27 Apr 2011

Royal Wedding: pageantry vs security

As the ceremonial military get ready for the Royal Wedding, thousands of police officers begin a London-wide operation to make sure there are no threats to security.

Up to 1,000 military personnel took to the Royal Wedding route in the early hours of Wednesday morning to practise the choreographed escort for Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s wedding on Friday.

The first vehicles to arrive at Westminster Abbey were two royal fleet cars at 0450 BST. On the day, Ms Middleton will arrive in the armoured Rolls Royce that was damaged at last year’s student protests when carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Despite the couple’s initial calls for an understated wedding, the scale of the procession was evident by the extent of the rehearsal. Scores of soldiers were in place outside of Downing Street and down to the Cenotaph, with members of the RAF along the road to Horse Guards Parade and several Royal Navy companies ending the guarded procession route.

The 1902 State Landau carriage

Westminster Abbey was closed for preparations on Tuesday, with numerous rehearsals expected behind closed doors and decorations, flower arranging, staging and rigging all underway to house the vast amount of broadcast equipment needed to stream the moments live to a global audience predicted to be as large as two billion.

The flowers for the wedding have been selected by Shane Connolly and Catherine Middleton and have been sourced from the huge Royal estate at Windsor Great Park.

Preparations continued on Wednesday evening when Prince William and Kate Middleton went to Westminster Abbey for a private rehearsal with senior clergy, Kate’s parents and siblings and Prince Harry.

From the Abbey, the newly married couple will travel in the 1902 State Landau carriage, the vehicle that has carried Royals and dignitaries for over 100 years on State occassions. Members of the huge crowds that will line the route will be hoping that the expected downpours will not arrive and Prince William and Princess Catherine will be on full show rather than under cover.

12 members of the military will travel alongside the horse-drawn carriage on the day as extra security but also as another symbol of centuries old Royal pageantry.


Aside from the traditional presence of military on the route, it is the Metropolitan Police who will shoulder the burden of keeping the day peaceful. 5,000 officers will apparently be deployed with calls from police chiefs for members of the public to act as their “eyes and ears”.

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said: “If they see anything in the crowd that raises their suspicion about any sort of criminal activity, we would ask that they would highlight that immediately to a police officer. Please don’t be afraid to deal with it, and that then gives us opportunity to act quickly and decisively.”

Last week Channel 4 News reported on the proposed threat from extremist groups on April 29, who despite having their request for an official protest denied vowed that they still aimed to get their opinions heard.

Nearly 80 roads around the route, from Lambeth bridge to Buckingham Palace Road, will be cleared of all vehicles and closed for traffic, with regular searches to be conducted over the three days up to the event.