The man in uniform

It was hard not to think of Diana while watching Prince William on his wedding day

The man in uniform

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Prince William had his back turned to Catherine Middleton as she walked with her father down the aisle at Westminster Abbey. It was an old-fashioned, austere moment: the demure, veiled bride escorted to her stoic bridegroom, who stared ahead at the altar. To William’s right stood Prince Harry, who also accompanied him from Clarence House to the abbey in a state Bentley, while crowds exclaimed, “We want Wills!” Harry has, in fact, always been at his big brother’s side to provide comic relief and encouragement. Now was no different: Harry broke form by looking over his shoulder and, smiling, advised William, “Right, here she is now.”

Throughout the formal 75-minute service, William remained the picture of regal restraint: he wore the red uniform of the Irish Guards; he was appointed the regiment’s honorary royal colonel by the Queen in February. His blue sash was that of the oldest and highest order of chivalry in Britain. He recited his vows in a quiet voice; he knelt and sang with his head bowed. When William and Kate strode down the aisle, she beamed, chin up, and surveyed the guests; he gave the same shy smiles, slight nods and sideways glances that his late mother Diana was known for.

Also like his mother, William appeared most comfortable during the less formal times. That’s when his charming, even coy, nature revealed itself: he blew kisses to his aunts before the service began. He joked with Kate and her father, “We were supposed to have just a small family affair!” To Kate, he gushed, “You look beautiful.” During the sermon, when the couple was urged to “persevere in prayer,” he initiated a warm exchange of grins between them. Once out of the solemn abbey (where Diana’s funeral was held in 1997) and among the cheering fans, William waved and laughed heartily. By then, he had put on his military cap, which is adorned with the regiment’s motto. Translated from Latin, it reads, “Who shall separate us?”

No one, it seems. As soon as the couple were seated inside the 1902 state landau, Kate looked at William and glowed, “I’m so happy.” En route to Buckingham Palace, they were a coordinated pair: when he saluted the guards, she lowered her gaze. They chatted along the way. And as the couple passed under a stone archway, William and Kate clutched each other’s hands. That intimate gesture—fleeting, and done only when they were free from the public gaze—was reminiscent of the consoling hugs William and Harry received from their family when they passed under that same archway during Diana’s funeral procession.

That’s not to say William and Kate weren’t up for outward displays of affection. When they appeared on the palace balcony as the newly named duke and duchess of Cambridge—and future king and queen—more than a million spectators chanted, “Kiss, kiss, kiss!” William leaned over, gave Kate a giddy peck, and blushed. As jets saluted overhead, the crowd hollered for more: “Kiss a-gain! Kiss a-gain!” William happily obliged them.

If his mother was the people’s princess, William surely is their prince.

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