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The just-married Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, exchange pleasantries in the carriage on the way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
The just-married Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, exchange pleasantries in the carriage on the way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Royal wedding

After the fairy tale: Where William and Kate go from here Add to ...

If it is really true that two billion people were watching then that was not, in the end, surprising. We might not do everything well in this country, but boy, when it comes to a royal spectacle, we really do know how to put on a show.

As a piece of theatre, as an event to remember, as a moment in history, it was quite something; seamless, colourful and, at times, really rather moving. We will no doubt record it as the moment the world bought back into the royal fairytale, but that is to miss the point. The reason this wedding struck such a chord is that it was demonstrably the product of a real romance, pursued with some care and thought by a couple who don't want global fame to obliterate their chance of domestic happiness. For all the magnificence of the pomp and circumstance, they managed to preserve on Friday a sense that they were marrying each other and not the rest of the world.

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It perhaps shouldn't have surprised us. William is a determined young man who has learnt one overpowering lesson from both parents, which is that happiness comes from the love of one, not the adoration of millions.

Having said that, the events of Friday might just have convinced him that it is possible to have both. The pair certainly did look like they genuinely enjoyed the affection being showered upon them from all quarters.

That was overwhelmingly the mood in the Abbey. They said they wanted it to be their wedding, not that of the great and the good, and as we filed in, there was a notable sense of intimacy in the front pews where family and close friends were seated. But even down at the back, there was an unusual air of bonhomie, conversation breaking out all around as people introduced themselves to each other in a thoroughly un-British fashion. Only as Kate arrived did a sudden hush descend. Her progress was spellbinding, the warmth palpable.

It took me a while afterwards to work out exactly why her arrival created such an impact, but the reason is surely this; Kate Middleton's marriage to William seems to represent to many the triumph not of social aspiration, but of ordinary decent values. There are pushier girls than Kate in every corner of the country and many more extrovert, ambitious or driven. But in the end William chose loyalty, discretion and kindness, values you might argue we don't shout about as much as we could. Combine that with the fact that we all know his road has often been harder than it might have been and it is no wonder half the nation was in a mood to be inspired.

It was, in short, quite a day. And as they headed off on honeymoon, they will have had much to ponder.

But marriage is a time of change for everyone and the question they will inevitably ask is just how much their world will alter, and how much of that change they will control.

William has done his level best up until now to keep fame at bay. Eton was a helpfully confined environment, St. Andrews too. And for the past couple of years, he and Kate have been holed up in the remote wilds of Anglesey where he mostly comes home from flying rough sorties out over the Irish Sea to a fish supper and a spot of telly.

From now on, there may be less settled domesticity than either of them would ideally like. The first question they will have to grapple with after their return from honeymoon is; how much is too much? Requests will be tumbling over the edge of their desks. The tour of Canada looms, but there will be immediate pressure to visit Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Jamaica and Barbados and all the other sun-kissed islands of which he is one day destined to be head of state. Right now, they are about as big a sensation as the world has to offer and they are our sensation.

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