Fervor builds ahead of British royal wedding

Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:07pm 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 marriage full of pomp and ceremony that has thrust the monarchy to center stage.

Showing that behind the pageantry lay a serious political event, Britain withdrew Syria's invitation, saying its crackdown on pro-democracy supporters made it inappropriate that its ambassador should attend.

Recalling William's mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, the couple have chosen to lead the hymns with the final hymn that was sung at her funeral in Westminster Abbey where the couple will marry.

Middleton, 29, attended a final rehearsal on Thursday at the abbey, the coronation church for the monarchy since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, accompanied by William's younger brother and best man Prince Harry.

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, the second in line to the throne, and Kate wrote in a statement printed in an official souvenir program.


<p>Royal fans adjust Union flags on their shoulders in front Westminster Abbey in London April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>