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Royal wedding: William and Kate's fairytale marriage is sealed with a kiss

An estimated one million people lined the route, with two billion in 180 countries watching the television coverage

By Rob Hastings, Catherine Wylie, Lewis Smith and Richard Hall

When the sun rose yesterday morning above The Mall, it resembled an early-morning scene from a music festival.

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Bleary-eyed diehards emerged from their tents and headed for the Portaloos (still clean at that stage). The only rule: someone had to stay behind to guard the spot from the 6am johnny-come-latelys.

"I tell you what: if you're camping out for a royal wedding, don't get your sleeping bag from Argos," said 22-year-old Seb Bradley as he packed up his tent. "I'm freezing." Drunkards kicked out of pubs in the early hours were sobering up to find themselves in a sea of red and blue.

But by the end of the day almost everyone involved, whether at centre stage or from afar, felt all the planning, the effort and the worry had been worth it.

Kate Middleton, or HRH the Duchess of Cambridge as she is now, spoke briefly to say: "I am glad the weather held off. We had a great day."

Her views on the day, which went seemingly like clockwork, were echoed by one of her newly acquired in-laws, Her Majesty the Queen, who said after the ceremony: "It was amazing."

Beforehand, however, there were fears that the day could be badly disrupted by protestors and the police carried out several operations, some of them controversial, to try to ensure all went smoothly.

Pre-emptive raids carried out on Thursday against anarchist or republican protestors in south and east London were condemned in some quarters for stifling dissent. Labour MP John McDonnell condemned the raids as "disproportionate". Thrtee people suspected of plotting to behead effiges in protest against the monarchy remained in custody yesterday.

At least 24 people were arrested on suspicion of planning disruptive protests, including an anarchist rally in Soho Square, while a further 20 suspected anarchists were banned from going near the wedding.

Anti-terrorist powers were use to arrest a man at Charing Cross - he was expected to be released without charge - and at Trafalgar Square police used a Section 60 order to cordon off the area and search people coming in to view the wedding on a giant screen.

More than 5,000 police officers were on duty, including snipers placed on rooftops, in what was described as the biggest security operation in a generation. there were 55 arrests around Westminster on the day, including four for carrying offensive weapons. A 38-year-old man in Pall Mall was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Thirteen people were still in custody last night.

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said the officers should be "immensely proud" of their role and she defended the pre-wedding arrests as "entirely justified".

It was, she observed, a useful rehearsal for next year's Olympic Games and she said: "The Metropolitan Police Service should be immensely proud of what they have achieved. We set out to make it a safe and happy event and we genuinely believe that we have achieved that."

As the procession from the Abbey to the Palace came to an end there was a huge surge in demand for electricity as the equivalent of a million kettles were switched on. The 2,400 megawatt boost was the fourth largest surge due to a television programme yet experienced by the National Grid, outstripping the 1,800 MW surge seen during the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1981.

But for those people waiting on the procession route the controversies of arrests were far from their minds.When the service began, live audio coverage was played from speakers along the route. With no sight of what was going on inside the Abbey, people simply stood listening, smiling, holding hands. "I will" drew a huge cheer, as did the pronouncement of man and wife.

Then it was over and the real business of the day began. People jostled for position, and tempers frayed, as the crowd waited for the carriage procession to make its way back to Buckingham Palace. An enterprising company was handing out cardboard periscopes to those at the back of the 10-deep crowd. They were better than nothing but gave a rather surreal and distorted picture of the pageantry going on behind the crash barriers.

First came the ceremonial horse guards and then, at a decent trot (slightly too decent a trot for the liking of some in the crowd), the 1902 State Landau carrying the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Some spectators had to leave disappointed. "All I saw was a couple of cars and a horse," said a mournful Angela Cavill, who had been to the various weddings of Charles and Andrew.

Those with a ringside perch included 18-year-old Freddie Durham. "It was genuinely exciting – an extraordinary spectacle," he said. "I saw it all. I felt like I was there as history was being made. I know it sounds lame. But it's a royal wedding and I loved it."

New friendships were struck. Billy, a homeless man in his fifties who normally sleeps in Paddington, met a Canadian tourist who took him to Harrods for lunch, buying him a bagel topped with Stilton, orange and figs. "It was lovely, but I only ate half of it," he said. "I'm saving the other half for later. I like it when people come and talk to me.

"My last giro was stolen by a friend on the street, and that really makes you lose hope in people, but today gives me hope. William will be a perfect king."

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