Royal Wedding Diary News and views on the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton Thu, 05 May 2011 14:58:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ignore the data, Royal Wedding and sunshine give Britain Plc a Q2 kickstart Thu, 05 May 2011 14:49:16 +0000 A lot of the economic data in recent days has made for pretty grim reading, reinforcing expectations that interest rates will remain at record lows for some months yet.

But a string of bullish updates from British retailers and manufacturers suggest that the second quarter could have got off to a flying start, with fine weather, the Easter holiday and the Royal Wedding all improving the national mood.

Anybody who ignores such signals from within the real economy does so at their peril. In January the pound tumbled when it emerged that the British economy had suffered a shock contraction in the final three months of 2010. The market was caught off guard again a month later when revisions painted an even bleaker picture.

Those of us who had been following closely the steady stream of profit warnings from UK retailers, travel groups and builders were not quite so surprised, particularly as we churned out long lists of companies hit by December's big freeze and predicted a looming standstill in the construction industry.

The big question now is whether the glow left by a month of unusually sunny weather and two holidays in swift succession for Easter and the Royal Wedding will translate into a sustainable recovery, or at the very least be enough to dull some of the pain of government cutbacks and job losses.

Supermarket group Morrison is sounding very cautious this morning. In common with a growing pack of retailers it has reported stronger than expected sales thanks to a bumper April but has not raised its forecasts for 2011 as a whole, citing falling disposable incomes and economic uncertainty.

An industry survey on Tuesday showed shopkeepers are planning for a weak May after last month's pick up.

Those in the firing line of government cutbacks also show that for some at least, the worst has yet to come. Defence giant BAE Systems said this week that it still expects sales to be hit by lower UK military spending, hinting that more job cuts may be on the way.

April's mini-boom did, however, give fashion retailer Next the confidence to up its guidance for the first half even if analysts warned people not to assume there had been a sea-change in consumer morale.

There are also very early signs of something more than just a bit of fair-weather, party spending. Within the construction sector -- such a big drag on the economy at the end of last year -- shares in house builder Galliford Try are up over 9 percent today after it predicted significantly better than expected full-year results following a buoyant spring where it has been enjoying a substantial rise in home sales even if prices remain subdued. Property website Rightmove also reported this week that its average revenue per advertiser was growing strongly while upmarket property consultant Savills has flagged a strong performance from its UK residential business.

People don't buy new houses on the back of Royal Wedding good cheer, do they?

Meanwhile software firm Sage this week reported growth across all regions for the first time since 2007, citing a tentative recovery in spending by small- and medium-sized businesses while Logica, which helps manage companies' IT systems, beat sales growth forecasts thanks to precisely the sort of stronger private sector demand the government is pinning its hopes on.

Not everybody is having an easy time of it. DIY chain Focus is preparing to appoint administrators, putting almost 4,000 jobs at risk, while chocolatier Thorntons blamed warm weather for weak Easter trading.

Overall, though, the upbeat noises have been drowning out much of the bad news from a corporate perspective with engineering group Weir upping its profit guidance, saying it is trading well ahead of last year and pub group Wetherspoon describing sales as resilient. Shares in bus and train operator Go-Ahead jumped today on higher profit guidance

The economy is certainly not out of the woods yet, with many firms grappling with high raw material costs and individuals worried about their jobs, but perhaps markets should be bracing themselves for a positive surprise from second quarter GDP data after the nasty shock at the end of last year and consequently readying themselves for rate hike expectations to be brought forward again. Whether its an expression of confidence or just irrational, 'pomped up' exuberance, there's no getting away from the fact that the FTSE 100 is hovering around levels not seen in almost three years.

Next week brings another flurry of corporate earnings, by the end of which we should have an even clearer picture of how Britain Plc is really faring.

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The Royal couple say “I will” and I won’t (…be photographed) Sun, 01 May 2011 19:11:52 +0000 The dust settles in London as scaffolding, media platforms and gantries are dismantled and the world’s news organizations pack up and leave town. Their job complete with hundreds of news programs run, and countless special supplements and newspaper and magazine fronts globally filled with memorable photographs from the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th.

I was one of the Reuters photographers assigned to an official spot and ringside view: outside of Westminster Abbey as the happy couple emerged immediately after the actual ceremony. Light cloud gave good even light and an unfettered view meant after months of team preparation and logistical headaches, me and my colleagues/rivals in our spot got the right frames transmitted in speedy time for that part of the day and the Palace got the images of record they wanted.

Job done.

36 hours earlier, after 10 hours perched precariously high up on a set of steps shooting between narrow iron railings, in the fading light on a handheld 500mm lens with 2 x converter, through two side windows of a couple of police vans positioned to prevent news media getting a picture, I took the second frame of William, Kate and best man Prince Harry. They were 200 meters away, walking into a discreet back entrance to Westminster Abbey to conduct a last minute rehearsal of the wedding ceremony.

Which picture was the most rewarding? Which picture the most important? Which picture stronger?

The actual wedding frames we all shot: outside the Abbey, the Balcony kiss and the open-top Just Wed car drive - these will get used again and again and it will be those images that are ingrained into the collective public memory.

The rehearsal ‘snatch’ frame is optically terrible (at such a distance and in bad light through two reflective glass windows), compositionally poor (all three subjects are in profile and partially obscured), and media were not wanted (hence the massive and elaborate measures to obstruct our view and evade our attention). But just on that one day, with perceived interest in the wedding preparations of the couple at fever pitch (hence Reuters decision that it WAS in the public interest to doorstep them), to my knowledge it was the only occasion that William and Kate were snapped together the week before they met at the altar.

So the personal satisfaction, perhaps relief, in getting that frame is almost as great as the wedding day pictures. Though I have to admit that Kate and William are probably more recognizable in Tracey Emins ‘kiss’ sketch on the April 30 front of the Independent newspaper than in my rehearsal frames….

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The view from inside the Abbey Sun, 01 May 2011 18:20:10 +0000 There were probably more than a billion people who would’ve loved to have been inside Westminster Abbey to see Prince William marry Kate Middleton and to soak up the glamor of what was, for a day, the world’s biggest news story.

I was lucky enough to be assigned a position inside the abbey, but though I got to witness the spectacle through a camera lens, my experience was less about pomp and pageantry and more about perils and pratfalls.

With the congregation dolled up to the nines, even the photographers were expected to smarten up. Abbey staff told us to wear “a suit and tie or female equivalent”. Dressed accordingly in my smartest jacket and skirt, I felt the part – right up until I saw the ladders.

To get to my position, a rickety, three-story high balcony perched above the abbey’s main doorway, I would have to scale a series of steep, metal-rung ladders. I would have to scale them carrying a heavy camera bag behind me -- wearing a skirt.

It was hard work, but myself and the six other photographers assigned to the spot worked like a team of Himalayan sherpas to ferry all our gear up the ladders. After 15 stressful minutes of hauling and holding on for dear life, I was safely at the top.

Not everyone made it first time. One photographer, a fit man in his early 30s, lost his footing and crashed to the foot of one of the ladders. I didn’t see it, but I heard his shout of “arrrggggh!” and the crash as a platform broke his fall. Thankfully, only his pride was hurt.

Meanwhile, as the watching world admired beautiful gowns, hats and fascinators of the women below, I found myself standing in what appeared to be one of the dustiest places in London. Every inch of the wobbly platform was caked in dust and our smart wedding suits quickly picked up most of it. If you heard any stifled sneezes during the ceremony, it was probably us.

The service was soon under way, and I went into work mode, blanking out the dust and vertiginous surroundings, as first William then Kate made their entrance.

Then it was over. Newly married, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walked up the aisle hand-in-hand and out to face the waiting crowds and a new life as Britain’s future king and queen.

And I had to face the ladder again.

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Completing the Royal puzzle Sun, 01 May 2011 01:11:43 +0000

As dawn broke over Westminster Abbey on Friday, myself and the other Reuters photographers were already on our way to our positions for the big day. With no donkey in sight, it already felt like we had done a days work by the time we got there.

Those of us with fixed positions on media gantries could access them from 6am which seems plenty of time for an 11 am start. But with the abbey doors opening from just after 8am and the guests starting to arrive shortly after it didn't allow for much time for us to set up all the equipment and ensure our various editors around the world could see our pictures.

It wasn't good for the blood pressure when we discovered the internet connection we had installed outside the abbey for myself, Kai and Toby Melville (who would shoot the key head on picture of the couple leaving as man and wife), had failed overnight and it was a frantic hour or so while replacement parts were sought and installed by our technical team. As with most assignments like this, the on day reality of the event often bears little resemblance to how it appeared in rehearsal or the day earlier.

Police officers are in slightly different positions guarding the route, the horses in the parade stop further forward than they should and TV crews appear in the background. There's nothing any of us could do at that point but shoot whatever was in front of us and make the best of it.

This is why at large events like this Reuters uses such a large team in so many positions knowing that by the end of the day (fingers crossed) the key moments will have been captured by enough people. And everyone else will have added strong pictures from their individual positions to form a well rounded and visually compelling package that tells the story of the day.

I'm incredibly proud to say that I genuinely think we did this yesterday to a tea; from Toby's wonderfully clean and striking picture of the couple gazing adoringly at each other as they left the abbey, Darren's 'must have' pictures of that kiss on the balcony complete with the adorable bridesmaid and all points in between we produced a file of which we can all be proud.

For the organizers of the wedding and for an agency like Reuters planning a day like yesterday is like doing a big jigsaw puzzle; you start with the four corners, the key pieces, or in our case pictures, complete the border, gather the rest of the pieces together and hope they all fit together and their isn't one missing that spoils the whole thing.

Hats off to both the Royal's and the Reuters team who planned and covered the big day and in fact the whole week, because in both cases the jigsaws looked great.

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I was at the wedding Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:20:21 +0000 I was at the wedding. It’s only slowly beginning to sink in. I was at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the wedding a million people flocked to central London to see, and millions more across the globe tuned in to watch on television.

And I was there. In Westminster Abbey. As one of Kate’s family said to me as we queued for the loos in a big guestly jumble: “The word surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.”

As bureau chief for Reuters in London, I was one of a handful of reporters given a seat in the Abbey. Like many people we couldn’t see much. But that didn’t matter. We could hear it, smell it, see close up the light filtering through the stained glass windows, and catch the faint roar of the crowd and the pealing of the bells whenever the organist or orchestra stopped.

The music was glorious – resounding fanfares, soaring orchestral pieces, an angelic choir. All of it gave me goosepimples, particularly singing Cwm Rhondda, which I know as Bread of Heaven and others know as Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer. The song was the last hymn sung at Princess Diana’s funeral and is a rousing tune well suited for large groups of singers.

The atmosphere was wonderfully convivial. Smartly dressed guests admired each other’s outfits – hats adorned with all manner of twirls, swirls, feathers and fluff; sharply creased suits, and elegant waistcoats – and chatted excitedly in groups with people they had never met before about the impending nuptials.

It was warm in the abbey, despite the huge, vaulted grey-stone ceilings, and when you looked up you were greeted with the sight of rows of twinkling chandeliers and clouds of green leaves from the trees dotted throughout the abbey. They gave the church an indoor garden sort of feel, helped by the heady scent of lilies of the valley wafting through the air. The flowers were planted in containers at the base of the trees.

Our corner of the church – fittingly, Poets’ Corner, where a statue of Shakespeare watched over us and we sat over the grave of Charles Dickens – proved popular with the foreign dignitaries sitting near us as no one else had a screen showing what was going on outside the abbey before the bride and groom arrived. The lack of a window into the events on The Mall added to the sense the abbey was somehow an otherworldly space, and the guests cocooned in a special place.

Once the royal family did start to arrive, the mood changed abruptly and this became a much more formal affair. The vow-taking seemed strangely impersonal and informal to me, perhaps because it is rare that I go to a highly structured church wedding service. But you couldn’t escape the sense of magic at being present at such a historic occasion. All of the reporters dressed up: some of the men wore tails, all of the women wore hats. We took pictures of each other as we waited outside the abbey grounds.

I know many people couldn’t give two hoots about the royal wedding, and that many people believe strongly we should not have a monarchy at all. But as a journalist, it was impossible not to feel both immensely privileged and extremely excited to be part of such a momentous event.

I am writing this with the creamy, thick-papered order of service sitting on my desk (I wrote my first story for Reuters at a friend’s garden party, eating coronation chicken, with views of the Houses of Parliament in the background). My black netted hat is lying next to it, still in the dress I wore to the abbey. These, along with my printed words, will doubtless form the props for stories I will tell of this wedding to my children and grandchildren for years to come. And I’ll probably have the same big smile on my face.

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Final preparations for the big day Thu, 28 Apr 2011 18:13:24 +0000 The guest list was finalized weeks ago and the invitations sent out. For the lucky ones their presence was requested, nobody refused.

There was no fancily decorated envelope from the lord chancellors office landing on our doormat, but an email from the UK chief photographer asking you to be part of the Reuters team to shoot William and Kate's wedding is an invitation you don't turn down.

It's like any other wedding in many respects; you worry about what to wear. How do you keep dry and warm whilst dressing for a wedding? Not as easy task.

And then it comes to where will you sit and who will you sit with; please not annoying Aunty Betty and Uncle Jim, well in this case which position will I get and what will I see?

For myself I was not disappointed, there was no Aunty Betty to worry about, I was given a prime position near the abbey and would be sharing it with my good friend and Reuters Frankfurt photographer Kai Pfaffenbach.

The Reuters team is 15 strong and made up of some of the best and visually creative photographers this side of the Atlantic. Photographers from the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Israel have all been brought together to add their own perspective on a truly British affair.

There are a lot of things that us Brits don't get right (food, wine, fashion) but in the field of pageantry and ceremony we are undoubtedly world leaders. Having the luxury of this being photographed by foreign photographers who have a quirky eye and are not as overexposed to it as us Brits definitely gives Reuters an edge.

Myself and Kai will be in a great spot to see the happy couple shortly after they leave the abbey but instead of wondering what to wear (anyone who knows Kai knows this is never a problem), what to shoot with is a far greater question.

Over the last few days and very early mornings we have both walked every cobbled inch of the area in which we will shoot, dodging tents, union flags and sleeping bags in the process. Sowly a plan was formulated. We are both opposite ends of a long platform with over 75 other snappers and with slightly different angles should (fingers crossed) offer a well rounded picture of events.

The plan however (as thorough as it is) involves some serious kit. Between us we will carry 10 cameras and a vast array of glass from 800 and 600mm lenses down to a 15mm fish eye and an even wider lens on a Go-Pro action camera. Conservatively this is 50kg (110 pounds) of kit each.

Many of these will be fired remotely using pocket wizard wireless triggers and will shoot using wider lenses to give an overview of the pomp and ceremony as the day goes on freeing us to concentrate on the more important tighter pictures of the happy couple, 'that dress' and, fingers crossed even a little kiss.

And finally, like every wedding I have ever covered/attended the biggest question of all; will it rain? Well we are in Britain, home of the downpour so chances are it will. Believe me with all this expensive kit, laptops and electricity this is far more of a problem for myself and Kai than it will be for Kate and Wills!

Fingers crossed it goes well for all of us and if anyone has a spare donkey we can borrow at 5am tomorrow to carry this kit please let me know - I'll provide the carrots.

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Britain’s royal family is an affordable indulgence Thu, 28 Apr 2011 13:04:39 +0000 The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Robert Cole

Britain's royal family is an affordable indulgence. If taxpayers stopped funding the clan destined to be led by William Windsor and Catherine Middleton, they would escape a 1.14 billion pound liability. For some, this is a burden the cash-strapped state could do without. In fact, it is a national treasure.

True, the royal wedding will lead to some chunky one-off costs. First, there is the extra public holiday. Assuming UK GDP is evenly spread across the 260 working days of a normal year, that's 5.9 billion pounds in lost output. The direct cost of the celebration -- comprising everything from couture to security -- may add another 50 million pounds.

Both these figures look too high, however. Some of the costs are sunk and others are shared. Much of the lost GDP will be recovered. The financial focus should instead be on the ongoing overhead the monarchy creates for the UK state.

The latest report of the Royal Trustees shows that the Queen and her entourage were awarded 39.9 million pounds in the year to March 2011. This figure has been quite stable, rising by just 1.6 percent a year over the past decade.

Assume these payments stretch into perpetuity (ignoring inflation), apply a discount equivalent to the yield on 10-year UK government bonds, and the present value of this liability is 1.14 billion pounds. Put another way, that's less than 19 pounds for every British citizen.

With national debt at 1.1 trillion pounds and all manner of public services now being squeezed, cutting off the royals would represent a small symbolic saving. But the UK economy would miss the tourism and other income generated from the Windsor brand. Besides, another head of state would still cost money. Even elected ones do not come free with afternoon tea.

The British royal family is an anachronism that would not be invented if it did not exist. But for the global entertainment value alone -- regardless of whether the Windsors appreciate that people are laughing at them as well as with them -- the monarchy earns its place in the national portfolio. Pageantry as represented in apogee by this royal wedding should be preserved, paid for from a controlled budget, and enjoyed.

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A royally strange engagement Thu, 28 Apr 2011 10:10:32 +0000 I spent Monday shopping for a hat. That might not seem so unusual to some people. After all, it was a public holiday, and plenty of people were indulging in a bit of retail therapy. Plus, it’s been unusually hot in Britain for the past few weeks: so a hat would not be such an odd thing to buy. Only this was not a sun hat. It was a hat for work.

And that is strange.

I am a journalist. These days, we are rarely required to wear hats. Helmets perhaps in war zones, but they are not really a requirement in central London. And gone are the days when journalists all sported trilbies with press cards tucked into the hat band. No, this was a proper hat with feathers and netting because – and I still find this pretty hard to believe – I am going to the Royal Wedding. Not as a guest, obviously (I don’t mingle in those kinds of circles), but as a reporter, one of a few who will get to experience the ceremony first-hand. And such is the nature of this grand occasion that even the reporters have to wear hats.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. The female reporters have to wear hats. The men have to wear suits and they have a bit more choice, having been offered the option of “Morning Suit or Lounge Suit” (morning suits are the kind with tails, lounge suits more like the ones you wear to work). Ladies had no such option. For us it was “Day dress … with hat”. (I have presumed, by the way, that a day dress is anything other than a cocktail dress or ball gown since the internet wasn’t overly helpful in defining it for me and I don’t own an etiquette guide or have a Swiss-finishing school education).

Now, all of this I bought on Monday when it was roasting hot outside and everyone was full of the joys of summer even though it’s still spring. But now I have to calculate in the fact that it may actually rain on Friday and a shawl might not cut it, and that I’ve nowhere to put an umbrella – or a notebook (no laptops for us). These bizarre preparations and concerns make this without doubt one of the strangest assignments I have ever had. A financial journalist by background, my usual worry when preparing for a big story is ensuring I ask the key question or get the numbers right, not having to worry about whether I have bought the correct kind of dress, the right kind of hat, or if my bag is large enough to fit a brolly.

It could be worse though. The last time I had to dress up for a Royal Wedding was in 1981 (see picture) when Prince Charles married Diana. My Mum organised the party and I went dressed as the bride…

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Archbishop of Canterbury praises “unpretentious” Kate and William Thu, 21 Apr 2011 15:29:27 +0000
(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton watch a demonstration by students, during their visit to the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Adrian Dennis)

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Adrian Dennis)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will marry Prince William and Kate Middleton next week, said on Thursday he had been struck by their wedding preparations, describing the couple as courageous and unpretentious. Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Church of England, praised the couple's "simplicity" and the way they had dealt with the build-up to next Friday's wedding, which is set to be watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.

"I've been very struck by the way in which William and Catherine have approached this great event," Williams said in a short film released by his Lambeth Palace office, adding it had been a "real pleasure" to get to know the couple. "They've thought through what they want for themselves, but also what they want to say. They've had a very simple, very direct picture of what really matters about this event."

"They're responsible to the whole society, and responsible to God for their relationship. And I think it's impressive that they've had that simplicity about it, they've known what matters, what's at the heart of all this," he said. "They are deeply unpretentious people."

The Dean of Westminster will conduct the April 29 ceremony at Westminster Abbey and Williams will marry the couple while the Bishop of London Richard Chartres, who knows William well, will give the address.

Read the full story here.


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A very modern fairytale – watched by billions and streamed live on the internet Thu, 21 Apr 2011 11:39:01 +0000 In the fairy stories I read my two children, there are a lot of princesses and princes. There are princesses in towers, princesses forced to sleep on piles of mattresses with peas shoved underneath, princesses who sleep for a hundred years, and princesses forced to eat poison apples.

Handsome princes and wicked stepmothers feature largely. As do dragons, fairies and other mythical creatures. Obviously there's an audience to the happy couple's progress to the altar - mostly myself (less enthusiastic) and my daughters (extremely enthusiastic despite my best efforts), but it's a fairly private affair. I've yet to read a fairy story that features a prince, princess and a two billion audience Royals10for their nuptials.

But such is the power of fairy stories that this is the number of people predicted to watch the wedding of Prince William, second in line to the British throne and son of Britain's most famous recent princess Diana, to Kate Middleton, soon to be Princess Catherine. Two billion people?! That's nearly a third of the world's population. And only 30 million of those are expected to be watching in Britain, according to a poll conducted for Reuters by Ipsos MORI.

If we are to believe the figures, which sound as extravagant as the best fairy stories, that means 1 billion, 970 million people will tune in to watch a wedding taking place when half of the world is getting ready for bed.

And they won't just be watching on television. The wedding of William and Kate - for all the trappings of a carriage, a huge church, traditional cake - will be a very modern affair. Those millions watching around the world and at home will be able to follow the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and ceremony live on the internet, via Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

That's not something Snow White or Cinderella had to contend with. Will this high definition, endlessly analysed, ceaselessly commented-on event lose its fairytale sparkle from such intense scrutiny? Maybe for the cynics. But for those who still buy wholesale into fairytales, like my two- and four-year old, the sight of a princess marrying a prince will be magical no matter how it's delivered and no matter how many people share in the story.

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