo and Juliet, balconies have had an air of romance, and as a privileged place linking public and private they have special meaning for the royal family. The balcony at Buckingham Palace has been the site of royal appearances to mark nationally celebrated events from the Queen’s birthday to VE day, and of course royal weddings.
It was Queen Victoria who began the tradition of the royal bridal party making a public appearance on the balcony after her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. The Queen Mother in 1923, the Queen and Prince Philip in 1947, and Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981 all followed this tradition – though it was not until Charles and Diana’s wedding that the appearance also involved a kiss.
As Catherine stepped out onto the balcony with her new husband, the sight of the crowds filling the Mall prompted an involuntary “Oh wow!” The party lined up on the balcony and, to the crowd’s delight, the young couple kissed twice – and giggled.
At this point the sky began to roar with the approach of the flypast: first the Battle of Britain memorial flight, with a Lancaster flanked by a Spitfire and a Hurricane; then a formation of modern fighter jets, Tornadoes and Typhoons.
The flypast over, the royal group began filing back into the palace, leaving the new Duke and Duchess standing for a moment on their own. As they turned to go back inside, hand in hand, Catherine looked over her shoulder one last time at the sea of cheering people.
In an appealing break with tradition, William then drove his bride from Buckingham Palace back to Clarence House in Prince Charles’ blue convertible Aston Martin, with a number plate reading JU5T WED, and festooned with balloons and L plates courtesy of his brother – an endearingly informal moment in this day of extraordinary royal pomp and ceremony.