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Old empire tunes in for wedding

Millions of people have gathered in distant outposts of the former British empire to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

In New Zealand, they celebrated with the Kiwi godmother to Kate's father. Brenda McAdam told national radio she and her late husband became friends with Kate's grandfather in the 1940s.

In Hong Kong, there was Chinese-language TV commentary from a well-known wedding designer, and in India - once the jewel of the empire - they sat transfixed in front of millions of televisions.

"Of course I'm watching. It's the biggest event of the century," said Jasmine Bhomia, an 18-year-old student in New Delhi - who added that she felt this wedding would, one day, be eclipsed by Prince Harry's.

Then there was Australia, where pubs across the country cashed in on the frenzy with wedding bashes that featured everything from dress contests to bouquet-tossing competitions.

Though the empire is long gone, some former colonies including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, still retain the British monarch as their head of state. Dozens more countries retain looser ties in the Commonwealth.

In Pretoria, South Africa, they gathered in the garden of the British High Commission, while aid workers in Kabul, Afghanistan, dug out their nicest clothes for a wedding party.

In the United States, the faithful got up as early as 4am to catch last-minute pre-wedding announcements, while the Dalai Lama weighed in from Japan. "I want to express my congratulation," the Tibetan Buddhist leader said after a service for those killed in the March earthquake and tsunami. "Happy Marriage."

The six male astronauts preparing to launch on the space shuttle Endeavour were too focused on preparations to watch the royal wedding, said NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs. But 220 miles above Earth, it was a different story. US astronaut Catherine Coleman made sure NASA broadcast the television coverage live up to the space station for the crew.

In Nairobi's most upmarket shopping mall, a half dozen workers and shoppers gathered near a wall of flat-screen TVs just as William and Kate waved to the crowd in London. It is a point of pride in Kenya that William chose a rustic cabin on the slopes of Mount Kenya to propose to Kate.

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