Hats, hats, and more hats.
Saturday April 9, 2005
Pre-amble: It's low-key, yet highly publicised. It's changed date, location and almost legislation, and now, finally, it's here - have you all got your wedding hats on? No, me neither. Still, as the royal correspondents chunter on sycophantically on the television next to me, it's hard to escape a growing sense of excitement - a wedding is a wedding, at the end of the day, and I am a girl. So you can expect plenty of hat commentary, dress commentary, and maybe a few tears. Since I find it difficult to tell members of the upper classes apart, I'm relying on the TV pundits to inform me who people are (I can probably spot the Queen), so if I get it wrong, it's definitively not my fault.
So here we are. Royal wedding. And it's a lovely day for it. After several days of rain, wind and hailstones the size of golf balls (albeit very very little golf balls), it seems that God has smiled upon the horsey - sorry - happy couple, and the sun is shining happily on Windsor. The big question at the moment is what will Camilla wear? I'm going to join the debate, and say that I think she'll be wearing clothes. But I don't know what clothes. The suspense is almost dizzying.
The runners and riders
There's no doubt about it, this really is a two horse race. And one that's been a long time in the running. On the one hand, we've got Camilla, a handsome, well bred woman in her late fifties who the press don't seem to like very much, and on the other, we've Prince Charles, a high-profile windbag who doesn't seem to like the press.
Let's look on the positive side - these people have been in love for many many years, and overcome many hurdles. While marriages to other people could have been an impediment to some couples, Charles and Camilla never let such things get in their way, and here they are - decades after they first tumbled into each others arms, they're finally taking the big step of getting married (to each other this time), and good for them, I say. Gosh, I actually managed to sound enthusiastic. I wasn't expecting that.
So, it's midday, all news channels are focussed on Windsor, I should probably start doing the same.
12.09: People in hats are milling around outside Windsor registry office. And what a selection of hats there are. The registrar herself seems to be wearing an enormous pink meringue construction, while the people lining the streets have opted for windsocks with the Union flag printed on them.
Yay! First email of the day, and Julius confidently predicts that Camilla will be wearing 'a fetching binbag and gumboot combo. Charles will be naked other than a layer of white clay.The Queen? Hardie Amies, obviously.' Who is Hardie Amies? Is he famous?
12.15: A small amount of members of the Parker-Bowles family are being driven from Windsor castle to the registry office in some kind of minibus. They've just gone over a speed bump. And another one. And now they're there. It really isn't very far.
12.19: The fashion for hats seems overwhelmingly to centre on floppy things on wire. The hats themselves, in most cases, are small, but they have attached antennae that wave and wobble in the wind, looking as if they may take someone's eye out at any second.
Julius - my only reader so far - has informed me that Hardy Amies is not only famous, but also dead. My condolences to the Amies family.
There's another minibus driving from the Windsor castle to the registry office. Or it may be the same minibus doing a relay. Not sure. This one, excitingly, contains many of the actual royal family, much easier to recognise than the Parker Bowles collective.
12.22: Prince William, one of the witnesses and the bearer of the rings, is wearing a suit. As is his ginger brother. They both seem to have quite jolly flowers in their buttonholes, but as the press can't get very close, it's difficult to tell what those flowers are.
The hats of the royals are far more sensible than the Parker Bowles' hats. They're large, blocky things, mostly in pink or other pastel colours, apart from 'Zara', whoever she is, who's wearing a black Justin Timberlake style number.
12.26: The Rolls Royce carrying Charles and Camilla is now rolling slowly down the high street, toward the registry office. The crowd is going wild. I can just imagine Charles grumbling quietly in the back seat. "Bloody people..."
12.28: And they're off! Charles and Camilla are out of the car, and we can finally see what Camilla is wearing. It's a quite simple creamy dress, with a coat over it, so it's difficult to tell the style. It's a nice colour though, and she looks very lovely. Prince Charles, meanwhile, looks like Prince Charles. But they both look extremely happy, and I may be misting up slightly, as is my mascot Julius.
Excitingly, topping the entire outfit was an impressive, and, if I may say so, an extremely symbolic hat. That's right, it was large and blocky like the royal family, and yet had the weird waving antennae so reminiscent of the Parker Bowles. Meg has just emailed in, describing it as 'Flying saucer + doily'. Harsh. But maybe a bit true.
12.36: So, half an hour in which, frankly, nothing is happening. The cameras aren't allowed in the registry office, so we can only guess at what might be happening in there. I think we can probably guess quite easily.
Meanwhile on the television, Trinny and Susannah of television's What Not to Wear are dissecting the outfit in a disappointingly sycophantic fashion. They've just informed us that Camilla 'really enjoys wearing clothes'. As hobbies go, it's not the most exciting I can think of. And on the other channels? Well, Channel 4 is showing a rerun of Friends. Incredible! Who'd have thought it, etc...
12.45: They're now talking about the racing, happening at Aintree this afternoon. And they're managing to talk about the Royal wedding, using a name of one of the horses in each sentence. It's really quite a cringeworthy experience. There will be some races happening during the wedding this afternoon, so I'll try and keep you up to date with that, although with the propensity of posh people to look a bit horsey, I can't promise not to get confused between the two.
The Grand National, famously, has been pushed back to 4.10pm this afternoon. I assume this to be because the Queen Mother - a big fan of horses running - would be very sorry to miss it.
12.55: They're out! And here they are, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, happily married at last. Wales and Cornwall. That seems a bit harsh. They could at least have put them in adjoining counties, they'll never get to see each other this way. Not that Wales is a county, of course, as Karen has just emailed in to remind me, for fear I would upset the Welsh. I don't think there are any Welsh people reading this, though, so I should be alright.
Leisl in Australia would like to know if they've emblazoned 'Just Married - Finally!' on the back of the minibuses in shaving cream. No, sorry. No shaving cream, no ribbons, no merry little tin cans rattling on the back of the Rolls. They'd probably say 'tasteful'. I say dull.
1.03pm: The ever-helpful Julius has just emailed and informed me that the Queen Mother has also sadly passed away. I would just like to use this opportunity to say how saddened I am at this news, and how much Her Royal Motherness meant to me. I can only hope that when the cardinals get together and elect a new Queen Mother, she'll be such an indispensable asset to the country as the last.
1.15pm: Hordes of marauding news reporters are wandering the streets of Windsor, searching for camera-friendly random members of public to give their informed opinions on the wedding so far. One lady has just described Charles as looking a bit glum. She didn't seem surprised by this fact, and frankly neither am I.
And the police, seeing this dangerous (perhaps treasonous) exchange going on, are scooting the busy interviewers out of the way, in order to allow through a car with someone in. I say 'someone', because I have no idea who it is. Neither does anyone on the BBC, though, so I don't feel too left out. Ellie from Nottingham seems to be doing just as much crowd-watching as the major news channels; 'Take a look at the BBC live coverage; thoroughly enjoyable to watch jumped up 'security' fanny around. Where's that Superman prankster when you need him eh?!'
Stunningly informative, Sky told us earlier that if we wanted to drive an unmarked van with a box in the back saying 'BOMB' into Windsor castle today, we certainly wouldn't get in. Which is a shame, as I was looking for something to do later.
1.27pm: Celebrity guests are arriving in force at St George's chapel, in the grounds of Windsor, and I have to say the Joanna Lumley is wearing the best hat of the day. It's a very simple thing, with an absolutely enormous flower. So much nicer than all these wibbly-wobbly bits of wire waving about.
Celebrity related emails are pouring in (well, three of them) pointing out that as well as having a smashing top hat, Stephen Fry has freakishly long arms. I'd never noticed before, but it's true. He can probably tie his shoelaces without bending down with those babies.
Karen from Wokingham would like me to point out to Piers Morgan that "he is not 'watching a marriage', he is 'watching a wedding'. Watching a marriage is what the tabloids will be doing for the next however many years". Believe, me Karen, if I ever do meet Piers Morgan, that is the second thing I will tell him. The first is probably left unprinted at this point.
Good lord. Tara Palmer Tomkinson has arrived and she looks like a very thin macaroon. With whipped cream on top.
1.34pm: Trinny and Susannah are back, discussing hats, mainly. Apparently if you have a tendency toward dark circles under the eyes, the sort of hat that come down over the face is bad, and you should veer toward the up-pointing brim, or a little feather thing. Or it might have been the other way round.
The camera is panning around the inside of St George's chapel, showing the friends of the Prince of Wales and his lovely new bride. There's David Frost talking to a woman with incredible plummage, and Kenneth Branagh, standing next to a woman with incredible cleavage. There's Phil Collins, and here's a long, lingering shot of Philip Treacy, who designed many of the hats attending the blessing today.
1.42pm: An email from Gillian Dow highlights one of the hats I seem to have missed, and now wish I hadn't. Apparently, Trudi Styler - wife of Sting - is wearing something that 'Looked like the sort of thing you could train hamsters to jump through.'
How would you know that?
1.47pm: The guests are still arriving, crossing the grounds into the chapel, quite a lot of them at once, to be honest. There's a large group of clearly well-bred types, thundering towards the St George's chapel. They're moving in fast, resplendent in their shiny coats and with the generally horsey manner of the aristocracy. Obviously, they're very keen to get there, royal wedding and all, but I really wasn't expecting this turn of speed in the invited dignitaries. Oh, no, wait a moment, someone's switched over to the racing at Aintree. Those actually are horses. Hang on, I'll find the remote.
1.57pm: Back on the right channel, just in time to see Michael Howard arriving with his beautiful wife. Michael Howard, I have to say, is wearing a very shabby suit indeed. 2/10 for Mr Howard. I shan't be voting for him now, not after this.
Piers Morgan has just described Tom Parker-Bowles as 'a really nice chap', as if he was trying to convince us. He may be a really nice chap, but his companion has a head covered in wobbly wire and feathers. She seems to have actually abandoned the concept of 'hat' full-stop, while embracing hat-appendages whole-heartedly.
And here's Charles Kennedy, looking jolly and rotund, and also wearing a wrinkled and rather cheap-looking suit. Are these people aware that there's an election coming up? Should someone tell them?
2.07: Tony Blair and Cherie have arrived, Cherie looking radiant, according to Piers Morgan. Unfortunately I was in the bathroom at the time. I'll keep an eye out and find out whether Tony is living up to the example set by the other politicians in looking quite, quite shoddy. This is important. My vote may rest on this matter.
Apparently, the general rule is, the later you arrive, the more important you are. Phil Collins was there quite early this morning, then.
The 'minor' royalty are beginning to arrive now. Not underage, just not as good as the major royals. Or something.
2.15: The younger members of the British royal family are now walking towards the chapel, looking posh, and slightly rowdy. Nicholas Witchell (I can't bear that man...) has just described them as being a bit boisterous. This, in reference to Prince Harry appearing to break into goosestep. No word of a lie.
2.19: Sophie, Countess of Wessex, wife of Prince Edward seems to be wearing what from this angle looks like an upturned galvanised bucket. With wobbly wire feathers (of course). Meg, hat expert, has just emailed to tell me that it looks like she's wearing Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre on her head. Which is true.
The royal family, it pains me to say, are actually looking very human for once. They're chatting away amongst themselves, waving across the aisle, pulling faces. It's at moments like this when I wish I could lip-read. Although I'd take a guess that whatever they're saying it sounds like this: 'Rah-de-rah-de-rah...'
Because they're unbearably posh.
2.24: The Queen has arrived, with Prince Philip in tow. See, you can tell she's important because there's only a few minutes to the kick-off. Any more important and she'd be late. She's wearing white, white hat (saucepan with feathers), white coat, and glittering broach. And black gloves. Now even without Trinny and Susannah to guide me, I know that doesn't look good.
The BBC have just bemoaned how sad it was that she 'wasn't able to attend' the registry office ceremony. Is that why she didn't go? Was she busy? She wasn't busy picking out those gloves, I tell you that much.
2.29pm: And here they come, the newlyweds in their dull non-ribboned car, and the big question is whether the Duchess of Cornwall has changed her clothes or not.
2.29 1/2: Yes, she has.
2.36pm: Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, with his cute button nose and magnificent beard, is presiding over the blessing. He's just kicking off with the 'God is Love' niceties. He's got a very soothing voice, hasn't he? I may nap.
2.41pm: No time for napping. It's the much publicised prayers of penitence.
"We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, against thy Divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us."
It doesn't mince words, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I like the use of the word majesty, too. They could almost be apologising to his mum.
2.46pm: There is a lady, warbling. Meanwhile, an incredibly worrying email from Narendra Nayak, who wonders if I am aware that according to her information "the couple has been advised to wear diapers for the wedding". Um. I was not aware of that, no. And this, apparently, from 'reliable sources'.
2.41pm: Several emails expressing an urge to shout 'THIS TIME' after Rowan Williams asks them if they plan to be faithful, forsaking all others. I think you're all very cruel.
A rollicking good hymn, now, 'Love divine all loves excelling', for those who want to sing along. We were going to have rousing rendition here in the office, but there are only three of us and we felt a bit stupid. Besides, why don't they put the words on the screen like Songs of Praise?
2.53pm A famous actor is standing up, and giving a reading in a magnificently sonorous voice. Words on the screen have just informed me that this is Timothy West, which is good, because I was going to describe him as 'that bloke who was in that thing'. He's married to Prunella Scales, a fantastic actress, now famous for her excellent work advertising some supermarket.
And more classical music. Why is it that some of the littler boys aren't wearing white cassocks over their burgundy robes? Ann from North London wants to know. Do you have to earn your cassocks? Or do they just not make them in 'tiny and precocious' size?
Conor McCormack thinks he's just seen Robert Mugabe lurking at the back (no, I think he's only invited to the reception and disco), while Neil found the prayer of penitence strikingly similar to Samuel L Jackson's biblical quote in Pulp Fiction, and is now expecting Prince Charles to pull a gun on the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Don't be silly, Neil. If they're going to hunt the Archbishop, they'll do it with dogs.
3.08pm: One last hymn, a quick pray, and now the National Anthem. God, it really is a dirge, isn't it? Still, at least that's answered one question of mine - the Queen doesn't sing it. She just stands there. As my colleague has just pointed out, she must be sick to the back teeth of that tune.
I don't know if I'd be able to stand there with people singing all those nice things lustily to my face. I think I'd blush.
Ah, the service has ended.
3.14pm: 'The moment everyone has been waiting for', apparently, with the Queen standing next to Camilla. Charles, quite touchingly, is looking very happy.
Worryingly, I've just noticed that he looks a bit like my dad. And now, the 'big question' is whether Charles and Camilla will kiss in public.
I have lost count of how many 'big questions' there have been already today.
The couple are now doing a walkabout, and the Queen's driven off.
3.19pm: That thing on Camilla's head is enormously distracting. Meg has pointed out that 'when Camilla entered the chapel, it was easy to mistake her feathery head-dress thing for an 80s-style flicky backcombed fringe, held in place with extra-strength industrial hairspray. Like Tiffany.' While Neil, all film references today, has described it as looking like Cameron Diaz in There's something about Mary.
Well, they did have an hour an a half between ceremonies. Oh gosh, I've made myself feel quite ill.
3.24pm: GOAL! Darlington have scored against Cambridge. Congratulations to all Darlington fans out there. A special day for you as well, perhaps.
3.28pm: So, they've wandered around and shaken hands with a whole heap of lucky punters. Apparently there was a public ballot to decide who got to go and stand in the grounds outside the chapel for several hours in the wind (and possibly rain). I wish I'd known; I would have been able to ignore it scornfully.
The commentators seemed awfully happy that Prince Charles now had someone to join him on his interminable rounds of hand shaking. As Paul in Aberystwyth has pointed out, '"Now he can do it with his legitimate bride" says the BBC's commentator. Am I the only one in the UK chuckling like a pillock?'
Not any more you're not, Paul.
3.29pm Cambridge have equalised, by the way.
3.37pm: With the walkabout over, and the royals all taken up the hill to the reception in minibuses (such style, such elegance, such grace) there's very little for the television commentators to do but start to deconstruct the wedding and talk about everything they didn't like about it.
This seems a little rough, to be honest. They've been married for about two minutes, and already people are tearing them up about things they could have done better. Slowpokes. I've been doing it here for hours.
3.44pm: And now to the reception. Almost 800 guests have been invited to celebrate with the happy couple, and at the moment Sky are representing that by showing a rather shaky shot of the exterior window of the Grand Reception room. They've been showing it now for almost a minute. It's a window.
3.50pm: Good lord. Some people are marking the wedding by leaving bunches of flowers at Kensington Palace in memory of Princess Diana, who died in 1997. One gentleman is saying that 'he wouldn't presume to pass judgement on the marriage', but that 'it was morally wrong and should never have been allowed to take place'. A well-dressed woman is describing how she feels personally let down by the Queen. The camera is showing frankly offensive messages tucked into the flowers tied to Kensington Palace gates.
4.02pm: Not much going on now really. A lot of desperate journalists standing about talking to ardent royalists.
Meanwhile, inside the Castle, 800 people tuck into a 'finger buffet' provided by the Queen. Not that she cooked it. Well, perhaps she did. Perhaps that's why she was too busy to go to the civil ceremony.
4.07pm: They're showing bits of the blessing again. Prince Charles has extraordinarily pink hands. Almost puce.
Meanwhile, we can only imagine what's going on behind that window. A plethora of silly hats, we know that much (thank you Ele) with the faces beneath them tucking into whatever the posh version of cheese and pineapple on toothpicks is. Cheese and pineapple on hatpins, maybe.
Ellie from Nottingham is betting that 'they're treating their guests to some sweaty crustless cucumber sandwiches and watered down Robinsons.' Possibly, yes. Or wild boar in blankets.
Oooh, the Grand National's on in a minute. Maybe I'll commentate on that, instead.
4.11pm: The Grand National. There are some people in silly hats sitting on horses. Actually, flicking between the two, there are people in silly hats milling about with horses on both channels.
4.12pm: AND THEY'RE OFF! The horses are running, the horses are running, they're running, they're running (I think this may be called galloping, actually) and now they're jumping! They're running, they're running, they're jumping again, oh, hang on, one's fallen over, is he alright? No idea, the cameraman doesn't seem to care, and they're still running, running, jumping, running, running, running. And some horses are in front of other horses and they're still running and they're heading down towards some water, apparently and still, yes, they're running, they're jumping over the water! And the people ar