Fervor builds ahead of British royal wedding

Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:01pm EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Crowds camped out in London and foreign dignitaries flew in from around the world for Friday's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a service full of pomp and ceremony that has thrust the monarchy to center stage.

Underlying the diplomatic minefield of an event taking place in the full glare of the world's media, Britain withdrew Syria's invitation, saying Syria's crackdown on calls for democracy made it inappropriate that its ambassador should attend.

Middleton, 29, accompanied by William's younger brother and best man Prince Harry, attended a rehearsal on Thursday at the wedding venue, Westminster Abbey, the coronation church for the monarchy since William the Conqueror in 1066.

In the evening, Prince William reached into the crowds waiting on the Mall, the ceremonial avenue running from Buckingham Palace, shaking hands and telling delighted members of the public he was focusing on "remembering the lines" for the "big day," a live BBC broadcast showed.

In a message of thanks to well-wishers worldwide, the couple said they were deeply touched by the outpouring of affection ahead of a wedding service that will combine ancient traditions of the monarchy with a sense of modernity to reflect the times.

In the service, Middleton will not promise to "obey" William as part of her wedding vows in front of a congregation gathering royals, politicians, celebrities and friends.

"We are both so delighted that you are able to join us in celebrating what we hope will be one of the happiest days of our lives," William, second in line to the throne, and Kate wrote in a statement printed in an official souvenir program.


<p>A woman holding the British flag smiles as she stands on a bridge next to the illuminated London Eye in London late evening April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>