Standing on ceremony

Six young children, two highly eligible wranglers in Prince Harry and Pippa—all the ingredients for royal chaos, but the attendants behaved (almost) perfectly

Standing on ceremony

Alastair Grant/AP

Nothing says courage quite like including six young children in your wedding party, unless it’s choosing as wranglers a young man who’s been called the bad boy of the royal family and a young woman who’s been called the most eligible singleton in the kingdom. With so many wild cards, anything could have gone wrong.

But nothing did. Pippa Middleton made sure of that. After helping her sister exit the car at Westminster Abbey and expertly arranging the train of the wedding dress just so on the red carpet, she took charge of the children, smiling calmly throughout. Walking up the aisle hand in hand with the pair of three-year-old bridesmaids, she summoned memories of Diana’s easy, natural way with children. And yet the impression she created was all her own: while her unobtrusive manner indicated a willingness to fade modestly into the background, Pippa’s form-fitting dress, with buttons up the back and a small train of its own, made that quite impossible. Unusually, it was only a shade or two away from Kate’s own gown, and the cut was substantially more revealing. There were whispers, and within minutes, squawks and tweets: had the maid of honour upstaged the bride? Online, detractors emerged, sniffing about the chestnut hue of Pippa’s fake tan. But in the church, she dispatched her duties serenely and with dignity.

Prince Harry, too, stepped up, which is to say that he was subdued and entirely proper throughout the ceremony, after cracking his brother up with a whispered aside as Kate approached the altar holding her father’s hand. There was nothing inappropriate in that, though: the best man’s job description is to lighten the mood. And after the ceremony, heading to the palace in a carriage with the youngest members of the wedding party, he was impeccably avuncular, reassuring the children and putting them at ease.

The children were, it must be said, perfectly behaved throughout. If they were restless at the abbey or uncomfortable in their angelic, starched outfits, they certainly didn’t show it. Even more remarkable, not one of the girls fussed with the circle of flowers perched on her head, and astonishingly, when they appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, all four were still having a good flowers-in-hair day. Either these are the most stoic children on Earth, or parental bribery paid off handsomely. Either way, photographers hoping for antics of the sort William himself pulled at his uncle Andrew’s wedding were sorely disappointed.

The mood on the balcony was decidedly more relaxed, with Kate leaning down to speak to the children, and Camilla, then Charles, lifting up her granddaughter Eliza who, even on tiptoes, was not quite tall enough to look over the ledge to see the cheering crowd below. The scene-stealing moment, however, belonged to Grace van Cutsem, who covered her ears and screwed her face up into the pout seen around the world when Royal Air Force planes roared overhead. That the happy couple had chosen that particular moment to kiss provided the perfect backdrop. A naughty photo op, at last.

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