Thousands turn out – and it wasn’t even the real thing!
‘It’s been pretty hectic with the crowds’ ‘A lot of hard work’
WITH thousands lining the streets outside Windsor Castle yesterday, you might have thought the royal wedding had begun 48 hours early.
But in fact the marching band, the mounted soldiers and the horsedrawn carriage parading along the historic streets was part of a dress rehearsal for the big event tomorrow.
It was the final practice for more than 250 members of the military taking part in what is set to be the biggest procession ever seen in Windsor.
The only people missing at the dry run were the royal couple themselves – they arrived later in the day in a blacked-out Range Rover.
Excitement for tomorrow’s wedding appeared to be reaching fever pitch yesterday as tourists began claiming the best spots over an hour before the rehearsal began.
By the time it started to a loud brass fanfare at around 11am, they stood four rows deep behind the barriers under the clear blue sky.
Dressed in full military uniform, Prince Harry’s former regiment the Household Cavalry were joined by the Band of the Irish Guards to give a teaser of the music they will play tomorrow when the crowds get the first glimpses of the newlyweds.
The rehearsal included members of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, Royal Marines, RAF Honington and the Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving units.
Many of those watching waved flags and dressed in red, white and blue as they watched the practice procession.
School children wrapped themselves in Union Jack flags and tourists wore Union Jack suits and crowns.
One royal fan was spotted wearing a Meghan Markle mask and another dressed as the Queen as she enjoyed a cup of tea.
Onlookers told how they had travelled up to 12,000 miles for the big day. Lynda Moore, 70, from Ontario, Canada, said: ‘It’s just so great. We all love the royal family in Canada.
‘As you know Queen Elizabeth is our monarch too. I think Prince Harry is a lovely young man and Meghan is very beautiful.’
Mary, 62, from Auckland, New Zealand, added: ‘My sister lives in Windsor so I thought, why not? Today has been pretty hectic with the crowds. I can only imagine how busy it will be in Saturday.’
Tomorrow, the newly-married couple will emerge at 1pm after an hour- long service at St George’s Chapel. They will then be waved off in a black Ascot Landau carriage, built in 1883. That also got its first test run yesterday surrounded by a mounted platoon of the Household Cavalry. It was pulled by six Windsor Grey horses, including father and son steeds Storm and Tyrone.
Well- wishers gathered to watch as the horse- drawn carriage – with its shutters down and doors closed shut – made the 25-minute journey winding through the town before making its way up the Long Walk to the castle.
Behind it followed a team of police officers from the Diplomatic Protection Group in a black Range Rover and by a green Land Rover.
With security tighter than ever, the roads around Windsor were closed for the rehearsal and the route was lined with armed police guards, while specially-trained sniffer dogs toured the route beforehand. Officers also stood on the tops of buildings overlooking the crowds and walked around the town asking shop workers whether they had seen anything suspicious.
The rehearsal was planned to be used by Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police – who guard the royals – as a means of assessing any potential security threats or bottlenecks and crowd surges.
Following the rehearsal, Ben Bathurst, the General Officer Commanding joint military support to the royal wedding, said: ‘From the military side of things, the ceremonial rehearsal went very well today. It is evident that the sailors, soldiers and airmen and women taking part have put in a lot of hard work.’
Military precision: Royal Marines and sailors join the rehearsal watched by thousands