Ten years ago (plus a day), Catherine “Kate” Elizabeth Middleton married Prince William Arthur Philip Louis at Westminster Abbey in London.
They were the focus of the media for weeks, as they were when their relationship went public in 2004. Kate was not only loved by the press; per the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, William had asked Queen Elizabeth for her consent to the marriage, which she gave heartily. Shortly after their engagement, the queen also held training sessions for Kate on how to behave as a member of the royal family.
The training Kate received smarted of the turmoil from the previous royal marriage of the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Diana had grown up in the nobility but was entirely unused to the press. Kate had not grown up noble at all but rather a commoner from a middle-class family. However, she became as wealthy as the aristocracy through her family’s mail-order party planning business, which is why she attended the University of St. Andrews with William. They were friends and flatmates before they started dating, and once friendship turned to love, William tried to guard her from the press better than what had been given his mother.
Ten years after their first meeting, Kate would face down the paparazzi as part of the nobility and the royal family.
Thousands of fans crowded the route near the abbey on the day of the wedding, waving flags and waiting for the royal’s arrival. Princes William and Harry arrived first, followed by their father, Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, Kate’s mother, and finally, the queen. Kate arrived after her wedding party to wild applause, smiling and waving as only an excited bride can, only to disappear inside the abbey to wed her love in front of 1,900 guests.
The story spread to two billion people across the globe. Twenty-three million viewers watched the broadcast in the United States, only to be topped by six million more viewers for the royal wedding in 2018.
The wedding felt oddly intimate for something so monumental.
I was vacationing with my family at Disney World at the time. Being an online student had its perks. The Florida heat made us retreat into our room with the air conditioning as high as it could go. The cold air sank into our weary bodies and kept us firmly in our beds as Mom turned on the TV for some white noise. She scrolled through the channels until she found a recording of the royal wedding.
My mother had told me over and over about the queen’s coronation, but I had never understood the weight of it until I saw the wedding. The same attitude of reverence that permeated the coronation hung over Kate and Prince William as they exchanged vows, transforming our hotel room into a chapel. The solemn mood had nothing to do with the influential guests, the ornate room, or the boys choir singing songs in Latin. What mattered was the joining of two souls and the making of a new princess.
Kate Middleton became a wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Countess of Strathearn, and the Baroness Carrickfergus all in one day. She became something ‘other’ as the world watched on.
Today, Princess Kate and Prince William’s wedding is only a nostalgic memory as Prince Harry and Meghan flood the British press. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge fade further into the background the more Prince Harry and Meghan make the news, but they are a constant reminder of how the monarchy should be perceived.
April 29, 2011 saw a modern royal wedding without the scandal of a lover or a foreign-born entering the royal family. Prince William and Princess Kate remain the untarnished jewels in the royal crown, at least for the moment.